Have you got a great idea for a live video series, or just want to broadcast an event as it happens? Streaming real-time, unedited footage to your social media followers, aka Going Live, has been gaining traction over the past couple of years, and platforms have been quick to provide their users with the tools to do it. All you need is a smartphone, and a decent signal or wi-fi.

But how do they all stack up, and which streaming service should you use? Let’s compare the most popular platforms and see what they have to offer:

Facebook Live

Introduced to the public on mobile in January 2016, and rolled out to laptops and desktops a year later, Facebook Live offers a quick and easy way to live-stream anything using your existing Facebook account.

All you have to do is go to your news feed and tap the 'live' button (the camcorder icon). You’ll need to give Facebook access to your camera and mic, then choose who can view your stream, write a description and you’re away.

You can also tag people and places, add lenses and filters to your video, and your friends and followers will get a notification that you’re live. While streaming, you’ll see any comments and reactions people make in real-time too.

Finally, added in May 2017, is the option to live stream with friends (who use iOS) by selecting them from the Live Viewers section. When you’re in portrait mode, they’ll appear as picture-in-picture, while in landscape mode it’ll display as a split screen.

Facebook Live is perfect for spur-of-the-moment streamers as it’s a great way to stream ad hoc, with almost no setup required. As long as you’ve got a smartphone and a Facebook account, you can go live in seconds. The video is always a square, so you can hold your camera horizontally or vertically. Just make sure you don't run out of battery halfway through your broadcast!

Best for: Streaming your view from a gig, an amusing street artist, or embarrassing friends at a party.

YouTube Live

YouTube was one of the first platforms to embrace live streaming, although it took a while for the feature to arrive on mobile. To begin with, YouTube Live was limited to channels with a certain number of subscribers – first 10,000, then 1,000, and now the latest official guidance doesn’t mention a subscriber count restriction. You just need a verified channel with no live stream restrictions (e.g. for copyright takedowns) to begin.

Once you’re set up, it’s pretty simple – tap the 'Go Live' button in the YouTube mobile app and you can stream away. Selecting a public stream will let anyone searching YouTube to find your video, while Unlisted restricts watchers to only people with the link.

Additionally, you can enable monetisation - just remember to say whether your video contains paid promotion or product placement.

You can interact with your audience using live chat, and moderate the comments if you like. Once you’ve finished streaming, an archive of the video is saved to your channel.

Best for: YouTube channels with an established following, although anyone can use it. Also good for anyone who wants to monetise their broadcasts.

Periscope

Periscope is often seen as Twitter's version of Facebook Live, but you don’t need a Twitter account to use it. It’s a completely self-contained app, which you can sign up to with nothing but your phone number. You can also log in via your Facebook or Google account.

Since Periscope is often used in conjunction with Twitter, people use their Twitter username to avoid confusion. Periscope is super easy to use and, just like tweets, videos tend to reach further than just your circle of followers. More than other platforms, users tend to embrace the interaction and live chat features of Periscope.

As with Facebook Live, your followers will get a notification when you go live. The feed will be available for 24 hours after the broadcast, or saved for longer if you prefer. One unique feature of Periscope is the global map – users can search what people are broadcasting all over the world, using geolocation data.

Periscope also includes built-in support for users with GoPro cameras, as well as the ability to doodle on the screen during broadcasts using a feature called Periscope Sketch.

Best for: Filming puddles, having conversations with your followers while you stream, reaching a wider audience than other platforms.

Instagram Live

You can live-stream from the Instagram app simply by tapping the camera icon in the top left of the screen and selecting 'Start Live Video'.

Instagram Live is a feature of Stories, which keeps your content on your followers’ news feeds for 24 hours. As with any Story, you can also filter out specific people and set whether your followers can comment. Followers will get a notification when you go live.

Since October 2017, Instagram has also added the option to 'Go live with a friend'. This means you can choose one other person and join in with their broadcast, which is displayed in a split-screen format – ideal if you want a bit of backup. And unlike Facebook Live, you can do it with Android or on an iPhone.

Another handy feature is the ability to pin a comment to the video, which can help clue in the people who’ve just joined your stream to what you’re currently talking about.

Once your broadcast has ended, you’ll have the option to save the video to your camera roll. However, live videos will disappear from your feed and profile after 24 hours unless you flag it as a 'Highlight'.

Best for: Live-streaming with a friend, fleshing out your Stories with different kinds of content.

Are you raring to go live? Don’t forget to check out the fantastic deals on Mobiles.co.uk to discover the perfect smartphone to start you off.