Live from Your Library: A Look at Periscope, Facebook Live and Google Hangouts On Air

The cookies are out, the coffee is ready, and people are already starting to file into the lecture you've organized for your library. Just before your speaker starts, you hit Go Live. All of a sudden, people from all over the world are popping into your feed, asking questions and sharing comments on your program. Now your attendance total has tripled, and viewers are sharing your lecture, turning it into an online success!

Live-streamed video is taking off, and it is easier than ever to get on board. You can use live streaming not only to share your programs and lectures but also to give people a virtual tour of your library or share one of your classes. There are so many possibilities! The Wichita Public Library used Facebook Live for a book discussion for Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and the Wilmington Memorial Library used Live to share a program on drones

We tested out a few popular live-streaming platforms to see how they stack up and if they might be right for libraries.

Twitter Periscope

Periscope has been around for just over a year and was acquired by Twitter before it even launched. When you join Periscope, you have the option to log in with your phone number or with your Twitter account. I recommend associating with your library's Twitter account because you can then promote your live videos to all of your followers.

You can only record live video from the mobile Periscope app, so you must have access to a phone or tablet to use it. You can watch other Periscopes from your desktop, however.

When you're logged in, you'll see two tabs at the top: List and Map. List is a feed of people who are currently broadcasting, and the Map view shows where people are broadcasting from. Both are fun to explore to get a sense of what other users are sharing via live video.

To start a broadcast:

  1. Click the camera icon at the bottom of the app.
  2. Enable your camera, microphone, and location. If you're concerned about privacy, you have the option to hide your location before you go live.
  3. Go to the camera view so you can test out how your subject looks.
  4. At the bottom of the screen, enable or disable the location arrow, privacy lock, chat, and sharing to Twitter. With the chat option, you can choose to open chat up to everybody or just to users you follow. If you're just starting out, I recommend keeping your chat open to everybody who watches.
  5. Choose your front-facing or back-facing camera. You can switch between the two by double-tapping the screen.  
  6. Hit Start Broadcast and voilà — you're live! Your Twitter account will automatically send out a link to your video and let everybody know that you're live.

If your library has a lot of Twitter followers, Periscope is a great way to share even more of your library with them. If your library isn't very active on Twitter, you might consider another platform.

Facebook Live

Seeing the success of Periscope, Facebook launched its own live video platform a few months ago, aptly named Facebook Live. If you can post a picture on Facebook, you can record a live video — it's that easy. First thing to know: you can only use Live from the Facebook app on iOS or Android and not from the desktop site. To start your live video, you'll go to Update Status and choose Live Video from your options.

Update status

You'll jump to a screen that shows you how your subject looks via your camera. You can switch between the front-facing and back-facing camera by using the arrows icon in the upper right corner.

Once you're all set up, you simply hit Go Live, and you're broadcasting. When you start going live, everybody that follows you on Facebook will get a notification that you're broadcasting.

Tomato plant

To get a sense of how comments look as they appear live, check out this recording of the most successful Facebook Live video to date: Chewbacca Mom (her overnight success is really quite incredible). TechSoup also tested the live video waters last week and hosted a tour of our office.

Previously, Facebook Live was limited to only individuals, but now it has opened up to Pages as well. If you're designated as a manager on your library's Facebook page, you can publish a live video from that account using the Facebook Page Manager app. If your library is more active on Facebook than on Twitter, Facebook Live is certainly the way to go.   

Google Hangouts and YouTube Connect

Google Hangouts On Air is another option for live streaming and is a longtime favorite tool for businesses. One thing I really like about Hangouts On Air is that you can take audience questions before you go live, which takes a little pressure off and doesn't put you on the spot. You can broadcast from your YouTube channel or Google+, or you can embed it on your website. You can host and record a Hangout On Air from your computer or via the Google Hangouts app.

One feature that libraries will find useful is the ability to schedule a Hangout in advance and create a landing page for it. People can RSVP to your Hangout On Air through a Google+ event page.

Something to note is that Google is currently working on a competitor to Periscope and Facebook Live, YouTube Connect. It is uncertain how this app will differ from Google Hangouts On Air or if it will replace it.

Some Quick Tips for Going Live

You can ensure a successful live video by simply doing some planning. Here are a few things to consider before you go live.

  • Make sure to get permission from presenters and attendees before you live-stream. You can use something similar to a photo release form for getting permission. Here's an example of a release form from the Westchester Public Library.
  • Write up your live video description before you actually post it and ask colleagues for feedback.
  • Promote that you'll be going live ahead of time via your social media channels. Make sure to specify which platform you're using so people know where to find you.
  • Make sure your connection is strong and that you've tested it before going live. What if your video were to cut out midway?
  • Have an outline of what you'll say … but you don't necessarily need to stick to it. Live video has an element of spontaneity, but you also don't want to freeze up because you don't know what to say.

And here is what to consider while you're live.

  • Engage with commenters by name and if there are questions, make sure to try and have them answered.
  • Tell viewers where they can find you online (social media handles, your website) so they can follow other programs.
  • Wrap up with letting your viewers know the next time you'll be live.

It might take a few sessions to get a successful live stream, but it is worth trying. Not only is it free, it's incredibly easy. And hey, your library might have Chewbacca Lady–worthy success!