Live streaming is one of the most popular forms of online content today and has been growing steadily in recent years. It’s come a long way since its beginnings in the 1990s, shifting from niche webcasts that few people watched to a multi-billion-dollar industry. We wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to get in on live streaming!
Although you see live streaming everywhere and may have some favorite streamers you tune into regularly, the thought of starting to live stream on your own can be daunting. That’s why we’ve created this ultimate guide to live streaming for total beginners. If you have zero knowledge or experience but still want to give live streaming a try, then you’ll learn how to stream here.
Ready to learn how to start streaming? Let’s dive in!
Why is live streaming a must in 2021?
If the growth of live streaming isn’t enough to convince you, then maybe these other stats are:
- People don’t think TV is that important anymore. Only 42% of people hold onto a cable subscription so they can watch live TV.
- While TV viewing is going down, live stream viewing is going up. In households with streaming devices, viewers spend 19% of their TV-viewing time streaming content.
- Viewers are watching live online videos three times as often as pre-recorded videos.
To get their entertainment, people are gravitating more and more toward live streams. But live streaming isn’t just about entertainment; it’s extremely beneficial to your business’s content marketing plan as well:
- 92% of marketers who use video say it’s an important part of their strategies.
- 80% of consumers would prefer to watch a live video than read a blog post from their favorite brands.
Whether you want to turn live streaming into your new hobby, a source of income, or a marketing tactic for your business, there are more than enough reasons to start live streaming in 2021.
How to prepare for live streaming
Since it’s “live” streaming, you might think it’s totally impromptu and you can hit that “go live” button without a plan. But all those popular streamers you watch aren’t just improvising – not even the gamers. If you want your live streaming to be a regular hobby or a revenue-generating venture, then you need to prepare.
- Plan: If you want people to watch your stream, you have to go live at the right time. Use this guide to figure out how to schedule your live stream to fit your audience.
- Find your niche: What will your live stream be about? Live streaming has a lot of popular niches already, and you could easily fit your content into one of them. Gaming, music, sports, IRL, and e-commerce are just a few general topics. You can pick a sub-topic to narrow your content down further.
- Define your audience: It might be difficult to know what to stream about if you aren’t sure who your audience is. Maybe you’ve decided you want to live stream yourself watching paint dry. That’s definitely a niche topic, but who would watch it? If you can’t define your audience, you can’t create good content.
- Set goals: It’s hard to measure success if you don’t set goals. Choosing your goals isn’t always intuitive, especially if you’re in unfamiliar territory. One great example for new streamers is aiming to broadcast at the same time every week and eventually increasing your broadcast frequency. Learn how to set goals as a live streamer in 2021 with this guide.
- Promote: Nobody’s going to watch your live stream if you don’t tell them about it! Use these tips to promote your live stream.
What is a basic streaming setup?
As a beginner, you need four things to go live: a camera, a microphone, streaming software, and a good internet connection. You can also add accessories that will drastically improve the quality of your live stream without too much effort.
Start with the webcam on your laptop if needed, or upgrade to a more powerful webcam without breaking the bank. The Logitech C922 Pro is a standard for live streamers, and the Mevo Plus helps streamers stay mobile. Check out our 7 best webcams for 2021.
While your camera doesn’t have to be super high-quality, you definitely want a decent microphone. Depending on your setup, you could get a standing/shotgun mic if you’re sitting at your desk or a lav mic if you’re getting up and moving around a lot. The Shure SM7B delivers high-quality audio, while the AudioTechnica AT2020 is the best value.
👀 Streaming software
Streaming software, also called an encoder, takes the video and audio input from your computer and transmits it to the streaming platform of your choice. Hardware encoders are also an option, but software is much more user-friendly and free. There are lots of encoding software options out there, so choose the right one. OBS Studio, StreamLabs OBS, XSplit, vMix, and Restream Studio are all great options.
🔥 Good internet connection
If you’re uploading video and audio to transmit in real time, then you need a solid internet connection. If you’re gaming while streaming, then you need a great internet connection. Check which upload speeds are required for streaming to see if your internet is fast enough.
Which platform to choose
You’ve planned your stream and you’ve got your gear. Now can you go live? Sure! You just have to choose one of the many platforms available — or two or three, or as many as you want if you learn how to multistream. Not familiar with multistreaming? You can read about it below!
If you don’t have a particular niche and want a platform with good exposure and a small learning curve, then choose a general one like YouTube Live, Facebook Live, or Twitter Live.
- YouTube Live: You can find streaming of all kinds on YouTube Live, but there are platform-specific tips to keep in mind.
- Facebook Live: Going live on Facebook is perfect if you already have a decent following there. Learn everything you need to know about Facebook Live streaming and some essential tips that will make your stream stand out.
- Twitter Live: If your live streams will be about breaking news and updates, then you might find a home on Twitter Live.
Gaming and esports are the biggest genres in live streaming today, so naturally there are several platforms dedicated to gaming.
- Twitch: Twitch is by far the most popular gaming platform. Its hugeness can feel intimidating as a beginner, so read our ultimate guide to streaming on Twitch for tips, advice, and best practices. Twitch can also be a good platform for talk shows (“just chatting”).
- YouTube Gaming: While not as popular as Twitch, YouTube Gaming still has a modest-sized gaming community where you could find your loyal fans. Read our tips on streaming with YouTube Gaming to get started.
- Facebook Gaming: Your third option as a gamer is Facebook Gaming, where you have the possibility to tap into a network you’ve already built on Facebook. Learn why you need to start streaming on Facebook Gaming with our ultimate guide.
Of course, not every streamer is a gamer. Creative streams take up a decent chunk of the live streaming market share as well. If you’re an artist or creator of some kind, there are platforms just for you.
- Mixcloud: If you want to live stream music and DJ mixes or start your own radio show/podcast, then you’ll fit right in at Mixcloud. Our guide takes you through live streaming on Mixcloud step by step.
- Picarto: Picarto is a platform where artists can live stream while creating their work for supporters to watch. If you’re an artist looking for an established network to broadcast to, then you may find it on Picarto.
Professional live streaming has taken off in the last few years as well. Many companies and entrepreneurs are turning to live streaming as a way to promote their brands and grow their networks.
- LinkedIn Live: The best place to do professional live streams is on a professional networking site. LinkedIn Live is only a few years old, but live videos already see more views and engagement than native videos. Read our ultimate guide on streaming to LinkedIn Live to see what all the fuss is about.
If you sell products online, what better way to promote your e-commerce business than with live demos, contests, and giveaways? E-commerce streaming is most popular in China right now, but it’ll take hold in the rest of the world soon.
- Amazon Live: Yes, Amazon has a live streaming service. If you’re a registered Amazon Seller, you can broadcast live promotional content to help boost your sales. Learn how with our Amazon Live guide.
👉 Stream to your own website
If you don’t want to choose a platform and have to follow their rules about content creation, then you can live stream to your own website. The downside to using your own website is that it’s hard to build a following, especially for beginners. Platforms like Twitch and YouTube already have millions of users you can tap into. But if you already have decent traffic to your site, then you’re ready to read our tips on live streaming to your own website.
We’ve mentioned all these platforms, and now you’re wondering if you really have to choose just one. You don’t! With multistreaming applications like Restream, you can choose multiple channels to broadcast to simultaneously. If you already have a fanbase on Facebook but are looking to build your network on LinkedIn as well, you can live stream to Facebook Live and LinkedIn Live at the same time — double the exposure with the same amount of work. We have a guide for all the ambitious multistreamers out there, as well as a deep-dive into simulcasting.
What is Restream?
Restream is a powerful multistreaming service that allows you to broadcast live video content to more than 30 streaming platforms simultaneously. All you need is a Restream account, and you can stream to as many platforms as you want. Restream has several products geared toward making your life as a multistreamer much easier.
- Multistreaming: All it takes to start multistreaming is logging into your Restream account and adding two or more social channels to your dashboard. You can stream with your webcam from a browser or your favorite streaming software.
- Studio: Restream Studio lets you go live without any extra software or hardware — just a laptop and a browser. Restream Studio is our solution for live streamers who want to go live without dealing with complicated streaming software.
- Chat: Restream Chat lets you monitor and integrate live chats from each of the channels you’re streaming to. There’s no tab switching, and all of your viewers can see the conversation live.
- Events: Schedule a live stream in advance and share the link with your audience via Restream Events. You can set a thumbnail for the event and customize the title and description for your streams. You can also schedule a pre-recorded stream to go live with Restream Events.
- Analytics: Learn how well your streams are doing with our robust data in Restream Analytics. Keep track of average viewers, stream durations, and more metrics, aggregated from all the platforms you broadcast to.
Live streaming use cases
If you’re on the fence about live streaming because you’re not sure what kind of content you could produce, then check out all these examples of live video formats.
- Live interviews and Q&As: Live streaming is perfect for live interviews or Q&A sessions. You can easily bring a guest onto your broadcast with split screen sharing, plus you can field questions from viewers via chat.
- Live stream an event: People love attending events, even if they’re virtual. Drum up excitement for your educational event by live streaming it, or widen your event’s impact by reaching an even bigger audience online.
- Podcasts: More and more people are listening to podcasts, so you could find your target audience by creating a podcast. You can live stream yourself recording your podcast as a bonus for fans, or turn your live stream into a podcast by converting it into an audio file.
- Product launch: Announce the arrival of a new product with a live launch, where you can do demos, answer questions, and even host guests.
- Behind the scenes: Fans love going behind the scenes, whether that’s a tour of your company, interviews with your employees, or an exclusive look at your live streaming process.
- Live church services: Live streaming has big potential for remote church services. Broadcasting your church services is a must because it extends your community beyond those who attend in person.
- Sales and e-commerce: Promote your products with e-commerce live streaming. Demonstrate how your products work or partner with influencers who can show off your brand too. Stream with Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, and more.
- Improving marketing campaigns: What adds hype to your existing marketing campaign better than a live stream? Promote your stream and invite viewers to participate by sending questions or comments, and gain valuable insights into your customers while boosting your brand.
- Live conference: If you’re hosting a conference, why not get a global audience for your event by live streaming it? Or you can make your conference virtual and have panelists speak from anywhere in the world.
Promoting a live stream
If you’re planning a big event online (or even a smaller event), then you’ll want to promote it to attract viewers. Promoting a live stream is easier than it sounds, especially if you use our proven tips to get viewers. Choose the right time to go live, send out a link to followers on social media via Restream Events, or make a countdown to generate hype. You can also create and post a short teaser for your live stream to get audiences excited about your upcoming stream.
Making money from live streaming
Maybe you’re getting into live streaming as a hobby, or maybe you’d like to make a living off it. If it’s the latter, then you should keep our live streaming money-making techniques in mind as you’re planning your live stream. A common way to generate income from live streaming is with gaming, and you can learn our best pointers for making money streaming games to get started.
Asking viewers or subscribers for donations is also another way to raise money from streaming, and all major platforms have a feature that allows streamers to accept donations. You can go outside the platform and ask for donations on a third-party platform, such as Patreon. If you have enough viewers and subscribers, you may also be able to play ads during your stream, which will bring in income.
Tips for successful live video streaming
Before we dismiss you from this live streaming crash course, we want to impart a few more bits of live streaming advice. These nuggets of wisdom can help beginners, novices, and pros.
- Make your stream look professional with appropriate graphics: If you feature high-quality graphics on your live stream, they’ll make you look like you know what you’re doing. But you must choose the right graphics for your audience.
- Practice your confidence on camera: Talking into a camera without a physical audience behind you — and remaining interesting and engaged while doing so — is not a natural skill for most people. If getting in front of the camera frightens you, then build up your confidence with our helpful tips.
- Disregard popular myths about streaming: You may have come across some popular myths regarding live streaming that are keeping you from starting: live streaming is too expensive, nobody will be interested in what you have to say, or you’ll sacrifice your privacy. These live streaming myths couldn’t be further from the truth and shouldn’t hold you back.
- Monitor the quality of your live stream: 80% of viewers will stop watching your stream due to a bad viewing experience, and 25% will leave within the first four minutes. Learn how to monitor performance indicators such as bitrate, keyframe interval, FPS, dropped frames, video codec, and more so you can provide a high-quality viewing experience.
- Avoid the most crucial mistakes: What are crucial mistakes? Having poor quality streaming and failing to promote your stream are just a couple. Read about the five most common mistakes for new live streamers so you can avoid them.
- Test your equipment: Mistakes and mishaps are a fact of live streaming; they’re always going to happen. But you can reduce the number and frequency of these accidents by testing your equipment.
As you can see, there are several things to consider, prepare, and test before you start live streaming. But learning how to stream isn’t so complicated. With this ultimate guide and a can-do attitude, you’ll become a pro streamer in no time. Remember these major tips:
- Live streaming is growing, and 2021 is the year to join in.
- Live streaming takes prep: planning, niching down, defining an audience, setting goals, and promoting.
- You need four basics for a live streaming setup, plus optional accessories.
- Choose a platform that fits your niche and your audience.
- Restream can make live streaming easier for beginners.
- Live video can take several formats.
- Add graphics for professionalism.
- Practice your confidence on camera.
- Always test your equipment before going live.