Facebook Live: What is it and how does it work?

How you can use Facebook to broadcast to the world… LIVE!

Facebook Live is a valuable new addition to the social network, which lets you record video and broadcast it live to your friends, followers and even the world.

Whereas before, videos had to be recorded and uploaded to the app or website after the fact, Facebook Live makes it possible to share those moments as they’re happening.

[Read more: Why you should think before clicking 'Like' on Facebook]

So, the next time you’re on a nice walk and want others to see the beautiful scenery; you're experiencing a noteworthy event you think others would be interested in; or if you just have something to get off your chest, you can easily stream the video with a tap of your iOS or Android touchscreen.

The video below shows an example of Facebook Live - former US president Barack Obama in the White House.

What is Facebook Live?

Facebook Live was announced in August 2015 as a rival to Twitter’s Periscope live-streaming app. To begin with, access was restricted to VIPs like Serena Williams, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Ricky Gervais and Michael Bublé. Journalists were next to gain access. Since then, all of Facebook’s two-billion-plus active users can live stream video to their hearts' content.

Can I broadcast with Facebook Live?

If you’re using an iOS device, like an iPad or iPhone, or an Android phone or tablet, you’re good to go.

Facebook Live is not available for Facebook on the web, although you will be able to watch videos at Facebook.com

First of all you’ll need to make sure you have the latest version of the Facebook app for iOS and Android. You can check this by searching for Facebook on the App Store or Google Play.

Facebook Live on phones

How do I find the Live Video option?

When you open the Facebook app, you’ll see the What’s on your mind status box.

Tap this and you’ll see a screen with the option to Go Live.  

Tap this to be taken to the capture screen.

How do I start a Facebook Live video broadcast?

On the capture screen, you’ll see your name, the opportunity to type a description, and the word ‘Friends’. The latter controls who you want to see the video.

Facebook Live describe video

You can choose the regular options like: Friends Only, Friends Except, Only Me. If you want as wide an audience as possible to see your citizen journalism, you can select Public. But be careful what you share, as even if you don't mean to, your video could include sensitive or private information.

Can I switch between cameras?

The default setting is to show the viewpoint from the front-facing camera, as if you were taking a selfie. This is great if you’re intent on delivering a monologue, playing a song or planning to interact with viewers’ comments - basically, if you are going to be the star of your video. However, if you want to show what is happening from your perspective, you’ll need to switch to the rear-facing camera.

You can do this by tapping the arrows in the top-right of the display.

[Read more: Facebook privacy - how much information are you giving away?]

How do I go Live?

Once you’ve penned the description, set privacy options and chosen the camera you’d like to use, you should see a blue Go Live option. This tells you your connection is strong enough to broadcast.

Tap this to begin the stream and you’ll see a three-second countdown. To ensure your broadcast is uninterrupted, make sure you have a strong wi-fi or 4G signal.

What happens during the broadcast?

There’s plenty of potential interaction while you’re broadcasting. You’ll see a viewer count as well as live comments and reactions.

You can also add filters to the video and even draw on the display a la Snapchat.

Facebook Live broadcast

How can I be sure people will see it?

Of course, if you’re broadcasting live video, you’ll want people to watch it live. All videos are published to your timeline so will also appear on your friends’ news feeds (depending on your privacy settings).

They’ll be able to tune in by clicking play as they would with a recorded video. However, there are also ways of increasing the broadcast’s visibility. You can tag friends you think would be interested when typing the video description. This will send them an instant notification alerting them to tune in. Viewers can also tap the + icon to invite friends to watch the video as it is ongoing.

You can add trending hashtags to increase visibility if you’re publishing publicly. Just make sure they're related to your video to avoid disappointing viewers.

Another method is to post a Facebook status update telling friends you’re going live at a certain time. Facebook suggests offering a day’s notice - don't forget to tell them what time you'll be broadcasting! It also recommends broadcasting for longer periods of time to reach more people. Facebook Live broadcasts can last up to 90 minutes.

What happens after I end the broadcast?

After you hit the red Finish button to end the stream, the video doesn’t just disappear into the ether. The clip, in its entirety, will be posted to your timeline, so those who may have missed out on the live broadcast can view it at their leisure.

You’ll also be able to save the video to your camera roll or ensure a higher quality video is uploaded to the timeline.

As a viewer, how do I find Facebook Live videos?

Naturally, we’re not on Facebook every second of every day (well we shouldn’t be) so it’s helpful to be notified when broadcasts are taking place. You can do this by following the user.

When viewing a live stream you’ll see a Follow button at the bottom right of the display. You’ll then receive a notification every time that person is Live.

Facebook Live follow

You can turn Live notifications on or off. On a computer, click the drop-down arrow on the right, select Settings > Notifications > On Facebook and make sure Live videos is on.

Facebook Live Map

There’s also a new Facebook Live interactive map that lets you tune into ongoing streams around the world, simply by clicking blue dots on the map. While some think it voyeuristic, it is useful, as you can tune into live streams from news agencies or those experiencing newsworthy events around the world.

[Read more: How to find your hidden Facebook inbox]

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