How To Live Stream On Social Media (And Why You Should)

If you are active on social media, you will know that the future lies firmly in video. Or to be more precise, live streaming video. But the very idea of live streaming video is enough to traumatize a lot of people into lifelong therapy. What if you do something wrong?

If you are one of those people, you can’t be blamed for being nervous. Since live streaming is…well…live, you can’t pre-record your video and edit out all the gaffes later. The viewers will see you in real-time, uncut, uncensored, and if you do a good job, they will love you for it. 

If you are selling a product or promoting a cause, learning how to live stream can turn viewers into customers. But how do you get started without making a complete fool of yourself?

Choose a Platform to Live Stream

There are so many streaming platforms these days that it can be very difficult to figure out which one to use. Facebook and Instagram are the two biggest ones, followed by Twitter’s Periscope. Then there are the smaller platforms such as Twitch, Vimeo, YouNow, Livestream, and many more.

To keep things simple, I am going to go with Facebook Live in this article as it is the biggest platform. But you can decide if you’d rather live stream with one of the others.

Instagram’s IGTV is also becoming quite popular and there’s nothing wrong with having a second camera pointed at you running on another platform. But if you’re just getting started, best to keep it simple.

Get The Right Equipment

I recently discussed the right equipment for making YouTube videos and that information is the same for making live streaming videos as well. The three things to focus on if you’re first learning how to live stream are sound, lighting, and making sure your camera is steady.

Rather than repeat everything here, I will just refer you to the article link in the previous paragraph. But I will just say one further thing on this subject – a video app is not necessary as you will be using whatever streaming software the platform is giving you. 

But whether you are using your computer webcam or your smartphone camera to beam yourself into peoples lives, you need to keep that picture steady. So if you are using a smartphone or tablet, be sure to have it attached to a tripod. I can’t stress this enough.

Decide In Advance What Your Show Will Be About

To gain a regular and reliable audience, you should build up a streaming show on one subject only. Going live to discuss any rambling subject is going to eventually drive people away. People watch streaming video to be informed and educated, as well as entertained. The only way to do that is to build a niche subject.

Mine is about the books I write and publish so I discuss that, as well as industry news. Right now, my audience is very small, but I am seeing the same people returning for the next show and the one after that, because they know my subject is something they will want to hear about. So figure out what YOUR subject is and stick to it.

Advertise In Advance & Build Up Some Buzz

As any good marketing expert will tell you, to get the audience in, you need to advertise and promote the hell out of your event. The finished video will remain on Facebook for those who missed it, but the “live” aspect is only good if you actually have people watching it live, asking you questions and giving you likes.

You can easily make an advertising image in Canva, GIMP, Photoshop, or any other online editor. The one above is one I made for a recent streaming event. Keep it simple but also add something catchy (like the bullet hole!).

Start Your Live Streaming Show

When you are ready to start your show, go to the page where you want to show it. In the status update box, you will see Live. Click on that.

A box will open up where you will be asked to grant Facebook permission to access your camera and microphone. Say yes to both. Then fill out all of the fields on the right-hand side. 

When ready, click the blue Go Live button in the bottom right-hand corner. 

There will be a 3 second countdown then you will be live to the masses. Good luck!

Best Tools To Improve The Instagram User Experience

Instagram is fast becoming the number one social media destination (even surpassing Facebook, which is ironic since Facebook owns Instagram!). But one thing which is a real downer for Instagram is how unfriendly some aspects of the user experience are for people.

What do I mean? Well for example, look at how the platform is only built for images to be uploaded via your smartphone. So far, you cannot upload via the Instagram.com website. Then there’s the stupid rule that you can only have one link – and that’s in your bio. Then there’s the difficulty of getting line breaks in your captions….

As usual on the internet, when there is a problem on a platform, a third-party developer steps in to save the day. Instagram is no different.

Buffer

Remember how I just said that you can’t upload images directly onto the Instagram website? Well, one way around it is to use a third-party website to upload your images via your computer. The best one is Buffer.

After signing up for an account, and designating your posting times, you can then open up the new status update box for Instagram. Upload your photo, add a caption, hashtags, and location, then either hit “add to queue” or “add now”.

If anything you upload does not meet with Instagram’s API, then you will be asked to log into the Instagram smartphone app to complete the upload. This commonly happens with images which are not the correct dimensions, as well as uploading more than one image at the same time.

But assuming you have the right dimensions, and you are uploading one image at a time, Buffer makes it absurdly easy to upload to Instagram from your computer.

Display Purposes

Hashtags can make or break an Instagram post and careful use of them can land you on the “Explore” page which is pure gold from an exposure point of view. But one of the really tiring things about constantly updating Instagram is figuring out what hashtags to use. So much so that people often rush this step of the process.

To make it easier for desktop computer users (who are using a platform such as Buffer), you can use a fantastic hashtag site called Display Purposes. This is a site where you enter a hashtag in the search box and then the site automatically generates similar hashtags based on what Instagram tells it. You can then copy and paste the list from Display Purposes to the Buffer box.

Obviously, being machine-generated, you are going to end up with some false positives, so you need to check the list carefully. When I look for thriller book hashtags for example, it sees “thriller” and generates Michael Jackson hashtags for me. But you can easily weed those out.

TagsDock & Hashtag Key (iOS & Android)

There are a couple of good smartphone equivalents for Display Purposes. The free versions are limited but if you do a lot of Instagram posting, spending a couple of dollars to unlock the pro features is well worth it.

TagsDock is a set of categories and when you tap on a category, various suggested hashtags come up which you can then tap to enter. It’s not as good as Display Purposes but it is much better than manually typing hashtags out over and over again.

Hashtag Key is slightly different than TagsDock in that you have to manually enter the hashtags. But it then saves them for you for future posting into groups that you also have to set up (pets, books, etc). Then the next time you want to use a particular set of hashtags, just tap on them and they will be automatically inserted for you.

Canva

Instagram Stories are becoming all the rave now as you can push a certain image and/or message to your users, have it pinned to your profile for 24 hours, and then have the opportunity to pin it to the top of your profile forever.

Making plain simple Stories is easy enough but what if you want to push the boat out a bit? That’s where Canva comes in. They don’t have actual Stories templates already made, so resize the blank canvas to 1920 pixels height by 1080 pixels wide, add your images, then use something like Buffer to upload it to your Stories section on your account.

Instaspacer

One of the very frustrating things about Instagram is its seeming inability to put in freaking line-breaks. So you end up with everything squashed together like a sardine convention.

Instaspacer fixes this problem by letting you type your caption into the box provided. You then click “Convert”, it goes to the Instagram app on your phone, and you can paste what Instaspacer gives you. Somehow, that includes line-breaks. Magic.

LinkTree

One thing which is really mystifying about Instagram is their refusal to allow any more than one active link on someone’s profile. For a site that wants ecommerce brands to sell from Instagram, their “one link” policy is inexplicable.

Anyway, while that policy is still in place, a service such as LinkTree gets around that restriction. Since the only active link can be in your bio, you would place the LinkTree link there and on your LinkTree page, you can have as many links as you want to various other sites such as your personal website, your other social media pages, online shop, you name it.

Clipomatic

Finally, I have to give a big shout-out to my new favourite app, Clipomatic. I learned about it from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of all people. She uses Clipomatic to make sure that her deaf constituents can “listen” to her videos.

Clipomatic takes a video that you make through its app and its artificial intelligence then listens to your voice and automatically adds subtitles at the bottom. The accuracy level is extremely high and with my deep Scottish accent, it only got two small things wrong when I last used it. Which, considering my constant linguistic wrestling matches with Siri, is outstanding.

6 Beginner Tips For Making A Good First YouTube Video

I can remember the very first time I made a YouTube video. I was extremely nervous and sweating like crazy. My nervousness made me stutter and by the end, I looked as if I had had one too many beers the night before.

That video is now long deleted (thank God) but since then, I have been figuring out the elements of what makes a good YouTube video. What can you do to create a good impression in front of the camera? How can you make the end video the best quality it can possibly be?

Look Presentable

You would have thought this one was a no-brainer, but at the beginning, I never bothered to brush my hair or even shave. Looking at other videos on YouTube, many other people don’t bother to either.

There’s nothing wrong with having a beard – I have one. But the key is to look well groomed and presentable. Don’t give off the homeless person vibe. The least you can do is comb your hair, put on clean clothes, and generally be nice to look at. You don’t want to traumatize the kids.

Use a Decent Video Camera (App)

This is probably going to be a matter of contention with some of you, but I would say that you don’t need to buy an expensive video camera. Your smartphone camera will more than suffice.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that your smartphone camera will outperform a lot of regular video cameras. Cue the murderous lynch mobs.

The regular default camera app on a smartphone is a bit limited though. If you have the budget, try and go for a nice video app. I highly recommend the amazing FiLMiC Pro, available for both iOS and Android. 

It only costs $14.99 and in my opinion, a very worthwhile investment. There is a slight learning curve to getting the most out of it but your videos will look fantastic.

Put The Camera On a Tripod

If there is one thing that screams out “amateur!” during a video broadcast, it’s the picture juggling up and down like a squirrel on crystal meth. The picture needs to be absolutely smooth and for that, you need to put your camera on a tripod.

I have one similar to the one pictured above and its advantage is that it can sit on a desk or somebody else can hold the tripod which is easier than holding the phone. It also frees up your hands if you need them during the video.

Rig Up Decent Lighting

At the beginning of the year, I made what I thought was a great streaming video. But to my horror, I found out afterwards that the lighting was absolutely terrible. I looked like a serial killer lurking in a dark alleyway.

There are two solutions to this. Either stand in front of a window with direct sunlight streaming in. Or buy a LED mini-light like the one above. Technically it is meant to be attached to a DSLR camera, but you can also sit it on a smooth surface next to your video camera, lighting up the area around you.

Make Sure You’re Wired For Sound

So, you’re looking good, the camera is steady and the lighting is top-notch. But can people hear you? This was another blunder I found myself in, during what I thought was a barn-stormer of a YouTube performance. I was whispering so quietly only the deaf lip readers could understand me.

Video creators go one of two routes here. You can either have a clip-on microphone or you can have a proper desk microphone such as the magnificent Blue Yeti. Christian recently profiled some of the best microphones on the market, one of which is the Yeti.

As well as the microphone, you will also need a pop filter which takes out unintentional noises from your voice. This makes your voice sound smoother and makes you easier to understand. The difference in audio quality is startling.

Rehearse Your Words Beforehand (Or Use a Teleprompter)

Finally, the best piece of advice to bear in mind is to rehearse what you want to say beforehand. Nothing is worse than forcing your viewers to listen to you stuttering and stammering like Hugh Grant. It might endear him to female fans but if you do it, viewers will respond by switching off.

Unless you don’t mind rehearsing over and over until you have memorized what you want to say, the alternative is to be like a politician and use a teleprompter. You can either download and use a teleprompter app on another smart device, or you can use a browser-based teleprompter.

How To Set Up a WhatsApp Group

WhatsApp is quite possibly the biggest and most popular instant messaging app in the entire world. Used by everyone and their grandmother, its acquisition by Facebook has concerned many, but it has also given the messaging platform a serious injection of cash and improvement to its infrastructure.

One of the things it is most used for is its groups feature. Any WhatsApp user can set up a group and then invite other WhatsApp users to that group to discuss anything under the sun.

My brother-in-law had one set up for his wedding planning last year, which cut down on unnecessary emailing and crossed wires. Families can set them up to share pics and chat. Businesses can set one up for customer support queries. The possibilities are endless.

If it is not a private discussion, you can publicize a clickable invite link which will enable anyone in the world to join the group instantly from their phone or desktop computer.

Setting Up a Group On WhatsApp

Here is how to set up a group on WhatsApp. We will be looking at how to do it on the desktop app as it is much easier. The new groups will then instantly synchronize with your phone.

  • When you have logged into the WhatsApp desktop app, click on New Chat in the left-hand contacts column.
  • You will now see an option for New Group. Click on that.
  • Start typing the names of the people you want to add to the group. You must add at least one person other than yourself to open a group. If the person you want is on WhatsApp but you cant find them, make sure you have their correct phone number listed in your phone.

Note: anyone added to a new group will be automatically notified by WhatsApp and the group will immediately appear in their contacts list.

  • Once you have added at least one other group participant, the group will open up ready for chatting. If you click on the group title at the top, you can make some customizations and tweaks. This includes changing the title of the group, adding an avatar, adding a description, and designating certain group members as admins.
  • If you scroll further down that list, you will see this option. This is where you can make a clickable invite link for the group if the discussions are not private.
  • You will then get an encrypted link which you can share around. Since this is a private group, I have obscured the last few digits to keep out the riff-raff.
  • By this point, your new group will have appeared on your WhatsApp-registered mobile phone. If not, shut down WhatsApp on your phone and restart it.

If your group starts to get pretty busy, you might want to consider muting the sound so your phone is not always pinging. You can find the mute function in the same area where you can customize your new group. You will still get new message notifications but only the number of unread notifications next to the WhatsApp logo. You can then read the messages at your leisure.

How To Set Up Your First Facebook Advert (Part 1)

In the olden days (pre-Internet), if you wanted to advertise something, you would stick an advert in the newspaper and hope somebody was interested. Or if you had the cash to splash about, maybe a billboard or a TV advert.

But lots of people who saw your advert would not be interested in what you were offering, and the people who would be interested might not see it at all.

So when the Internet came along, the right kind of buyers could now be targeted with micro-precision laser targeting based on their interests. Facebook is one of the  biggest online players and the good news is that anybody can make a powerful Facebook advert with just a few dollars.

Setting Up Your Own Facebook Ad For $5 a Day

Although you can technically run an ad on Facebook for $1 a day, you really need to up the amount to a minimum $5 a day if you want to see any meaningful results. But if you have the budget, the more you invest, the more eyeballs you will reach.

The first thing to emphasize is that you are in complete control of your budget. You specify a maximum daily amount to Facebook and when they hit that amount, the advert is stopped till the next day. So you will never get horrific bills you can’t pay.

Boosted Posts Versus Facebook Ads

There are two forms of advertising on Facebook – boosted posts and actual ads. It’s worth spending a moment explaining the difference.

Boost Post is an extremely limited form of Facebook ad and many people have dismissed them as a waste of money. But I think they have their place if you use them right. I have used boosted posts to promote my dog’s fan page from 50 fans to well over 750 highly engaged fans.

With a normal Facebook ad, you can tweak it and customize it to add lots of amazing features. You have complete control over the messaging and the image.

With a boosted post however, it does what the name says – it takes an already existing Facebook post on your page and merely boosts its presence to others who might be interested in seeing it.

Boosted posts is a nice way to gently dip your toes into the water with ads if the whole thing makes you nervous. But today, we’re going to jump right in with the real thing.

Starting a Proper Facebook Ad

Obviously it goes without saying that you need a Facebook account. First make a personal account and then use the personal account to make a Facebook business page. Both are free and you need the business page to run the adverts.

Once the business page has been set up, go to the Ads Manager and click on the green Create button on the left.

It will ask you if you want to do Quick Creation or Guided Creation. Choose the latter.

The first thing you need to do is decide on your marketing objective. In other words, why do you want to run the advert? What do you hope to gain from it?

When you click one, Facebook explains underneath what it means and what you can expect from that option. This is what you will see if you click on Traffic.

For the purposes of this article, I am going to go with this one. So let’s look at the options above.

  • Campaign Name: fairly self-explanatory. Give the ad campaign a name which will be private to you only.
  • Create Split Test: for beginners, this is not necessary. But split-testing is where you run different versions of the same ad to see which one is the most effective.
  • Campaign Budget Optimisation : Facebook will (unless you tell them otherwise) spread your budget across various advertising platforms that they own, such as Instagram. I would recommend switching this off and only choosing Facebook and maybe Instagram.
  • Campaign Budget: How much you’re prepared to spend. A daily budget is the maximum amount Facebook will spend every day. A lifetime budget requires a start and end date to the advert and that amount will be spent evenly over that period.
  • Campaign Bid Strategy: when deciding on whether to show your ad, Facebook will see who is bidding the most for particular keywords. This option is to either let Facebook decide your costs or whether to impose a bid cap. A bid cap though can seriously impede your ad’s exposure.

Now click Continue.

The options on the next pages are quite a lot and not all of them are necessary for beginners. So I will just show the ones you need to get your first ad online. As you go through each feature, you will see this start to change.

For the ad to be effective, you need to get it down to narrow (green) or specific (red). Remember what I said about laser-focused targeting towards your desired audience.

OK, here we go. First, choose where your traffic is going.

Now the audience section, and this is the part you need to spend the most time on. It will make or break your ad.

If this is your first time, ignore custom audiences and go straight to Locations.

Where it says Include, dropping down the menu will allow you to choose exclude instead. So choose one and then add your desired geographical location. This can either be a continent, a country or a specific state, city, town, or village. Think about where your customers will likely be.

I chose the United States and it added it to the list.

To make your audience narrow or specific, limit the number of places. Don’t go crazy.

Now specify the person’s age, gender, and spoken languages. Do you see that dial moving to the left yet to green or red?

Detailed targeting are the keywords. Make a list of all relevant keywords for your advert to make sure the right people see it. But Facebook must already have the keyword in its database for you to choose it. But get specific – instead of books, try eBooks instead. Or audio books.

Once you have got the audience as narrow or specific as you can get it, it is time to move on.

OK, that’s enough to digest for today. In the next article, I will discuss how to make the graphic which goes with your advertising text and finally submit the whole thing to Facebook for their approval.