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Not sure what to publish on Facebook Live? Just push the red button!

By Yusuf Omar

Hindustan Times

Delhi, India


Just press the red button.

That’s our latest mobile video strategy — taking everything live all the time — and it’s working.

There are lots of things we don’t know about what the mysterious algorithms at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram prioritise on people’s timelines, but one thing is clear: Live video is being pushed harder than any other content right now, and that trend is only going to grow.

Imperfect content on the go seems to satisfy audiences.
Imperfect content on the go seems to satisfy audiences.

Facebook claims that audiences comment 10 times more on live videos than traditional video uploads, and our experience on the platform echoes those findings. In an age of fake news and timelines manipulated by manicured edits, live broadcasts give audiences a raw and intimate view of the world from all angles.

Reality is the new quality.

The Hindustan Times is doing more live video broadcasts than most television stations, primarily on Facebook. It’s all about a return on investment — the amount of effort and resources you put into creating digital video content against the value of returns (measured in views, retention, engagement, etc).

The strategy is simple: use the massive reach of Facebook’s live videos to migrate audiences back to our platforms, seeding links to articles and videos for our Web site in the comments section.

Between May 2016 and February 2017, we did 315 Facebook Live feeds. We tried making them “professional” by adding graphics, overlay, name straps, and building studios with multiple cameras, but none of it worked.

Every Facebook Live feed that got more than a half-million views was handheld, outdoors, single camera, and simple. The social media generation has never been more forgiving of shaky, poorly lit videos with average audio; it just wants a good story. It’s about re-inventing the live broadcast format, away from linear TV, anchors behind a desk, and head-and-shoulder framed interviews.

This is a new terrain where TV rules don’t apply.

Selfie live

India is in the middle of election season, and our easiest live format is the selfie journalist — one woman or man storyteller gathering sentiment and reactions on the ground from across the country.

Silent lives

When India broke the world record for sending the most satellites to space in one go, most Facebook pages took the live feed of the rocket taking off. We gave it an old-school yet informative and engaging treatment, drawing out the launch with a whiteboard and marker pen.

Knowing that 90% of our Facebook Live audience doesn’t listen to the audio, our science reporters drew the process of “How To Launch A Satellite.” 

We did a similar “whiteboard live” feed around #demonetisation, when India’s reserve bank issued new banknotes. There’s something so engaging about handwritten coverage, and this time we got more than 200,000 views by simply highlighting the 17 security features of the bills. 

On a mobile? Be mobile!

The Uber protests hit India hard this month, following a honeymoon period of low-cost ridesharing. I managed to catch a ride with one of the few drivers still working through the strike, interviewing him over Facebook Live while on the go.

Obviously, the best place to cover the Uber strike is at the protests. One of our reporters went live and got more than a half-million views with the striking workers. 

When we were covering cycling infrastructure in Mumbai, we did a midnight cycle around the city — live! Here’s live coverage you can’t do with a broadcast camera.

Go long!

Remember when NewsWhip said the average video on Facebook from all the big news publishers is about one minute? Ignore that for Facebook Live. The longer the better we say, if the content is engaging and the concurrent viewers keeps climbing. We broadcast for more than two hours, looking for things you can eat for free in Delhi’s gardens.

Force the conversation, build engagement

The best Facebook Live feeds allow the audience to drive the content; that’s real engagement. We recently had a story about 82 flights landing at Delhi’s international airport in an hour — a new record! So we plugged our broadcast into OBS and showed the audience a flight tracker of real-time air traffic in their areas. The community then requested which cities around the world we could check out.

We love doing travel stories on the weekends with Facebook Live. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, we took our viewers to Old Delhi and asked them to direct which way we went and what we ate. The audience takes control of the camera and becomes director, a bit like Virtual Reality.

Change the format. The studio is boring ... get outside.

My favourite type of Facebook Live is the gimbal shoot, walking around outside with a stable camera, wireless microphone, and an interesting story, like this Indian mascot trying to educate the public not to “pee and poo” in public.

The Mevo live

This is a wide-angle camera that shoots in 4K, letting you crop numerous shots and imitate having multiple cameras. This is the most TV-like format, but it’s great for simple discussions, analysis, and commentary, giving your broadcasts a professional look and feel.

The most important principle of live broadcasts? Share, share, share. The success or failure of a Facebook Live stream is about driving an audience to watch the crossing as it’s happening, and that means getting people to share the live feed while you’re live.

About Yusuf Omar

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