I couldn't sleep. I couldn’t back out. I told EVERYONE the day and hour I was going live: my kids, my parents, my followers and colleagues, and the baristas at my favorite coffee shop. In a word: I was terrified. The day came — August 5th, 2015 — I stuttered through my intro, fumbled with the app, and didn't even know how to end the broadcast, aggressively poking the red “END” button. Could’ve been worse. But, honestly, it only got better.
What made me push the “go live” button? The homeless animals. My very first live stream was at Animal House Rescue and Grooming, in Fort Collins, Co. No one even noticed any of my blunders, they were too preoccupied with the little fuzzies, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
People want to see transparent content, human beings, the real world, and all the messy crazy stuff that happens out there. Weird things WILL happen! Technical issues with sound, lighting, apps, people, animals, and devices are guaranteed to occur. And people will love that! You are being real just like them.
Take it from me: with over 200 live stream broadcasts under my belt I’ve seen almost everything, and I want to share this blueprint for your success.
Equipment: My biggest suggestion for equipment is to keep it simple! Your phone and natural light are all you need to get going, but if you’re ready to jump right in, here are some things to consider:
- Tablets become heavy and therefore shaky on long broadcasts so use the only on short videos or use a stand or tripod of some kind.
- Live-streaming on Facebook can easily be done from a computer too, but you will be chained to your desk. Desktops are good for informative shows instead of show and tell.
- Step up your game by adding a mini tripod — great for interviews or longer broadcasts.
- Add a light, such as a small LED panel or clip-on ring light, great for dark or small spaces like showcasing an exotic pet in their enclosure.
- If the area is noisy and you are the only voice then headphones with built-in microphones will help sound quality quite a bit.
- If you find interviews are your jam, splurge and add a microphone to your gear bag. Extra batteries and charging cords are always a plus on location at an event.
Platform: What platform is the best? The one your audience is already on! Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the leading live stream platforms. If you are not sure then do broadcasts on your main platforms and track the audience stats.
Be aware of which account you are live-streaming from. Will you be broadcasting on your personal or business page? Or the rescue or shelter page? From a phone or tablet or desktop? In a hurry, I will sometimes catch myself using the last page opened — oops!
Description: Write an attention-grabbing, short description of what you are showing before you go live. You can edit this later for more info or links but a live stream with no title equals no viewers. A compelling description might be informative, “On location behind the scenes at ________”, or quirky like, “Puppy Power!”
Timing: Only have a few minutes? No problem, the power is in the replay. Don't be discouraged by a lack of live viewers, it can take a few minutes for people to be notified that you are live. Go ahead and shoot a short, even 3-5-minute piece, then be sure to promote it and remind people to go watch it later.
Better yet have a schedule! I volunteer on the same day and time at the shelters every week which would be a great time to live stream for the shelter.
Let all your followers know ahead of time. TRAIN people to know when you are going live. Schedule a reminder post on FB, add it to your business newsletter, encourage the shelter/rescue to promote that time also.
And an important tip: Be reliable! If you make a commitment to a regular schedule for live-streaming you should try to stick to it. For my studio show, every Friday morning from the Silver Paw Studio desk, I create a themed series. Then, when the series is over, I let people know what’s coming next and when. Reliability equals credibility, which will help to increase your viewership.
Content: Too nervous to be on screen in the beginning? No pressure, just point the camera at someone else! We are fortunate to work with animals of all kinds and, let's face it, we are part of the drive behind cats taking over the internet, and I’m ok with that.
So where do we start? Show possibilities are endless:
- Adoptable pet spotlight
- Behind the scenes at the shelter
- Community event like a 5k, pet expo, open house
- Construction/project progress
- Volunteer spotlight, at a partnering business or organization
- Interview with a partner or staff like the behaviorist at the shelter or a trainer who donates time
- Testimonials from donors
- Behind the scenes of a photo session
- Holiday events like costume contest or smooch-a-pooch
- Site tour
- Wishlist items
- Program highlights like TNR or special clinics
- Tips for new adopters
- Happy tails from adopters (and adoptees!)
- Process for adopting at that organization
- How to volunteer
- Dog walking route
I could go on and on! All you really need to get started is a short list of ideas and a committed date and time. You can even choose the same item and show it at a set time every week — like adoptable dog spotlights.
- Start in right away! Most viewers will tune-in to the replay and they don't want to wait for content to start. You may end up repeating info as people join, and that’s okay, it clarifies to your audience what you’re up to.
- Look straight into the camera as much as possible — it takes practice!
- Phone screens are tiny, so every pixel is prime real estate. Fill the frame by getting as close to the action as safely possible.
- If applicable, have a ‘call to action’ (CTA) which includes links to a website with more info, relevant contact info, or how to RSVP for upcoming events. Links can be added to the description or the comments after the broadcast, too.
- Let people know what to expect next from you, like your next scheduled show, or community events and conferences, so they have a reason to keep coming back.
- Be sure to thank live viewers and replay viewers at least once during the broadcast; live stream is about connection!
Most of the traffic for your post will come from replay viewers, so be sure to encourage everyone to share-share-share the broadcast afterward. Arrange for the shelter to promote the replay, and upcoming broadcasts, on their social media pages. And of course, share on all of your own pages and any relevant groups you are members of.
Something crazy happened when I started live-streaming. I loved it! I joined a group of pet lovers on live stream (#petloverstribe) and helped found The Pet Scope TV live-streaming network, which lead me to meet some of the members and fellow founders around the country. The skills I gained live-streaming gave me the confidence to speak at conferences like BlogPaws and WIPIN, and at workshops for my local camera club.
One final warning: be prepared to be famous! Last fall I attended a conference out of town. Every time I tried to introduce myself to someone they would respond with, “Oh, I know who you are!” Shy and introverted Monique? Famous? What?! It shocked me! And it will start happening in your town too.
The Take-Away: If you’re broadcasting mainly at shelters or rescues this will be wonderful PR for them. Your time and efforts are invaluable already, and live-streaming adds another dimension to your work.
I challenge you to give it a try. Set up a schedule for a month and track the results. Did the shelter receive more visitors or inquiries? Did more people “like” the social media page? Did your message reach a wider audience via shares and mentions to other pages?
Live-streaming is free, powerful and easily accessible: a win-win for you and animals in need!
Have questions? Please contact me! I'm on all the things: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I love chatting about photography, volunteering, animals, and, of course, live-streaming. Go ahead, feed my obsessions!