It seems like live sites (hosting live streams of your worship services) are all the rage these days, and for good reason: they expand your reach, are a “safe” way for people to check out your church for the first time, and are a powerful tool for the folks in your community that just can’t get out of the house.
Everyone does their live site a little bit differently, so I thought I would take a few minutes to outline how we built ours (which launched just a few weeks ago). Here are the high points, in no particular order…
Rather than developing an abstract design to house our streaming content, I chose to design our streaming portal to compliment our existing efforts and mirror the experience of a typical worship gathering. We accomplished this through a photography based layout that’s grounded in a slightly modified take on our existing web efforts.
The Stream Itself
We’re using 316 Networks for the infrastructure that provides the live streaming technology for the web. Forgive the lack of details here, but another team on my staff managed this part of the setup process!
One of my biggest goals for this project was to create an online experience that would bring the viewer into our church community and discourage being just a spectator.
Live viewers are given an area to take notes, a list of action-related links (give online, find a small group, etc), and two convenient methods for interacting with other viewers: a custom Twitter stream powered by Juitter and discussion area powered by Facebook’s awesome Live Stream plugin. Live tweets and Facebook messages automatically roll in as they watch, instilling a sense of active community instead of an isolated experience.
The final piece of the live site puzzle was figuring out how and when to promote it to our audience. We decided that the nature of its content makes it instrumental on a Sunday morning, but kind of irrelevant during the week.
For this reason, we’re currently going with a time-based promotion strategy that automatically promotes the live site only when it would be relevant to the user. If you visit our site during the week, you’ll only find passing mention of the live site since there’s nothing of interest displayed at the time.
However, if you visit our site on a Sunday morning, links to our live site are the first thing you see through a large promotional piece on our homepage and a pulsing “Live now!” tab in place of our usual “Watch and Listen” navigation option. Combined with our typical promotion through social media and word of mouth, our visitors are well-informed that the live stream is available without being pointed pointed to an inactive site throughout the week. It has worked well so far.
Wrapping things up, that’s how we’re currently doing live streaming at Long Hollow. It’s different from some other approaches out there and definitely has some room to grow (possibly morphing into an official “virtual campus”), but it’s a strategy that has been a huge hit so far with the hundreds of folks watching online every weekend.
Are you a fan of our approach? Would you do something different? Let us know in the comments below.