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How to Build an Audience For Your Live Stream

“Going live” used
to be reserved for TV networks and radio stations. Now, anyone with a decent
internet connection and a computer or mobile device can broadcast live online—anytime, anywhere—using applications like Periscope, Facebook Live, Twitch
and YouTube Live.

We’ve looked at the kinds of live broadcasts you can do. After you start, the real challenge is
attracting—and building—an audience. In the vast landscape that is the
World Wide Web, how do you get discovered in the first place?

Man with binoculars
Photo by Unsplash/Pixabay

And even if someone
finds your live stream, how do you keep them watching when there’s so much
competition for eyeballs online?

It’s not easy. Just
ask the creator of Blab, a now-shuttered live streaming service. Shaan Puri pulled the plug on Blab on August 12th, despite having a reported 3.9 million

What he found was
that only 10 per cent of those users came back on a regular basis. Why? Because—to paraphrase Puri—most live streams suck. They exist because the
broadcasters want to be seen, not because the content is something viewers want
to watch.

So here are four
strategies to help up your ante in the live streaming game:

1. Consistently Create Great Content

The first step in
attracting an audience is to create something worth watching in the first

Hand pushes Live Stream button
Photo by Melpomenem/Photodune

What’s unique
about live streaming as opposed to other forms of video content is that it’s happening in real-time. TV stations capitalize on this real-time aspect every time they go live
with breaking news. People tune in because the action is unfolding now. There’s a certain level of excitement and anticipation in not knowing
what’s going to happen next.

You may not be
covering breaking news, but your content has to be interesting enough to make
people stop what they’re doing to watch.

Events have a
natural “now” factor, whether that event is a conference, graduation ceremony
or party. Failing that, you should be providing information or entertainment of value to a given

2. Build Buzz About Your Broadcasts

Once you’ve
decided what you’re going to live stream, you need to promote the heck out of

Woman with megaphone
Photo by yellowj/Photodune

First stop: social
media channels like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Let people know
when and where they can watch your live stream—and more importantly, why they
should watch. What’s in it for them?

Don’t give away
every detail of what’s going to happen. Tease the viewer to pique their interest.

Here’s a few
more tips for promoting your live stream:

  • create
    an eye-catching image or graphic with details of your event
  • include
    a hashtag (one for Twitter, 3 – 5 for Instagram) to make it easily searchable
  • create
    a short video preview to attract attention
  • tag
    influencers and others who might be interested

Promote your live
stream well in advance, and often. Platforms like Hootsuite can help you
schedule all your posts in at once. You can also get
the word out through a newsletter, blog post or even email.

Interact With Viewers

Once your live
stream is up and running, you need to interact with the audience. It’s not
about you lecturing—it’s about listening and engaging back.

Man with Microphone
Photo by vadymvdrobot/Photodune

Here’s how to make
viewers feel like they’re a part of the live event, not just spectators:

  • ask for
    their questions and respond to them in real time
  • greet your viewers by name (people love this!)
  • instruct
    viewers to send likes and hearts to great questions or comments from other
  • encourage
    your audience to spread the word on social media during the live stream

It’s a lot to
juggle while you’re live streaming, so you might want to ask a friend or
co-worker to handle the commenting online so you can focus on delivering the

Another way to
keep your audience engaged is to tease something to come during the broadcast.
Having a surprise announcement, guest or prize giveaway at the end increases
the chances viewers will stay tuned in.

Don’t forget to
ask viewers to follow you so they’ll be notified the next time you go live!

Repurpose Your Videos

Once your live
stream is over, make your content available for replay.  How you do this depends on which platform
you’re using for live streaming.

Facebook Live will
save the video to your Page or profile. YouTube Live will upload it to your
channel’s Video Manager. Periscope lets you save a live stream to your mobile
device’s camera roll. From there, you can upload the video to YouTube or

If you’re tech
savvy, you can download your saved live stream and edit it. For example, you might
want to isolate just one short segment, or add a call to action to the end.

Then it’s time for
more promotion. You can:

  • share
    your video on social media
  • embed
    it on your website
  • write
    a related blog post

Repurposing your
live stream is a great way to generate more content and grow your audience.


The quality of your video does matter, but your gear doesn’t have to cost a fortune. A little bit of extra lighting will improve the quality of just about any image, even from older webcams. A good-quality webcam or camcorder (even an older) is a big boost, too.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to
and have fun. What matters most of all is that you start! Live streaming is in its infancy; tactics and best practices
are still emerging. Test different broadcast times, lengths and concepts to see what works for you and your audience.