When Facebook launches new functionality, they tend to go all out, and Facebook Live is no exception.

Side note: Twitter has also launched a Live Video functionality through the Periscope app. I’ve played with this a bit, but not enough to offer information or opinion on it yet.

Facebook Live is exactly what it claims to be. It’s a Facebook post that is a live video broadcast. Like any new functionality, there are some things to know…

I used it quite a bit on a recent journey to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, affectionately known as Harrogate. Click here to see an example (bonus points if you can identify the authors in the video). Here are some tips based on my experience:

  • Facebook Live is available through the mobile apps. You cannot use it through a regular browser. It was only on the phone app at first, but it’s now in the iPad app version too.
  • To start a live post, click the box where you would enter a status update and select Live Video from the options at the bottom of the window.
  • If there are specific people you want to alert to your being live, you can tag them in the description of the video before you go live.
  • When it first launched (lo these many weeks ago), using it on a page (rather than a profile) required a bunch of additional hoop-jumping. Thankfully, this all seems to be removed now.
  • Live Video only works with a fairly strong wifi signal. If you move around and the signal changes, it will “pause” the live broadcast, which is irritating.
  • Speaking of pausing, once you’re live, you can’t pause. You can only end the live video and start over again.
  • You can zoom the video while you’re live, but doing so makes it much harder to keep the video steady. If you’re not using a tripod, I’d suggest avoiding zooming.
  • Once you end the live video, you can choose whether to upload it to the profile/page and whether you’d like it to be HD.
  • People can comment on your video while you’re live—and you see those comments—but the only way to respond to them is by speaking…you can’t type responses while live (although you can “like” comments as they come in).
  • This link has some helpful tips from Facebook. The one about writing the description before-hand is absolutely true. I’m less a fan of telling people when you’ll be live in advance, mostly because I’m not sure many folks actually plan their schedules around Facebook. But I could be wrong.

The live videos I did while traveling were well received. I think there’s something both slightly creepy and super cool about it, and the creepiness probably appeals because we read crime fiction. But are they a viable marketing tactic? That remains to be seen. It absolutely is a fun and easy way to create video content, so my prediction is that yes, it will be helpful in book marketing efforts.

I don’t have a panel at Bouchercon next month, so I’m going to do a “virtual panel” (because I love asking authors and readers questions), some of which I’m hoping to do live, assuming the wifi is strong enough. So if you’d like to give it a try, please let me know!