Which is the Best Social Network for Live Video – Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram?

It’s official: live video is everywhere on social media.

First Facebook, then Instagram, then Twitter – three of the biggest social networks on the planet now offer you fully-integrated options for broadcasting live!

But which network should you be using for YOUR live broadcasts?

All of them? None of them? (Hey, it’s not for everyone!)

Going live is enough of an adventure without also having to figure out all of the differences between social networks – so we’re taking care of that part for you!

What makes live broadcasting different on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter?

Let’s take a closer look at the details!

Facebook

Details:

  • Launched April 2016 (Wide release)
  • Via mobile only (desktop version rolling out)
  • 4-hour limit
  • Saves and posts videos automatically after broadcast

Pros:

With some users gaining access as early as 2015, Facebook live has been around the longest – and that means more time to work out the kinks and add new features.

(You can target specific types of people for your audience, for example – handy for making every view count.)

Facebook also explicitly encourages live broadcasts, going so far as to give them priority placement in the News Feed. Between 2015 and 2016, the average number of shares for Facebook videos doubled, so all those extra viewers can mean lots more visibility for your page!

The fact that Facebook automatically saves broadcasts to your page or profile after they end may also be a huge draw for marketers and businesses in particular – you’ll reach a much wider swath of your audience if you don’t limit your viewers to people who can watch during a live broadcast! (Case in point: BuzzFeed’s infamous watermelon explosion video doubled its views in the three days after it initially broadcasted.)

watermelon-explosion

Boom is right.

Cons:

While Facebook’s live broadcasting offers the most horsepower, its robust array of features may be intimidating for first-timers. While features like audience refining are optional, they represent a bit of a learning curve.

Facebook also doesn’t give you the same power to moderate comments as other social networks – though you can hide them to tidy up your broadcast. (Keep reading to see how Instagram and Twitter handle comments!)

Verdict:

Much like the rest of Facebook, this network’s live broadcasting feature is accessible enough for beginners, but a technical powerhouse for advanced users and marketers. It may seem intimidating at first, and may even lack a few bits and bobs that would come in handy, but Facebook live’s head start and deep well of features make it tough to beat.

That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right fit for everyone, though – so let’s take a look at what makes Instagram and Twitter stand apart! (And what may make the latter even more appealing for certain marketers than Facebook…)

Instagram

Details:

  • Launched November 2016
  • Via mobile only
  • 1-hour limit
  • Videos automatically disappear after broadcast

Pros:

Instagram is kind of a divisive network when it comes to marketing. Ultimately, its usefulness depends on your type of business and your style of social media marketing – and this is especially true when it comes to live broadcasting.

Instagram’s biggest advantage here – and arguably, one of its biggest disadvantages – is that this network as a whole functions differently from Facebook and Twitter. (And that means marketing yourself here functions differently, too.)

Other social networks are traffic-drivers, sure – but for the Instagram-savvy, traffic isn’t the only thing that matters.

Look at an entrepreneur like Jess Rona, whose stylistic dog grooming videos have earned her 115k+ followers on Instagram. On Facebook? About 5100.

Different type of business, different type of audience, different set of expectations.

(You’re gonna want to watch that with sound, by the way.)

Instagram live broadcasting may seem superfluous to businesses and marketers without much stake in this network already, but for those who rely on Instagram for the majority of their social presence, it’s the ideal solution.

(Not to mention that you can turn off commenting from viewers during your broadcasts, or filter out comments that include certain words or phrases. Trolls, begone.)

Cons:

Again, Instagram’s biggest advantage in this three-way race may also be its biggest disadvantage – this social network just wasn’t built for marketing.

Live broadcasting is noticeably less robust here, and won’t do much to make Instagram a game-changer for anyone skeptical about its usefulness in their marketing.

Not only that, but Instagram is the only one of these three networks that doesn’t allow you to save your broadcasts. Once you end transmission, that video is gone for good – no one who didn’t tune in live can view it, and neither can you.

Verdict:

Instagrammers deserve an option for broadcasting live as much as anyone – and given the network’s existing options for balancing regular posts with ephemeral content, the decision to make live videos disappear actually makes sense.

Ultimately, though, Instagram’s live broadcasting is an esoteric tool on an esoteric network – it’ll suit the people for whom it was made, but if Instagram isn’t already a big part of your marketing, this probably won’t change your mind.

Twitter

Details:

  • Launched December 2016
  • Via mobile only
  • No time limit (restrictions may apply)
  • Saves broadcasts automatically (with options)

Pros:

This last one is a little complicated – mostly because Twitter has kind of offered live broadcasting for a long time.

Way back in early 2015, Twitter bought the livestreaming app Periscope. While you could connect the two to share your Periscope streams via Twitter, it wasn’t exactly a built-in solution – you needed to have accounts with both services, and you did most of the work in Periscope, not Twitter.

(The whole thing worked kind of like Vine, which Twitter also owned – and had a similarly difficult time integrating.)

Since then, Periscope has floundered a bit, and Twitter’s response has been to implement the solution it probably should have gone with in the first place: a complete integration of the two services.

Now you can broadcast live straight from Twitter, and without having to go through the trouble of managing a separate Periscope account – but if you have a Periscope account already, or a following on that network, it will work to your benefit.

The live videos you stream from Twitter will also stream on Periscope, so users can access the broadcast from either network. Audience interactions function the same way as ever, also, so the broadcasting interface will be familiar to anyone who has streamed via Periscope before.

When a broadcast ends, Twitter automatically makes the video available for replay in the same tweet that hosted the live version, but also gives you the option to delete the broadcast or to save it to your device – perfect if you want to upload and share it again later. (So long as you have the storage space available. Periscope doesn’t impose time limits on broadcasts, but bear in mind that the longer it is, the more memory it’ll need when you finish.)

You may also benefit from the combination of Periscope and Twitter’s varying types of comment moderation – for example, Periscope’s moderation is largely impacted by viewer input, while Twitter’s is tied in with its blocking feature.

Cons:

While Twitter’s “powered by Periscope” streaming does a lot to bridge the divide between the two networks, it also creates a few complications that new users will have to learn to navigate.

Minor differences between the networks might be a bit confusing for beginners – particularly when it comes to allowed behaviors, or your actions on one network affecting (or not affecting) the other network.

For example, live broadcasts deleted from Twitter will also be deleted from Periscope, but not vice versa. You can’t broadcast live on Twitter if you have protected tweets, but you can host private videos in Periscope. And if you disconnect the two apps in your phone’s settings, you can’t interact with others’ live videos on Twitter.

For those unfamiliar with Periscope already, learning to stream live on Twitter can also mean learning an entirely separate social network. It doesn’t necessarily have to, but it will certainly make the networks’ nuances a little easier to reconcile!

Verdict:

For diehard Periscope fans, Twitter’s live video feature should be both comfortingly familiar and exciting – it allows you to seamlessly connect your audiences on the two networks!

For everyone else, this is still an option worth learning and understanding – even if it means broadening your horizons regarding a social network you might not have tried in the past.

What’s YOUR verdict?

Now that live video has officially landed on these three networks, what do you think?

Which one sounds like the best fit for you?

Which one are you most likely to skip out on?

Or are you not really feeling this whole live video thing at all?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

  • Um, you do know YouTube is a social network too, right? And that it’s made live video streaming available to all for years? Just sayin’

    • Tom VanBuren

      Naturally! YouTube is and always has been designed specifically for sharing video, though – this is more a primer on how live video works on networks originally built for sharing other types of content. Thanks for looking out!