Facebook Live: Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

Posted April 25th, 2017

Ever since it became available to the public in early 2016, Facebook Live has transformed the way we interact with one another. The ability to post not just what we think, but see, in real time has changed the landscape for everything from presidential inaugurations to home videos.

The tool was even used to capture a March 2017 bipartisan road trip/improvisational town hall between U.S. Reps Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, and Will Hurd, R-Helotes.

Whether you’re documenting a world-changing news event, or just something interesting to share with your friends, you’ll want your video to look good. Here’s how to make that happen. (Facebook has its own tips page, but we thought we would go more in-depth.)

First, you’ll want to make sure you’re in a spot that has a good Wi-Fi connection. Going off of a cellular LTE network like Sprint or Verizon will work, but it isn’t as reliable as Wi-Fi and could eat up your data.

RELATED: How to go live on Instagram

Next, open the Facebook app on your phone. The status bar at the top of your news feed where you write your updates will show a small red camera icon that says “Live” in the left-hand corner. Tap the “Live” button. You can also do this from your personal profile page in the same way. 

Jake HarrisA screenshot of the author's Facebook app. Notice the Wi-Fi setting and the highlighted "Live" icon.

Now, you should see a screen of whatever you’re pointing your phone at. If you want to record yourself, make sure you see your reflection. If you want to shoot video of what you see before you, tap the camera switch button in the top-right-hand corner of the screen. Make sure you’ve got a good first picture, because this is what people will see when they’re scrolling through their news feed.

Then, choose who you want to see your video. Much like a regular Facebook status, you can control who sees your Facebook Live broadcast. Make it as public or as private as you want.

Jake HarrisThe author's Facebook Live screen on an iPhone 6, in "landscape orientation. Note the privacy settings and caption.

Once you have all that taken care of, write a description of what you’re seeing or talking about. People who tune in to your video want to know why they should watch your broadcast. Make it interesting and fun!

Here’s an example of a Facebook Live video that Statesman food writer Addie Broyles has done in the past:

You can also tag people or places in your video to alert others that you are live, or add a “Donate” button if you would like to use your broadcast as a way to receive donations for something. Those buttons can be found in the bottom-left-hand-corner of the screen. If you want to add a filter to your video, like on Instagram, touch the wand in the top-right-hand-corner.

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After all of that preparation, point the camera to what you want to record, and hit the “Go Live” button in the bottom-right-hand corner of the screen. Make sure your camera lens is clean, or else the picture will be blurry. You’ll also need to decide if you want your video to be in portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) format. Landscape format works best to capture a wider frame, and looks more like what you would see on TV or on film. Portrait, though, better mimics the way people hold their phone when they’re scrolling.

Facebook will give you a three-second countdown before you go live to get you prepared. Once you’re broadcasting, a timer in the top-center of your screen will tell you how long you’ve been recording. You can move the camera around and zoom in as much as you want while you’re recording. 

Jake HarrisThe countdown screen just before a broadcast goes live.

Also when you go live, a notification will be sent to the people you specified in the privacy settings at the beginning of the broadcast. Those people will be able to comment and respond to your broadcast with Facebook reactions. You can comment directly on your phone to respond to anyone who comments on your video, or you can read them and respond out loud.

When you’re done, tap the “Finish” button. Facebook will ask you if you want to keep the video or delete it. If you choose to keep it, Facebook will store it on your page until you delete it.

And that’s it! Facebook Live is not that hard once you get the hang of it, and it’s an invaluable tool for capturing what’s happening on the go. If you want to go live from your desktop computer, most of the same steps apply; you just have to make sure you have a webcam plugged into your computer.

Happy broadcasting!