Most fitness studio owners use social media to engage with their clients in some capacity — whether it’s updating the class schedule for the week, pushing out seasonal promotions, or even just posting the sweaty group photo your class took after a grueling but fulfilling workout. But with live streaming technology becoming more and more available on social platforms like Facebook, and entire apps being devoted to the capability (looking at you, Periscope), what’s the best way to use this to your advantage as a business owner?

We asked Luke Watson, director at Roker Labs, to walk us through the best practices for getting started with live streaming for the first time. Here are his recommendations for which platforms to use, finding your audience, upping your production value and more!

1. KNOW YOUR PLATFORM
The first step to starting a live stream is to pick a platform. In order to figure out the best medium to be streaming on, Watson recommends doing your homework on the capabilities of each option to help guide your choice. “Facebook, Periscope, Live.ly, and every other live streaming platform comes with its own features, nuances, and viewer expectations,” he explains. “For example, you can use a professional camera and software to stream to Facebook Live, you can do similarly to Periscope, but only if you are part of their ‘Producer Program,’ and Live.ly restricts you to just their app on your phone. As another example, Facebook Live allows you to schedule a stream in advance, so you can do some promotion before you go live.”

2. STREAM WHERE YOUR AUDIENCE IS
Instead of trying to lead your audience over to another platform to follow your live stream, Watson recommends streaming where your audience is already most engaged. “If you’ve got a big following on Twitter, you may want to stick with Periscope because your stream can embed within your Twitter feed,” he suggests. “Facebook is a little bit different because you can either stream to family and friends through your personal profile, or if you have a public-facing page for a business or brand you can stream to that. Even if your Facebook following is modest, you can quickly and easily amplify your reach by asking larger pages to share your stream, or by sharing your stream to relevant groups. Live.ly is very different in that its audience is primarily young, so what you’re doing might not be relevant to them at all, but, if it is, it is easier to be discovered organically on this platform without a pre-existing following.”

3. MAKE SURE YOU’RE CAMERA READY
Test out your stream before you hit the air to make sure that everything is in good working order — and that the quality of your video is on par. “Shoot a quick video from your phone’s camera app before you go live just to play back and look for problems,” says Watson. “Check the lighting to make sure you or your subject is well-lit and not backlit. Don’t be afraid to turn on an extra light — flipping a switch can make a huge difference.” While you’re paying attention to the lighting, don’t forget to listen in and make sure that you can be heard as well. “Close doors and windows, turn off or down ambient music, and, ideally, use an external microphone,” Watson says. If you’re planning to live stream regularly, you’ll also want to make sure you’re doing so from a strong Internet connection. “If you can stream from a wired connection, that is always preferred,” Watson explains. “It’s usually faster and certainly removes some variables. Be sure to do a speed test before you go live to look for issues; there are plenty of free apps that do this.”

4. MAKE IT INTERACTIVE
You’ve got your platform picked out, you understand all of its inner workings, and you’ve tested for kinks. Now it’s time to decide what you’ll do during your stream. “The most successful streams turn their audiences into participants,” Watson says. “Viewers enjoy acknowledgement and feeling like they’re impacting what’s happening on screen. When your stream starts and people start to join, it doesn’t hurt to ask everyone where they’re from. This gives everyone a bit of context, is an easy piece of information that people are happy to contribute, and primes your audience to comment more as the stream continues. As soon as they share anything about themselves, they’re invested and the wall between you comes down.” Watson says that allowing your audience to guide what you’ll do during your live stream is also beneficial. “As the stream continues, ask them what you should do next, what they’d like to see, if they have any questions,” he says. “Live streaming is two-way TV, so use the magic of real time for all it’s worth.” Encouraging your viewers to share your stream will also help your viewership grow. “You want viewers to enjoy what they’re seeing now, but also come back for the next stream and bring some friends,” Watson says.

5. HAVE FUN!
If you’re stressed or stiff during your live stream, your audience will notice. So let loose, be yourself and have fun with it! “Live streaming video is the most authentic, personal way to connect with large audiences,” Watson says, “So if you’re having a bad day, it will make for a bad stream. The easiest way to make sure your audience is having fun is to make sure you’re having fun. You can’t fake live, and if you try, your viewers will see right through you…to someone else’s stream.”

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