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YouTube Live: how to live stream on YouTube and gain engagement

YouTube Live: How to Live Stream on YouTube and Gain Engagement

These days, we don’t just watch videos; we interact with them in real-time. Whether we participate in an online conference, view a streamed sporting event or attend a live performance of our favorite comedian, we share moments of laughter and awe, suspense and applause, no matter how distant we may be from others tuning in. Because of this shared magic, many businesses turn to live video to engage with audiences. Today, anyone can live stream from their social media pages or even on their created website.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to live stream on YouTube, step-by-step. We’ll also share tips and ideas to inspire you as you create your own video content. If you haven’t launched yet, use the YouTube name generator to kick off your channel with the perfect name.

What is YouTube Live?

YouTube Live is a streaming feature that connects the platform’s creators and their audiences in real-time. YouTube explains, “Whether hosting a live charity event, a town hall or a press conference about breaking news, YouTube Live and Premieres allow creators to bring viewers together in real-time to learn, discuss and to form new social communities.” You can create live streams via webcam, mobile and encoder streaming. Creators in YouTube’s Partner Program (YPP) can monetize their live stream through ads, Super Chat, Super Stickers and channel memberships.

YouTube Live screenshot

Benefits of live streaming for your business

Whether you take visitors behind the scenes, show your product in action, or highlight a special event, live streaming can help establish your online presence and spread awareness of your business.

More than a platform for entertainment, YouTube Live is an important tool for hosting virtual events or Q&As that:

  • Deepen relationships with your audience

  • Educate viewers about your brand

  • Differentiate yourself in your space

Additionally, consumers want live stream content. In fact, a Livestream + New York Magazine-conducted survey found:

  • 80% would rather watch live videos from a brand than read a blog.

  • 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts.

  • 70% said YouTube Live was their favorite video streaming platform.

  • 45% of audiences would pay for live video from a favorite team, speaker, or performer.

While YouTube is great for hosting your videos, you should also place your content on as many online platforms as possible. In addition to going live on YouTube, reach additional viewers by streaming live videos directly on your website. Not only will it help your audience get to know you, but it also encourages them to linger on your site and explore your brand. Here’s our help center guide on setting up Live Stream with Wix and getting started with our video maker.

YouTube Live example

Wix user and chef Stephen Cusato is the vlogger behind Not Another Cooking Show. Stephen hosted 100 questions answered in one hour live stream dedicated to, “Answering all your burning questions live.” He invited his 819K+ YouTube subscribers to ask him questions in the chat, fostering a closer relationship between him and his fans. “I can NOT believe out of 100 questions, no one asked why I plate on a cutting board. It was practically the reason for this, lol” he later pinned as a top comment. Cusato successfully showed his friendly personality and built real-time engagement with his online community.

Get started with YouTube Live

Prior to going live on YouTube, you’ll need to complete a few tasks after you've set up your account and chosen your YouTube channel name.

First, you’ll want proper recording equipment. This includes:

  • Microphone: Make sure you connect a microphone to your computer or mobile device. While the built-in mic should be sufficient for most purposes, some people opt for an external microphone for reduced background noise and high-quality sound.

  • Webcam: Attach an HD webcam to your computer or get a handheld video camera if you want high quality, professional content. If you prefer to film on your phone, get a tripod to hold the device and keep the video steady.

  • Encoder (optional): An encoder converts your recording into streamable content for the web. You’ll need an encoder only if you stream with external tools, such as professional audio and video gear (more on that later). Streamlabs OBS is a popular, easy-to-download and user-friendly encoding software for YouTube Live.

Once you have your gear, you’ll need to enable live streaming on your account. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to YouTube.

  2. On the top right, click Create. Then click Go Live.

  3. Follow the prompts to verify your channel. YouTube will ask you to add your phone number to receive a verification code.

Note that it takes up to 24 hours to enable your first live stream, so start the process at least one day before you plan to go live. When it’s ready, you can begin live streaming immediately.

How to live stream on YouTube: 3 ways

You can record your live stream using three tools: mobile, webcam, and encoder. Below, we’ll go over each method, so you can choose the best option for your need

01. Live stream on mobile

Mobile is a popular option for vlogging and short live video updates. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need at least 1,000 subscribers to go live on mobile. Here’s how to live stream from your phone:

  1. Navigate to your YouTube channel by opening the YouTube app on your phone or tablet.

  2. In the top right, tap Capture, and then tap Go Live. (At this point, YouTube will ask you to enable your account for live streaming if you haven’t already.)

  3. Follow the prompts to set up your video:

    1. To schedule the video for later, tap More Options.

    2. To set up options such as monetization and live chat, tap More Options and Show More, and then tap Next.

    3. To share your screen in your video, tap Create Channel and then Share Screen.

  4. Now, it’s the big moment: Tap Go Live.

  5. Click Finish to end your recording. Your channel will automatically save an archive of the stream.

Pro tip: Scheduling your live stream in advance is a similar process. Just tap Capture in the upper right corner of YouTube, and then Go Live. From there, you’ll see your calendar and can select your scheduled stream.

To get the 1,000 followers you need for mobile live streaming, find out how to become a successful YouTuber and how to get more subscribers on YouTube.

YouTube live stream on mobile example

02. Live stream with your webcam

Want to go live on YouTube from your computer? Try live streaming via webcam, a relatively simple process since you don’t need an encoder. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to YouTube on your computer.

  2. Enable your channel for live streaming.

  3. On the top right of the page, click Create. Then, click Go Live.

  4. On the left, select Webcam.

  5. Next, enter a title and description to set up your video. You can also adjust your privacy settings and schedule your video for later.

  6. For additional options such as YouTube monetization and live chat, click More Options, and then select Advanced Settings.

  7. Click Next. Your camera will take a thumbnail.

  8. Click Go Live.

  9. Click End Stream to finish your video. Your content will automatically archive.

  10. To access old streams—as well as current and scheduled streams—go to the Live Tab.

how to live stream on YouTube with a webcam screenshot

03. Live stream with an encoder

For a more advanced production, opt to live stream using an encoder. You’ll need this tool only if using external audio and video hardware, managing multiple cameras and microphones, or sharing your computer screen. To get started:

  1. Enable live streaming.

  2. Install the encoder. Keep in mind that some encoders are software applications, while others are external hardware. If you’re unsure of which to use, take a look at this list of YouTube Live verified encoders.

  3. Connect your hardware, such as your webcam, external mic or headset. Make sure you’ve correctly set it up with your encoder.

  4. Enter your YouTube Live server URL and stream key into your encoder and start streaming.

Tips for a successful YouTube live stream

Now that you know the basics of going live on YouTube, let’s talk about doing it successfully:

01. Define your goal

Think about what you want from your YouTube live stream. Perhaps you’ve just created a website and would like to get traffic, or maybe you want more engagement or subscriptions. Craft your video to guide people toward these goals. For instance, you might include a live Q&A about your product or share a customer success story. Here are many YouTube video ideas you can choose from.

Wix eCommerce School hosted a live session with the goal to educate and help viewers learn how to make more online sales. The hosts structured the live session with slides, guest speakers and tutorials to ensure viewers left with plenty of new insights.

02. Plan the production

If recording with a team, be clear about who is in front of the camera, who is speaking when, who is behind the camera, and when to stop recording. Before you go live, create a rough outline or script beforehand, as well as a closing statement, and assign roles to each team member to maintain an uninterrupted flow.

Pro tip: Make sure you organize your YouTube with playlists and up-to-date descriptions. Use the YouTube logo maker to welcome new viewers with an updated professional-looking thumbnail. See our guide on how to make a YouTube logo for more.

how to make a youtube logo for your YouTube Live example with logo ideas

03. Optimize the timing

Because your viewers may be in different time zones, you’ll need to think carefully about when to start your stream. Check to see whether your target audience is primarily in one country or region, and then pick a corresponding time. If you have a geographically-dispersed audience, check your YouTube analytics to see which time of day gets the most views.

04. Make it accessible

Consider using live automatic captions for your streams. This allows all viewers to understand and enjoy your content. You should also speak clearly—more slowly than you would in daily conversation—and use easy-to-follow visuals to explain your points.

05. Do a trial run

When live streaming, you’ve only got one shot—you can’t edit it later. Prepare your setup and run through your presentation. Whether you give a webinar, teach an online course, or go live on YouTube Gaming, check your audio, internet connection, background and lighting before hitting the Go Live button.

06. Engage with your audience

Give your viewers a reason to watch until the end. For example, you might share a free e-book or coupon code at your video’s conclusion.

YouTube features can help you boost engagement, too. Enable live chat to keep your audience interested throughout and build their sense of community. Be sure to respond to relevant comments during your video and give shoutouts to viewers.

07. Use different YouTube live stream features

YouTube’s highly-anticipated new Live features will include live guests and full-screen mode. It will also launch cross channel live redirects, directing viewers to another stream or channel premiere. These will join other helpful features users can already take advantage of, including:

  • Highlight videos: Easily add more content to your channel by turning your YouTube Lives into standalone videos recapping your streams’ best moments.

  • Premiere: Premieres stream pre-recorded videos at a scheduled time with a chat for your viewers to engage with in real time. Wix user and artist Tim Bengel used YouTube Premier to stream footage and interviews of his show at the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art in Munich, allowing those who couldn’t attend in person to feel part of the grand opening.

  • DVR on live streams: Digital Video Recording (DVR) allows viewers to watch the stream at their own pace, pausing and rewinding when needed—and increasing your completion rate.

  • Monetization: Make money from your YouTube live stream by running pre-roll, mid-roll and display ads. For viewers looking for a VIP experience, you can offer Super Chat and Super Sticker access for purchase, allowing them to better connect with you or have their interactions pinned to the top. Lastly, you can offer viewers exclusive perks such as loyalty badges in exchange for a monthly channel subscription.

  • Settings on live chat: Create a safe and comfortable space for everyone with chat settings. You can assign a moderator to respond or remove inappropriate messages, turn off live chat completely, make it available only to subscribers and even block certain words.

08. Check your YouTube analytics

Explore your real-time and post-live YouTube analytics during or after streaming. Based on those insights, you can either adapt your strategy as you go, or use them to tweak and refine your next video. In particular, check for peaks in concurrent viewers to see which moments stimulated your audience’s interest the most. You should also keep tabs on your viewer retention and average view duration.

Make sure to track these analytics during—and after—your YouTube live stream:

  • Real-time analytics: Measures your total view count, likes, chat rate and average watch time during the stream.

  • Stream health: Measures your technical status and alerts you to any connection issues.

  • Pod-stream analytics: Measures your overall performance as well as peak times and new subscribers.

11 Ways to promote your YouTube live stream

Strategically promote your live stream to draw a large crowd with these YouTube marketing ideas:

1. Create a teaser trailer video that piques curiosity and promotes the value of your stream.

2. Add a link to your video on your website or include a pop-up with the event details.

3. Use a social media post maker and channel features like Instagram's event countdown to build buzz.

Social media post maker example to promote your YouTube live on social media

4. Send an email marketing campaign to inform or remind your subscribers of the stream.

5. Use YouTube SEO best practices to help your videos rank higher. Include your keywords in the titles and description, mention your keywords in the video and choose the right categories and tags to help YouTube understand your target audience.

6. Write attention-grabbing titles that create a sense of urgency for the viewer.

7. Use professional, visually-appealing thumbnail images.

8. Cross promote your YouTube Live wherever possible—in your other videos, previous live stream descriptions, or other speaking events.

9. Collaborate with other creators and brands with a similar audience to direct their viewers to your content.

10. Advertise your channel on YouTube to help people discover your videos.

11. Add calls-to-action (CTAs) for viewers to subscribe to your channel. Let them know subscribing is an easy way to receive alerts when you upload new content or schedule a live stream.

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