Facebook Live polls are great, here’s how to make one

You’re a dog person, let’s face it, and It’s because you appreciate a pooch that you share a Facebook Live poll asking users to indicate their preference, between cats or dogs, with a heart or a like.

And why not? Facebook is for sharing. Live is the big push, and these polls are interactive, simple enough to produce for news organisations, and have been well received by the general public.

Like any social innovation, there were teething problems when media outlets first picked it up. Polls were lazy, gimmicky and irritatingly ever-present on newsfeeds.

Facebook identified a problem and they were banned. Matt Navarra, head of content for tech site The Next Web reacted:

After some reflection, Facebook disagreed (or bowed to public pressure) and reinstated the technique – with a caveat or two. They include this direction on their branding resources page.

facebook reaction rules

Interested?

Before you think about making one, consider the guidelines of use outlined above. Make sure your video follows this simple criteria

  1. Don’t just make a poll. Reactions can’t be the ‘most prominent feature’ so add another layer. Stream something important for people to vote on, like a news conference, or report the news first and foremost, using voting to supplement what you’re doing.
  2. Don’t use simple visuals. Add a live video element, or work on what’s shown in the background. The rules aren’t written, but use the medium to its fullest.
  3. No associating reactions irresponsibly. An angry face for one candidate and a heart for another, during a debate? That’s not democracy.

Want to make one yourself?

You should. Here’s a quick guide on getting started – using OBS studio, and an open source tool for creating polls. There are a few caveats though.

  1. Streaming video is intensive. Your computer may suffer and, even with the video settings used in this guide, your machine may splutter a little.
  2. The tool used to make the polls is a shortcut. It’s quick and easy, but customization options are left wanting. The creative freedom to make some more impressive interactives will require a knowledge of the Facebook API and some developing skills.

But this will do. Here are the basic steps. If you want a TLDR click here.

Step 1: Download and prepare your tools.

We’ll be using the following in this guide:

  • OBS studio. Open Broadcast Software will send the video content you create on your desktop to your Facebook live stream and is the command center through which you’ll operate the controls. Download here.
  • Your image creating software of choice. Be it Photoshop, or open-source alternative GIMP, you’ll use this to create any background assets you may wish to include.
  • This online tool for creating Facebook polls. This is an unofficial generator, created by Hayden Ryan, and will connect to our live video.
  • Might also be worth opening Facebook, too. You’ll need to be broadcasting live from a page and not a personal profile.
Step 2: Make your assets

For this guide, let’s add some interactive elements to POTUS’ congressional address. We’ll broadcast the speech (a live replay stream, but could just as well be actually live), add some data visualisation, or statistics, on the side, and ask viewers to vote for their preferred spending priority below the video. A little like this:

mock up of live video

Using Photoshop/GIMP, design your background asset – considering the video player size and ensuring everything is nice and visible. Facebook recommends an aspect ratio of 16 x 9. Here’s one we made earlier. 

first asset: background image

You’ll also need the link to your video, which you can copy into OBS. The broadcast software will let you add multiple assets, so if you wanted to move images around during the stream, add them as different sources.

Step 3: Generate your video and your polls.

Now it’s time to create your video and get your streaming keys. Head over to your Facebook Page and visit ‘publishing tool’. Press the button to post a live video.

where to find live button

You’ll be presented with this window.

getting your stream key

You’ll need to input the Server URL and Stream Key into OBS, so take a note of these. It’s also advisable to take down the number underlined in red in the above image. This is the Video ID and is used to connect the poll to the video.

To make the poll, head to this link and complete the form, making sure to copy and paste the right ID into the first box.

The form is relatively customisation: you can select polls with two, three or six reactions. If you need four options, simply make two different polls of two. Set the background colour to white and OBS will convert to transparent.

polling form for live

When you’re finished tweaking, take a note of the poll ID, copying the address presented so you can add it into OBS.

getting your poll id

Step 4: Prepare OBS and tweak your video settings.

Head over to OBS and start arranging your workspace. The studio version of the software adds some handy tweaks, allowing you to copy transitions to make sure assets are lined up, and the ability to work on a scene privately whilst the broadcast is up and running.

You’ll need to be familiar with two different concepts.

Scenes are your workspaces, where your different video setups will be saved. Sources are your assets, and can be video links, feeds of web pages and still images from your desktop.

Add a new scene and name it as you wish, then click the plus by the source box to add your background image.

opening obs and adding image

adding browser source to obs

Follow the wizard and position the background to fill the video preview. Add your poll through the same steps, selected ‘Browser Source’ instead of image and adding the URL for the poll. Position your poll next to the voting instructions.

arranging scenes in obs

In this example, we’re using a live video feed. For live, use another ‘Browser Source’ and crop the window to fit the video. Fiddle around with the transformation until your scene is to your liking. If it’s not a live video, use ‘Media Source’ and select the local file.

adding the video to our live

If everything’s moving, it’s almost time to go. The final step is to make sure your video settings are right.

Hit ‘settings’ in OBS, head to stream, select ‘Facebook Live’ from the drop-down and add the stream key we saved earlier.

The video settings we use will be dependent on your own computing capacity, and how much your setup can handle. Use this guide from OBS, lower the bitrate and set the CPU usage to ‘ultrafast’ if your machine isn’t so punchy.

Step 5: Start streaming, enjoy democracy.

Once you’re happy with the settings and the look of your stream, hit start streaming and jump back to Facebook. The stream will load and you’re ready to go!

posting the video on facebook

TLDR
1) Download OBS and load up the poll making tool.
2) Make your assets with photoshop etc.
3) Start a FB live on your FB page, through publishing tools.
4) Make your polls using the online generator, and save the link.
5) Set up OBS, adding the sources we’ve made
6) Get your video settings right, and hit stream.

You can now make a very simple Facebook Live voting interactive. Have a go and tweet @interhacktives with your attempts, we would love to see.

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