Live streaming is serious business.
According to one source, the live streaming market will exceed $247 billion by 2027. That’s a lot of money — and for video-focused brands, a lot of opportunities.
But revenue-generating live streams don’t happen by accident. To connect with audiences around the world at scale — and convert some of them into customers — you’ll need to choose the platform that best aligns with your business.
To help, we took a closer look at two of the biggest players in the live streaming space: Facebook Live vs. YouTube Live.
Which platform is better? Read on to make the call.
What is Facebook Live?
As a core part of the platform, Facebook Live enables anyone with a Facebook account to live stream for free.
According to eMarketer, Facebook Live is the second most popular option when it comes to watching live broadcasts, beating platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat by a significant margin.
In a New York Magazine survey, 66 percent of respondents chose Facebook Live as their favorite platform for live video.
Why does Facebook Live rank so high? At least some of its success comes down to the popularity of the platform. With just under three billion monthly active users, Facebook is arguably the most active social media platform in the world.
Popularity aside, many businesses turn to Facebook Live because it works. Biteable, a video communication platform for teams, conducted its own Facebook Live experiment and found that:
- People watched Facebook Live longer. Facebook Live broadcasts significantly outperformed standard video posts in 3-second views.
- Facebook Live had greater reach. Facebook Live broadcasts reached almost twice as many people as standard video posts.
- Facebook Live drove the most audience engagement. Facebook Live broadcasts also saw more engagement, with 469 total engagements compared to 28 total engagements on standard video posts.
How Facebook Live works
Facebook Live works on desktop and mobile.
To use Facebook Live on a desktop or laptop, you’ll need to:
- Navigate to facebook.com (Facebook recommends using Google Chrome for live streams)
- Click “Create a post” at the top of your newsfeed
- Click the three dots and then click “Live video”
From there, you’ll have the option to add details and choose a target audience before starting your live stream.
To use Facebook Live on a mobile device, you’ll need to:
- Install the latest version of the Facebook app on your device
- Click the LIVE icon below the status area
- Click the Start Live Video button
Once again, you’ll have the option to provide additional details about your livestream in addition to choosing a target audience.
What is YouTube Live?
As the most popular video-sharing site globally, YouTube Live is a forerunner in the live streaming space. Launched in 2011, YouTube Live allows content creators to connect with subscribers in real-time.
With 1.22 million daily active users, live streaming on YouTube can also effectively build your audience, whether you’re teaching a class, hosting an open panel discussion, or streaming a video game.
Based on data from YouTube, 70 percent of people used the platform in 2020 to watch online replacements of live events.
How YouTube Live Works
Live streaming on YouTube isn’t as straightforward as using Facebook Live — mostly due to eligibility requirements around who can use the feature.
To use YouTube live from a desktop or laptop, you’ll need to:
- Have a verified YouTube/Google account
- Enable live streaming from your account settings (which may take up to 24hrs)
- Navigate to youtube.com + click the Create icon across the top navigation bar
- Click Go Live
To use YouTube live from a mobile device you’ll need to:
- Have 1,000 subscribers or
- Purchase third-party streaming software like Streamyard or Restream
- Click the Create icon in the center of the bottom navigation bar
In either case, you’ll also need to choose from three different recording options.
- Webcam: You’ll only need a verified YouTube account to go live from a computer with a webcam. Choose this option when you’re prepared to be on camera.
- Mobile: Going live from your mobile device is useful for short-form videos and on-the-go updates. Go live on mobile when appropriate (and when you qualify).
- Encoder: Want to share your screen, use a fancy microphone, or easily invite others to participate on a panel? For these and other types of features, you’ll need an encoder like Streamyard or Restream.
Facebook Live Pros and Cons
Facebook Live have a lot working in its favor, but it also has a few drawbacks.
Facebook Live Pros
Accessible, free, and easy to get started, Facebook Live has the following benefits:
- Low barrier to entry. Anyone with a Facebook account (and/or the Facebook app on mobile) can start streaming within clicks.
- Massive audience. For businesses with active followings on Facebook, marketing to them on a platform where they already spend time is an obvious choice. For everyone else, taking advantage of Facebook’s user base and targeting options may help to attract an audience at no cost.
- Video API: Given its purpose-built video API, live stream brands on Facebook can save time and boost efficiency by connecting these activities to pre-existing workflows.
Facebook Live Cons
Despite some compelling pros, Facebook Live falls short in the following areas:
- Low searchability/no SEO benefits. You can’t index Facebook Live content, which means search engines can’t crawl or “fetch” Facebook posts when people search for keywords you’d otherwise rank for. In addition, the search functionality within Facebook isn’t nearly as good at surfacing relevant content as search engines.
- No monetization. Since you can’t monetize your videos on the platform, you also can’t restrict access via paywalls or directly manage or sell subscriptions.
- Prohibitive policies. The service may be convenient and free, but certain Facebook Live policies — like forbidding looping content — may be too restrictive for some brands.
YouTube Live Pros and Cons
With more complexity comes more things to consider. Here are the primary pros and cons of YouTube Live.
YouTube Live Pros
As a subsidiary of Google and the second most-visited website in the world, YouTube Live carries some significant perks:
- High searchability/SEO benefits. Unlike Facebook Live, YouTube Live content has a very good chance of showing up in search results — especially when people use parent company Google’s search engine. Anyone interested in driving views through organic search traffic will benefit from YouTube Live.
- Sales and other money-making opportunities. YouTube provides several ways to incentivize spending: Channel subscriptions enable you to charge paying subscribers for exclusive content; Super chats and Super likes give viewers an opportunity to make their comments stand out in exchange for a donation; and the merch shelf makes it easy to advertise and sell products (if you sell through an official retailer).
- Monetization options. If your channel is monetized (which requires 1,000 subscribers among other things), you can also make money through ad revenue. According to Statista, YouTube ad revenue generated a 25% year-over-year increase from 2020 to 2021.
YouTube Live Cons
YouTube Live also has tons to offer, but there are still some noteworthy drawbacks:
- Eligibility requirements. Unlike Facebook Live, live streaming on YouTube will require at least a few hours for the feature to be enabled on your account. You won’t be able to go live from mobile unless you have 1,000 subscribers or use — and pay for — a third-party streaming service.
- Limited accessibility with global audiences. Despite being the second most-used social media network in the world, YouTube is also one of the most blocked websites in the world — especially for businesses and schools. If you’re targeting global audiences, particularly in places like China where the platform is fully blocked, YouTube Live may not be the best place to host live streams.
- Not the best place to monetize. YouTube’s complicated monetization scheme isn’t lucrative unless your channel pulls serious numbers. While the platform generated billions in ad revenue in Q1 of 2021, most YouTube channels earn $0.5 per 1000 video views or $18 per 1,000 ad views (on average). There’s also a payment threshold, which means you won’t get paid until you meet it.
- Community guidelines. If your content violates YouTube’s community guidelines, your channel may receive strikes, which can temporarily freeze your ability to live stream.
Professional live streaming platforms
Professional live streaming platforms offer significantly more functionality and flexibility than free platforms like Facebook and YouTube — and because you’re paying for the service, the best platforms also promise a certain degree of reliability and personalization.
With professional live streaming platforms like Vimeo OTT, you can beam flawless, on-brand video to any device without worrying about things like encoders and unauthorized access.
You can also set up the monetization model that works best for your business.
Why use a professional live streaming platform?
For many video-based brands, the question isn’t YouTube Live vs. Facebook Live, it’s what other options exist?
That’s because neither platform gives content creators full control over their content.
With YouTube, several factors stand in the way of making money — from eligibility requirements to whether or not your content is advertiser-friendly.
With Facebook, monetizing your live streams isn’t even an option.
Here are some additional reasons to consider a professional live streaming service:
- Live stream to any device. Go live across web, mobile, and TV apps. Put live streams behind a paywall when applicable.
- Live stream to multiple locations. Broadcast live streams to your website, social channels, and OTT apps to reach more people with just one video.
- Build your own OTT app. Securely stream live events to people across multiple locations with your on-brand mobile app.
Most importantly, professional live streaming platforms like Vimeo OTT put the power of monetization where it belongs: in the content creator’s hands.
Choose your preferred monetization model, keep an eye on video performance, and continue optimizing and adjusting pricing as you go — whether you’re selling subscriptions, one-time purchases, or both.