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Top tips for running a live social media event

14 January 2022

Live content is exciting, it’s interactive, and it has a sense of urgency and occasion that pre-recorded video just doesn’t have.

We’ve been hosting live broadcasts together with our Clinical and Research Communications teams at Breast Cancer Now since February 2018 and have hosted more than 100 sessions since then across Facebook, Instagram and most recently, Twitter. These are a cornerstone of our social content and in that time have been viewed over two million times and have achieved a combined reach of four million.

While we predominantly use the format to inform and answer questions, live broadcasting can also work well to raise awareness of issues or campaigns, tell stories, fundraise and much more. Such as members of our research team sharing exciting developments in the research that we fund and what this could mean for patients, to our expert nurses hosting chats with patients, influencers and healthcare professionals on wide-ranging topics such as living with an incurable secondary breast cancer diagnosis, to coping with side effects of treatment.

Here are our experiences and tips to help you plan your own live event on social media…

Your set up doesn’t have to be complicated

Working across the charity we plan each session, find and book guests and respond to hundreds of questions that come in. We’re also working to evaluate the impact of them as a service through surveys completed by viewers after each session. We’ve even involved our partners in our broadcasts as a way of talking about our work together, whether that’s Asda and TickledPink, or recently guesting with Trinny Woodall of Trinny London to talk breast awareness with her one million followers on Instagram.

Running a live event broadcast doesn’t need to be complicated though, it can simply be one person and a phone (as demonstrated by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden) all the way through to having a full multi-camera set up like our recent partnership with Twitter.

Partnering with Twitter

We were approached by Twitter in October 2021 to partner with them on what would become the first ever live and uncensored breast check on social media. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, they wanted to help raise awareness about breast checking, and reached out to Breast Cancer Now to join forces. Our latest YouGov research revealed that 39% of women in Britain don’t regularly check their breasts for the potential signs and symptoms of breast cancer, so the opportunity coincided perfectly with our own planned breast awareness campaign. Hosted by one of our clinical nurse experts, they were joined by two women and a man to show how viewers could check their own breasts and chests, and people could join in while they watched.

To date, it has been viewed more than 250,000 times and was talked about in the Evening Standard, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror and many more media outlets.

What can go wrong

There are definitely many challenges of creating live content as there’s always the potential for the technology to fail. Or in the case of one of our planned live broadcasts in October 2021, all of Facebook shut down just as we were about to go live. We’ve had issues with internet connections where hosts and guests have dropped out part way through a broadcast, and we’ve had issues with sound not coming through at all. Part of the charm though is the rough-around-the-edges nature of being live, and the risk is definitely worth the engagement reward from our perspective.

Top tips for going live

  1. Picking your day and time: One of the aspects of highly engaging content is its relevancy and time sensitivity. If you can be talking about something topical, or on a particular awareness day, it then becomes easier to start that conversation. It’s also important to consider the time too, not limiting yourself to working hours, and looking to see when your audiences are engaging most on your channels. We found that evenings worked best for our viewers, so the majority of our sessions start at 7pm.
  2. Check your internet connection: Check your own connection speed before broadcasting, on both Wi-Fi and 4G/5G. If you’re using shared Wi-Fi it can help to ask others to not perform bandwidth-heavy activity like streaming TV or films at the same time.
  3. Start simple: You can go live with just a phone, or a computer with a webcam. You can  include up to three guests on Instagram, or for Facebook, you can use platforms like Zoom to broadcast directly, or free tools like OBS to add guests. Facebook’s free Live Producer will allow you to add overlays and interactive elements like polls too.
  4. Interact with your audience: Listen to what your audience are saying in the comments and involve them in your broadcast. The more you do that, the more people will want to comment and interact with you. Comments are taken as a more important signal to platforms than likes so you’ll see the algorithmic improvement in your reach.
  5. Have a backup plan: If you can’t go live, what are you going to do? What happens if someone drops out? Do you just record it and upload as a ‘Premiere’ later, or reschedule for another time? Having a backup plan is really important so that everyone can stay calm and remain in control, whatever is thrown at you.

Going live on social media can seem scary but with some planning, it can help elevate your campaigns and messages. We hope these tips help give you the confidence to give it a go. 


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Banner Image: Obed Hernández on Unsplash

Dan Papworth-Smyth

Head of digital engagement, Breast Cancer Now

Dan Papworth-Smyth is Head of digital engagement at Breast Cancer Now, where he leads on the charity’s paid and organic social media, forum, email, and Facebook fundraising.