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Facebook Live can help your business cut through the noise

Avery Swartz is a tech expert who advises small businesses on all things digital. She is also the founder of Camp Tech, a tech training company for businesses and individuals across Canada.

With 23 million Canadians using Facebook every month, it makes sense for brands to leverage the platform to connect with their audiences. But with so many people sharing content there every day, it can be difficult to stand out. One feature some small businesses are turning to is Facebook Live.

The feature allows anyone on Facebook to broadcast a live-streaming video to their friends or followers. First launched in 2015 as a tool for public figures, the feature is now available to anyone on Facebook, including businesses. Streaming a live video requires no special software or equipment – most use the camera in their smartphone. With such a low barrier to entry, Facebook Live video can be a fun part of a brand's social media content strategy.

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The tool is particularly attractive for small businesses hoping to extend their reach on Facebook on a limited budget. The platform's algorithm doesn't allow many (unpaid) posts from businesses pages to appear in fans' News Feeds. Live videos cut through the algorithm, and are more likely to be seen in News Feed than other content types.

It can also be a great way to build brand awareness and customer engagement. Facebook estimates that 10 times more people comment on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos.

Tanya Dodaro and Livia Grujich are co-founders of On Q Communications, and they advise clients such as Condos.ca, Pure Organic Foods and The Healthy Crunch Company to experiment with Facebook Live.

"With Facebook Live, the number one tip is to make sure you're being authentic," Ms. Grujich stresses.

Even though it is possible to use third-party streaming tools or multiple camera setups, a key appeal of Facebook Live is its informality, Ms. Dodaro explains. "It's live, it's supposed to be unscripted. That's a key thing to remember. It's what people want to see," she adds.

Facebook and other social media platforms need content, and developing original material can take time and effort. Streaming a Facebook Live video is efficient. Ms. Grujich explains, "What's nice about Facebook Live is the fact that it stays on your page. When you're live, you get to interact with people, and after that the video lives on the page. So you can repurpose it."

Ms. Dodaro and Ms. Grujich advise their clients to use Facebook Live to share an inside look into their companies. They feel that product launches and live events are a natural fit for the medium, but encourage their clients not to stop there. "It's always great to show your team, your place of work," Ms. Dodaro says.

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Ms. Grujich adds, "With Condos.ca, people want to meet the team and see who's behind this website. Having them literally walk around the office really allows people to feel like they're part of the office."

Still, live video can be scary for business owners, as it demands transparency. Many are concerned about making a mistake or accidentally sharing trade secrets by showing too much on camera.

Ms. Dodaro reminds clients to "practise without being too rehearsed and scripted. Smile in front of a mirror. Understand what your main points are. If you can get three key messages out within your Facebook Live, it's a success." And if the person on-camera does make a mistake, laugh about it and move on. It's part of the culture of live video, and audiences are often forgiving of mistakes. It's okay to not be slick and produced.

Promote your Facebook Live video ahead of time so your audience knows when to tune in. Also consider having someone else on your team join you during the live stream. Ask a colleague to log in to the company's account and respond to comments. That way the person on-camera won't feel overwhelmed by the comments coming in and won't miss anything while being the star of the video.

Finally, check your stats. Facebook gives a lot of information to brands on how Live videos performed. You can see the number of people you reached, and demographic information about them. Check how long people watched, what part of your video had the highest number of live viewers and reactions throughout. Use those insights to plan your next Live stream. "Within the video, you can see when people are coming on, when they're dropping off. Look at what worked about the video and what didn't; you'll be able to see what got people excited," Ms. Grujich says.

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