After rolling out first to celebrities and then to a relative handful of regular users, Facebook’s live video streaming feature is now a part of everyone’s Facebook experience.
It’s easy to use and will be familiar to anyone who has tried Twitter’s Periscope, but don’t expect hoards of viewers the first time you fire up your Facebook live stream.
Here’s a real world look at how to use it and what it’s like.
You won’t find a large “Broadcast Now!” button on Facebook. In fact there’s no indication anywhere that you can do anything beyond your traditional posts. Live stream video is sort of hidden under the Status icon.
Once you select that you’ll notice a new icon next to the Check In icon. If you haven’t posted a status update recently, you’ll see this message floating above the icon: “New! Record and share live video.”
If you’re ready to broadcast (and who isn’t?), you select the icon and then give Facebook permission to access your camera and microphone. You only have to do this once.
Once you hit he big blue “Continue” button, you’ll be asked to describe your broadcast. It’s on this same screen that you choose your privacy setting: Are you sharing this with the public, or just your friends? You can even choose to share it with just yourself, but where’s the fun in that?
You can shoot the video through your FaceTime or rear-facing camera and while holding your phone in portrait or landscape mode, but the video will always be square. If you shoot in portrait, live Facebook comments will appear below your video. In landscape mode, they appear on the right side.
As soon as you go live, the video feed appears in your timeline.
On the broadcast screen, you’ll see your video as your audience sees it, along with a tally of how many viewers you have, how long you’re on air and live comments.
The comments remind me of both Periscope and the original Twitter live video tool, Meerkat. They’re easy to read and seem to stick around for a while. Granted, I had around 18 viewers on my first stream, so new comments were not exactly flying in.
There’s no limit to how long you can stream, though a good network connection is a must. I would suggest saving your streams for when you’re in WiFi range.
You may be somewhat disappointed by the limited number of viewers you get on a broadcast. When a celebrity launches a Facebook Live Video stream, their Facebook Page (something celebrities and brands have) pushes out a notification to all their Page Likers and followers.
When I went live, no one got a notification. That, however, is not how it always works. When Mashable’s Senior Tech Analyst Christina Warren started her broadcast, at least one co-worker got a push notification.
Apparently the video quality on the receiving end was good with just a few stutters.
If you do want a bigger audience, Facebook suggests you announce in advance with another post when you plan to broadcast live. Then people can put it on their schedule.
When you’re done broadcasting, the video will post on your timeline where people can choose to replay it and you can collect more views.
You’ll also have the option to save the video to your phone’s camera roll, if you want to edit and even share on a different social network.
Overall, the Facebook Live Video experience is comparable to what you get from Periscope. However, unlike Periscope, which posts the notification to all your Twitter followers that you are going live, Facebook’s live video for regular users may just quietly creep onto the network.