Facebook Live for Social Movements

Dec. 13, 2016, 9:34 p.m.

By Sabrina Williams

What is Facebook Live?

In summer 2015, Facebook introduced a live video feature that allows users to easily create and share live videos. Anyone can record a live video but they provide some particularly important benefits for social movements.

Why Use Live Video?

Facebook Live provides social movements with another powerful tool to add to their arsenal of social media weapons. Live video is another way to raise awareness about your social movement’s purpose, goals and tactics. Vivid footage of actions can create an impetus for viewers to get involved and support and/or participate in the movement.

Live video also allows social movements to broadcast actions to a virtually limitless number of viewers quickly, easily and for virtually no-cost. It also offers viewers the opportunity to see breaking news as it occurs. For instance, if police are arresting protesters outside of a government agency, a live video may be breaking the story before mainstream sources are able to arrive. Additionally, by tagging supporters (if not celebrities and other notable persons) when they engage in your organization’s live actions, the video is more likely to be seen by a wider audience than normal.

Facebook Live Video Best Practices

Live videos can be broadcasted up to eight (8) hours though most are far shorter than that. Here are several best practices:

Advertise your live event. Some actions need to remain a secret until the action commences. However, if it’s possible, put your audience on notice that you’ll be going live in the future. Facebook users that have liked your page appreciate a heads up about when to tune in.

Create an engaging post description prior to going live. Once you go live you won’t be able to change the description until after you complete your live session and the video processes and re-posts to Facebook. Example: “Thousands are currently gathered outside the U.S. EPA in Washington, DC protesting the granting of fracking licenses. We’re here to tell the EPA “No More Fracking!”

Get your technical ducks in order. Make sure your technical details are worked out before going live. You’ll need a strong signal, either by WiFi or 4G connection, prior to starting your broadcast. Try to conduct at least one test of the video and audio quality prior to going live to ensure viewers have good visuals, lighting is sufficient and the audio is clear. One idea is to have a second phone following your live video so you can see what viewers see in real-time, too.

Keep updating viewers about the action. Facebook Live viewers may drop in at various points during the live broadcast. Be sure to repeat the 5 W's (who, what, where, etc) of the video often.

Engage and update viewers. Try to read and respond to viewer’s comments during your live event. You likely won’t be able to respond to all comments but just addressing even five or ten comments can turn your live video from a spectator sport into an intimate communal-feeling event. Additionally, don’t forget to let viewers know what they can do to support the social movement. Urge viewers to check out your organization’s website for additional information, sign a pledge, donate money or simply show up to the next event. Facebook Live is a great vehicle for absorbing newcomers into the movements.

Examples of Really Great Live Videos

On November 20, 2016, Facebook user Kevin Gilbert broadcast a live video from Standing Rock, North Dakota. His video showed state security forces spraying peaceful protesters with water hoses in freezing temperatures, firing rubber bullets and concussion grenades into the crowds and spraying protesters with mace and tear gas. To date, Kevin’s video has received 3.9 million views. You can watch his video here.

In mid-November 2016, the Page “Save Main St.” broadcasted a live video of a #NoDAPL march in Washington, DC. The video shows protesters chanting and marching through the streets as well as speakers, including Bernie Sanders, talking about the detriments of the Dakota Access Pipeline and our duty to the First Americans (Native Americans). To date, that video has over 90,000 views. You can watch the video here.

More Information

Powerlabs, an organization that provides strategic support and training for social movements, recently hosted a webinar called “Getting Started with Facebook Live”. The webinar provides a wealth of tips, tricks and visuals for amplifying actions and bringing more people into social movements using Facebook live video.