screen capture of Dennis Shiao on live video
PHOTO: Dennis Shiao

Close to two years ago, I wrote an article titled “Why B2B Marketers Should Experiment With Live Video.” I included ideas and tips from video marketing experts, then I followed that up by ... doing nothing with live video. At the time, I was more excited by the concept of live video than the reality. I’d see the “Live” button when composing a post on Facebook, but I wasn’t comfortable trying it. I wasn’t sure how I’d look on camera. And besides, what would I talk about?

That all changed this year.

I was at a ski resort with family over the holidays. One evening, the resort invited an opera singer to perform for guests in the lobby. I decided to go watch him, while other family members chose to stay in their rooms.

“Check Facebook in a few minutes,” I told them. “I’ll use Facebook Live to broadcast a few songs.”

When I arrived in the lobby, I opened Facebook, entered a description, then went live. I saw a family member join right away, then saw a few other friends join. Neat!

Because the opera singer was the star of the show, I didn’t have to worry (yet) about showing my own face on camera. A recording of that Facebook Live event was saved to my profile, allowing other friends to watch it on demand.

The logistics were so simple and easy. I gained the confidence to keep experimenting.

From Ski Resort to Industry Conference

A few months later, I attended DNN Summit in Denver. The conference is organized and run by volunteers from DNN’s open-source community. This year, the keynote presentations featured the CEO of DNN and the original creator of DNN (DotNetNuke), Shaun Walker.

DNN’s community is global, and not everyone could attend the event. There were numerous requests to the organizers to live-stream the keynote presentations. The easiest way to do that was via Facebook Live, which requires no equipment (besides a smartphone) and has no hard costs.

I volunteered to stream the keynotes via the DNN Facebook page, using my phone. While the broadcast quality was far from ideal (for example, I didn’t have a tripod, so at times the video was shaky), we met the community’s demand to see the sessions online.

While I had yet to show my face on live video, I began to marvel at its potential.

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing Channels: Audio & Visual

Flipping the Camera to Front-Facing

Appearing in a live video involves an exciting yet nerve-racking transition: switching the phone’s camera from back-facing to front-facing.

The red light is on, and the pressure is on.

My experimentation with live video included personal branding (e.g. sharing tips about marketing) and showing friends and family what I was doing. Examples included:

  • Weekly tips about marketing, broadcast via Periscope and Twitter.
  • Short segments from a U2 concert, broadcast via Facebook Live.
  • Footage from Cushing Crossing (via Facebook Live), an annual event at California’s Squaw Valley ski resort, where skiers and snowboarders attempt to skim across a pond.
  • A 10-second video on Instagram Live promoting an upcoming Bay Area Content Marketing Meetup.
  • A short segment from a presentation at that same meetup.

Related Article: 4 Content Marketers Experimenting Their Way to Engagement

Benefits of Live Video

I feel a rush of excitement when the camera is on. When I end the broadcast, I often tell myself, “That was fun.” In addition to being an enjoyable experience, broadcasting live video offers other benefits.

Extended Reach

Newsfeeds are now controlled by algorithms, which try to determine the posts that end users would find most interesting. Even Twitter, which is famous for its reverse chronological “here is everything” feed, employs an algorithm to give certain tweets more prominence. This Twitter help page explains how tweets are selected for your home timeline.

I believe the folks at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. want users to broadcast live. For example, when you broadcast via Instagram Live, your followers receive notifications on their phones suggesting they join the broadcast. (Note: There’s a setting in the Instagram app to toggle notifications on and off.) I think the algorithms favor live video and give videos more favorable placement in the feed than conventional posts.

Let’s not forget on-demand viewing! When you end your broadcast, you can choose whether to publish the recording to your profile. The recording also helps with attention and reach. When users scroll through their Twitter feeds, recorded broadcasts auto-play (with the sound off) and display a running count of the number of views. I’m much more drawn to these video tweets than I am to conventional tweets that just share links.

In less than two months broadcasting weekly tips via Periscope, I’ve amassed more than 2,600 views. Most of these views have come from new viewers: people I don’t know and who didn’t know me previously.

Related Article: From Broadcasting to Engagement: My Twitter Journey, in 3 Phases


On social media, it’s easy to stage and curate the best version of yourself: all dressed up on a Friday night, flexing at the gym, helping a kitten down from a tree. Observing others, you’re often made to wonder, “Just how is it that their life is so ... perfect?”

Well, perfection comes from post-processing and perhaps some manipulation: deleting photos that don’t look just right, retaking pictures, applying filters, etc.

With live video, it’s hard to stage and curate your image. You can’t apply filters, and there’s no undo button. It’s the real, authentic you, and anything can happen.

Watching people on live video is the closest thing to being with them in person. You get to know people in a far more meaningful way than you can via conventional tweets. With people I know online but have yet to meet in person, live video helps me bridge that gap. Watching them on live video makes it feel as if we’ve met in person.

Share Knowledge Efficiently

Live video complements other forms of content, such as blog posts and articles. While this article took me a few hours to research and write, broadcasting it via live video might have taken just 15 minutes. While the depth of the content in a video version may be lighter, I could still share similar thoughts via video. 

When I use live video for personal branding, I map out an outline ahead of time; however, I never script what I’ll say, because that would change the feel of the broadcast. Speaking without a script helps me be more natural, while demonstrating the knowledge I have on a topic. 

The weekly tips videos that I produce last just six minutes or less. Counting activities that happen before and after filming, I spend no more than 30 minutes on each one.

Taking a conversational approach to live video helps me share knowledge with very little investment in time.

How to Get Started

If you’re on the fence about live video, here’s a tip: Start with prerecorded videos. Pick a topic, and record short videos (one minute or less) of you discussing that topic. Upload the videos to your social network of choice, and gauge the reactions of your friends and other connections. This removes the pressure of being live while giving your audience a chance to see and hear from you.

I think you’ll find it fun! And from there, you can choose the right time to go live.