Facebook Live: 5 Tips for Viewer Etiquette

Facebook Live: 5 Tips for Viewer Etiquette by Vickie Howell

5 Tips for Facebook Live Viewer Etiquette

Over the past *two years of broadcasting live via Facebook, and with well over half a million views from an international audience, I’ve learned a lot about human interaction on a virtual scape. For the most part, live streaming on Facebook — the platform where most of my community spends their social media time– has been fantastic. From a marketing perspective, it’s an exciting tool offering direct contact with those interested in the exact niche of content the broadcaster provides. From a human perspective, it’s so freakin’ cool to be able to have real-time interactions with people in multiple states and countries, at the same time!

Because the application is so new though, so still lacking in protocol, I’ve also noticed that behavior habits are very different by some people than I imagine they would be in a real-life scenario. My colleagues and I have had many conversations about the anonymity of the internet, the carte-blanche attitude to troll, and the challenges of reading comments without reading too much into them. I’m of the mindset that it’s almost never personal when someone says something untoward, but nevertheless it still gives one moment for pause to contemplate motive. There’s obviously not a blanket answer to why people type the things they do during live presentations, but I would posit that in large portion it’s part of an etiquette and influence reverberation learning curve. After all, we’re all new to this and there isn’t a Miss Manners for new media! I believe that some viewers truly don’t realize who — or how many — see what they’re saying in the comments sections of these live streams. In that vein, here are some quick, common sense tips that might offer some clarity.

*Although Facebook Live wasn’t made available to personal users until April 2016, verified users had access to it in Beta via Facebook Mentions, as of August 2015.

#5 Make Yourself Known 

Although it’s absolutely ok to watch Facebook Live videos as a quiet bystander, keep in mind that one of the best things that sets live streams apart from their pre-recorded siblings is the ability to interact with the presenter in real time. Think of this medium as a big table in which the host sits at the head and the viewers — his/her/their guests — sit around it. In this scenario, if the host greets the group or asks the collective a question, it would be appropriate to answer, right? It would also be acceptable if not everyone responded to every word during the entire course of the gathering. Same goes for live streams. Next time you’re watching your favorite Facebook Live-er be sure to click on the “heart” or “thumbs-up” icons, say (i.e. post) “hello”, or reply to the conversation in the comments section. Not only will it make the person on-camera feel like he/she/they aren’t talking to a vast tunnel of internet nothingness, it will also enable you to e-meet the community of Facebook “friends” also participating (via comments) in the stream with you. Oh, and your interactions reflect positively on what’s called “engagement“, which is one of the metrics that the elusive, wizard-behind-the-curtain-that-is-a-Facebook-algorithm, calculates when allowing for how far of a viewer reach the video gets. More engagement, means more reach, which helps us host-y types continue to be able to do our jobs. Team Facebook Live unite (psst…viewers, that includes you!)

#4 Sharing is Caring

If you’re enjoying the topic of the Facebook Live video your watching, share it in your own Facebook timeline so that like-interested friends can discover it in their feeds. Even if they don’t catch the video while it’s actually live, they’ll be able to watch the recorded version later on the host’s Facebook Page. Word of mouth — or word of share, as it were — is one of the biggest compliments you can pay to a live broadcaster, because it helps bring more eyes to their project!

# 3 If You Can’t Say Anything Nice …

You know that old cliché, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all?” In daily life that philosophy may not always be the best laid plan for self-advocacy, social justice or perhaps even, career advancement. On the internet however, and specifically on the comment sections of Facebook posts and videos, it almost always is the right choice. Walk with me for a second, while I elaborate.

Sharing one’s opinion is part of human discourse; an important one at that! It works best however, in person when the nuances of a voice or twinkle in one’s eyes can solidify the intention behind the spoken words. In typed form, those crucial elements aren’t available so things can often be misconstrued. If that’s not the case though and you typed exactly what you meant, and it’s also less than kind, then there’s something else to keep in mind. In the Facebook Live scenario not only will you, the host, and other viewers see it, but also potentially their friends, and their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends, and so on. When you comment on a live video, those comments are at the viewable whim of the presenter’s desired privacy settings. For a public figure of any type, that will usually mean no lockdown at all so that anyone, anywhere at anytime can access it.

My general rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t want your employer, or the people you love to see a comment you’ve made, then don’t make it at all. Save the snark for wine-time with friends! It’s more fun that way, anyway.

#2 Appearance is Everything

How would you feel if a stranger went on to the Facebook page of your workplace and commented negatively about your taste in clothing, your weight, or how you wear your hair? Probably mortified, right? That’s pretty much how it goes when viewers do the same on someone’s Facebook Live video. If the video is being broadcast from someone’s Business Page (versus personal timeline) then it is just that, a virtual representation of that business. Future clients/customers/followers are reading these comments, and regardless of the relevance to that business are absorbing the commenter’s opinion(s).

Listen up: The ONLY TIME it’s ok to make a comment on someone’s appearance on Facebook Live (or frankly, anywhere on the internet) — other than to compliment them — is if they ask for your opinion (i.e. “What do you think about this hair style, thinking of changing it.” OR, “I can’t decide if this shirt works on me, thoughts?) That’s it. The end.

#1 Face Time

The most important thing to remember when watching a Facebook Live video is that it’s the virtual equivalent to inviting someone into your home. Since communication goes both ways during a live stream, you’re getting to have relative face time with the broadcaster. This is what makes the medium so cool –when else can you have a conversation with your favorite musician from abroad, talk with an artist you admire, or get your question answered (for free) by a creative coach?! It also means that they areactually seeing what you type, and in fairly real time. Although in a large audience it’s difficult to catch all of the comments scrolling by, hosts will likely see most. That means whatever you type, you’re literally saying to their face. So look ’em in the virtual eye, and be kind. It’s as simple as that.

Happy viewing!

Find this article helpful? Please share! Also, today is the last day to vote for SXSW Panelists. Please take a moment to vote for the Facebook Live Broadcaster Meet-up that Jennifer Perkins and I have pitched. We love this medium, and want to encourage the community to thrive within it!

VOTE: Facebook Live Broadcaster Meet-up


Watch my weekly series, Ask Me Monday on Facebook every Monday at 12pmCT.

2 Responses to “Facebook Live: 5 Tips for Viewer Etiquette”

  1. Carolyn

    Recently, you were demonstrating dpn’s with a bend in them. What was the name of them? I would like to order some. Thought I would remember, ha!

    Have enjoyed your podcasts. Thank you for being there.

    • Vickie Howell

      Those are Neko needles. If you get them from Makers’ Mercantile, you can use the code VICKIE10 for 10% off. :-)