The Overthinker’s Guide to Going Live on Social

Justin Lehmann
May 24, 2017

One of the benefits working in Center City is you’re at the heart of all the action in Philly. It’s Always Sunny shooting a scene at City Hall? I’ll pop over on my lunch break. Massive protest shutting down Market? Time for a company-wide Slack to see who’s in.

The other day, a few famous NASCAR drivers took over the City Hall loop to show off their skills and create some buzz for the upcoming seasons at Pocono Raceway. I just happened to see an announcement about it on Twitter, so I grabbed my phone and ran down to City Hall. As I walked up Broad, I could already hear engines revving as police cars dominated the streets.

They don’t call me Justin Time for nothing.

“Yes,” I thought. “I need to get some video of this.”

But as soon as I took out my phone, I paused. I want these posts to go live, and in the moment.

So what platform am I sharing on?

By now, almost every popular social network has incorporated a live element, after Snapchat came on the scene and quickly dominated ephemeral social networking.

When I’m down at City Hall I realize this is a fast moving event so I need to get photos posted ASAP. I’ve had issues with Stories failing to post in big crowds, so I start up Snapchat and get the creative copywriting juices flowing. Sidebar: And I can add them to “Our Story” for Philly. Ok, Snapchat it is.  

I don’t know if everyone goes through this same routine every time they try to record something live, but I think about it at least once a day. And it usually pertains to a live social network I haven’t tried yet: like Facebook’s Day. It looks a lot like Snapchat, with filters and bitmojis, but feels more empty since I don’t have many friends using it. Others might see it differently. But to me, it’s the next Google+.

The cars circled City Hall, revving their engines, until parking on the southwest side.

“Are they going to drag race?” I yell to no one in particular, seeing if I’ll get a reaction.

I don’t.

Suddenly there’s all this noise, and people start crowding around one of the cars. They’re doing a “pit stop” on one of the cars and changing the tires. (I guess racing tires can go bad even if you’re not doing 140mph.) Another perfect Snapchat moment! More pics, more video, more filters. The social media gods are looking down upon me and smiling.

But then the little voice starts to come back. Are you over-saturating your Snapchat? Is that even possible? Should I be using more stickers? I should probably use more stickers. And my photos could be better. Maybe that’s why I’m not getting the engagement I want. I need to take a course on lighting, or maybe carry around those weird white inverse umbrellas you always see at photo shoots. (I told you, I think about this a lot.)

But it can’t all be photography.

Snapchat has taken a big hit in user growth ever since Instagram released their Stories feature. And it’s a tough nut to crack. Instagram already had a huge user base when they launched, and quickly surpassed Snapchat’s 158 million active daily users.

Now, with Stories on the mind, the whole scene in front of me changed. I started looking for Boomerang opportunities, angles for Instagram photos I could use later, and any weird people in the crowd I could put funny hats on (check out the stickers in Instagram stories if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

It might be odd to think I’d change my approach just because I’m using a new platform, but not if you remember the first rule of writing: know your audience. Instagram users are used to a clean feed filled with spectacular imagery, funny memes, creative boomerangs, and engaging videos. I need to step my game up if I’m going to get any of my friends to engage with these posts. I’ll regularly spend double the amount of time on a Story over a Snap.

While I’m trying to expertly place a viking helmet on a happy pupper in my Story, a press conference starts. I hurry over to see if there’s anything interesting to capture, but I’m quickly bored.

Snapchat to the rescue.

While trying to find interesting faces in the crowd, I realize I can turn on Snapchat’s face filters and put them on the people giving the press conference. Needless to say I was highly amused and a few news camera men were very curious why I was giggling like a schoolgirl. The social media gods were my own personal salt bae.

After the press conference they announce the cars will be performing some kind of feat on Market street, and the crowd instantly rushes over. Alright, I said to myself. You saw the sizzle, now let’s see the steak.

For this, only raw video would do. I didn’t want this post to be ephemeral. I knew I would need to edit this on my laptop.. So Twitter was the top choice, with a nod to Facebook. (Sorry world, I’m a Twitter snob.)

Because of that, you can see what I saw in all its glory: two NASCARs peeling out on Market and almost bashing a few parked cars on the way. Good times. Good times.

I’m not even a NASCAR fan, but I know video of a few race cars tearing down market will get a few ‘???’ reactions.

Am I overthinking? Yes, most likely. But it’s important to give each platform its own flavor so your followers won’t get bored. If they’re seeing the same live stories posted on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, they’ll tune you out after the first double posting.

What’s the best social network to “go live?” Go with your gut. The more authentic it feels, the better it will be, and your audience will thank you for it.