Kirsty Marrins: How to use Facebook Live for your charity

The organic reach of the new tool is much higher than a normal post or uploaded video, so charities could reap the benefits, writes our columnist

The crew from Tower RNLI on Facebook Live
The crew from Tower RNLI on Facebook Live

Facebook Live launched last year with the UK launch rolled out in April 2016 since when a number of charities have dipped their toes in the water and broadcast to their followers.

Seen as the company's mobile live streaming answer to Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope, Facebook Live allows anyone on the platform to broadcast from their phone for up to 90 minutes and once the live stream has ended the video is posted to your page, event or group.

Facebook also recently updated its news feed algorithm to let Live videos appear higher in the feed when they are live (compared to when they are no longer live) and commented that ’…from initial data, we’ve seen that people comment more than 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos.’

In the same announcement, the company also said it would be focusing on bringing content from friends and family higher up the news feed. As charities, this means that you will have to work just that little bit harder to ensure that your posts are still seen. Facebook Live may just offer a solution to keep your audience engaged – provided your content is relevant and interesting, of course.

Here are some examples of charities using Facebook Live:

Sue Ryder first used it to interview some of their London Marathon runners after the marathon. It has since gone live three times, with this live Q&A featuring their running expert Nick being viewed over 2,300 times and reaching more than 95,000 people.

We're live with our running expert, Nick. Got a question or need some advice with your training? Ask away!

Posted by Sue Ryder on Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Animal charity Blue Cross has run two Facebook Live sessions highlighting the huge influx of kittens at its rehoming centres across the UK.

Bronte McConnell, digital media officer at Blue Cross said: "These sessions have given us the opportunity to grab an attentive audience and allow them to meet some of our tiny felines needing new homes and spread an important message about neutering.

"We streamed our most recent Facebook Live video from our rehoming centre in Suffolk and ensured the team were prepped and comfortable with being on camera if they were needed. Testing is essential so we tried it on our personal Facebook pages first. You can select ‘Only Me’ before going live to ensure your friends won’t see your test stream. Make sure your location has decent Wi-Fi or 4G and there’s plenty of light so the footage isn’t grainy or dark.

"With each Facebook Live video averaging an organic reach of 150,000 we’re hoping to run more sessions to include pets we’re struggling to rehome, question and answer discussions with our experts and thank you messages to our supporters. The real-time feedback is fantastic with many offers of new homes for our pets and people indicating they’ve donated."

Meet some very special little guests at our Southampton rehoming centre. We currently have 134 kittens in our care across our charity and we've seen record numbers this year. It's only the start of kitten season too! Please consider rehoming a cat or kitten if the time is right for you: Or you can sponsor a cat in our care: Thanks for your support!

Posted by Blue Cross on Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Meanwhile, this crew from Tower RNLI were taking part in a live stream Q&A after a BBC documentary Saving Lives at Sea when they were interrupted by a call out. The live video below is a follow up one from when they returned and has had more than 23,000 views and almost 1,200 likes.

Laura Croudace, partnerships manager at The Resource Alliance, believes that more charities should experiment with Facebook Live.

"Charities can benefit hugely by using Facebook Live because the organic reach is much higher than a normal post or uploaded video," she said.

"Facebook posts only reach around 1% of the people who've liked your page, whereas Facebook Live is pushed currently as it is a new service. Charities can also tell their stories better with Facebook Live, especially if they write a compelling status at the start of a broadcast. Your audience has the ability to ask questions by commenting as you are broadcasting, which in return gives the charity a great platform to connect with the supporters personally."

LIVE from Tower RNLI - the crew are back from their unexpected shout on the Thames and are ready to answer a few of your questions! #SavingLivesAtSea

Posted by RNLI on Wednesday, 20 July 2016

If you’re thinking of trying out this new feature, here are some top tips from Facebook for making the most of Live:

  • Let people know that you will be going live so that they know when to tune in
  • Write a strong, persuasive description before going live so that people will know what your broadcast is about and what to expect
  • Make sure you have a strong wifi connection. If you don’t, the go live button will be greyed out
  • Once you’re live, make sure to let people know that they can tap the ‘follow’ button so that they will be notified the next time you go live
  • People can invite their friends to view your live broadcast so make sure your live stream is at least 10 minutes
  • Just as you test which kind of content resonates and engages your audience, test different types of content for live and go live often

Kirsty Marrins is a digital communications consultant and a trustee of the Small Charities Coalition

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