How Does Facebook Live Work?

Aug 23, 2019

<a href="" target="_self">Mike Filewicz</a>

Mike Filewicz

Creative Director and Award Winning Branding Expert

So far, most indications show that using the Facebook ads manager is the best way to get results on Facebook. So, organic vehicles like Facebook Live and must be novelty items, right? Not quite.

Facebook Live is a valuable marketing tool (and we ran an experiment that proves this). Facebook Live broadcasts can reach a ton of people and get outstanding engagement. But, how does this work, if it’s not paid advertising? Hasn’t Facebook canned organic reach?

Yes, organic reach has been laid to rest. Mostly. Facebook Live is one of the last bastions of organic reach on Facebook. Since it encourages conversation, Facebook grants organic reach to Facebook Live broadcasts.

But, when we conducted an experiment to discover just how much more organic reach Facebook Live gets, we were floored by the results. Our hypothesis turned out to be correct. Far more correct than we expected.

Social Media Camera - EWR Digital

Our Hypothesis

In short, we suspected that Facebook Live would get more reach and engagement than an on-demand video. That’s because Facebook Live is designed to get reach and spark conversation.

Facebook Live works based on the number of viewers and the level of engagement with a live broadcast.

If a Facebook Live broadcast has a lot of viewers and is getting plenty of engagement, the Facebook algorithm will organically suggest the video to other people who have similar interests and behavioral markers to those who are already watching.

So, you can organically expand your reach with Facebook Live.

Our video posts had been performing well enough. So, our hypothesis was that our Facebook Live broadcasts would outperform our video posts by a reasonable margin.

Our hypothesis was correct overall. However, we greatly underestimated the difference in performance between Facebook Live and plain video posts.

The Facebook Live Experiment: What We Discovered

To test the organic reach of Facebook Live and video posts, we created an experiment wherein we posted five videos on the Biteable page and hosted five Facebook Live broadcasts. We tracked 3-second video views, reach, and total engagements, which included likes, comments, and shares.

Here’s how the numbers looked and what we learned from them.

3-Second Video Views

3-second video views are an important metric for a proper Facebook video marketing funnel. It’s used for gauging video quality and building audiences. So, naturally, we gathered this data in our experiment.

Facebook Live got people to watch for longer

Our live broadcasts crushed our standard video posts in 3-second views. Our Facebook Live videos **averaged 1,079 3-second views**, for a **total of 5,395 3-second views**.

Facebook Reach Graph - EWR Digital

On the other hand, our Facebook video posts **averaged 343 3-second views**, for a **total of 1,714 3-second views**. Far below the performance of our Facebook live broadcasts.

Facebook Reach Graph - EWR Digital

Clearly, people are more likely to watch a Facebook Live broadcast for longer. We realize that 3-seconds isn’t long. However, a 3-second view often indicates the start of a longer viewing session, which is why Facebook counts them as viable marketing results.


3-second view results don’t necessarily prove that Facebook Live gets more organic reach. Maybe people are just more likely to watch a Facebook Live broadcast for longer. However, the reach numbers disprove this theory.

Facebook Live is superior for reaching more customers

Our Facebook Live broadcasts reached an **average of 2,586 people**, for a **total reach of 12,929**. That’s huge! And, it’s nearly twice the reach of our Facebook video posts.

Facebook Reach Graph - EWR Digital

In contrast, our Facebook video posts garnered a paltry **average reach of 1,346**, and reached a **total reach of 6,729** people. Not so great.

Facebook Reach Graph - EWR Digital

The numbers are clear. Facebook Live is definitely the superior vehicle for reaching the most customers.


While reaching people is great, it’s even better if they engage with your content. By and large, video gets the best engagement on Facebook. But, not all video is created equal.

Facebook Live was best at getting an engaged audience

Our Facebook Live broadcasts drove an **Average of 94 engagements**, and gathered **469 total engagements**. Those are excellent numbers, since getting engagement can be one of the most challenging parts of Facebook marketing.

Facebook Reach Graph - EWR Digital

At the other end of the spectrum, our Facebook video posts got an **Average of 6 engagements**, and reached **28 total engagements**. This is far worse than the Facebook Live posts, and abysmal performance in general.

This is pretty conclusive evidence that Facebook Live is the way to go if you’re looking to get engagements for building social proof.


Video Type 3-Second Views Engagements Reach
Facebook Live 5,395 469 12,929
Video Posts 1,414 28 6,729

So, what does all this data mean? If Facebook Live gets better organic reach and performance, what should you use it for?

There are three areas where Facebook Live can be especially effective: audience building, gathering social proof, and promotions.

Use Facebook Live for Building Audiences

If you read our overview of the Facebook funnel, you already know that you should use awareness ad campaigns to build an audience for your consideration campaigns.

One way to build this audience is by tracking 3-second video views and creating an audience of people who have viewed at least 3-seconds of one of your videos. Additionally, you can build an audience based on who has engaged with your posts.

Since Facebook Live is so effective for getting 3-second views and driving engagement, regular Facebook Live broadcasts can be an efficient way to build qualified audiences for your consideration ad campaigns.

Use Facebook Live for Building Social Proof

On Facebook, the likes comments and shares on a post serve as social proof for that post, a bit like having testimonials on your content.

Facebook Live broadcasts can be saved and posted as videos. When it’s posted, all the likes, comments, and shares the broadcasts got while it was live will show up on the posted video, which will encourage people to watch and engage.

If you boost posts on Facebook, you’ll get the best results if you boost posts that already have engagements. The Facebook boost feature is already good for getting engagement. But, people are more likely to engage with a post that other people have already liked or commented on. So, Facebook Live broadcasts are a good tool for maximizing the value of your boosted posts.

Use Facebook Live for Reaching the Most People

For most Facebook marketing purposes, bare reach isn’t an optimal result. Typically, you want to get engagement or clicks as well.

However, if you’re promoting an event, a short term sale, or a limited time discount, simply reaching more people can be enough. Even if they don’t click or engage right then, they’ve seen the promotion, so they’re more likely to head over to your website or store later to check out the deals or attend the event.

In these cases where reach is a decent result, Facebook Live is one of the most effective vehicles. Also, getting reach with Facebook Live is a byproduct of building audiences and social proof. You can easily get reach with Facebook Live without negatively impacting other goals.

Final Notes

Facebook Live can be a powerful tool. And you should definitely integrate it into your Facebook marketing efforts. But you still have to do it right. Here are a couple of best practices for getting results with your Facebook Live broadcasts.

**Broadcast regularly**. It takes time to build up a decent audience for your Facebook Live broadcasts. To help people make it to your shows, broadcast regularly and schedule your broadcasts so people know when to watch.

**Use long-form video**. It takes time for people to show up and start commenting and liking your video. So, plan to go live for at least ten minutes, and don’t be afraid to roll for more thirty minutes or longer.

If you want to learn more about winning with Facebook Live, you can get all the Facebook Live knowledge in the Biteable Video Marketing Lab.