There’s always moments when a new digital platform comes into its own.
In 2011, it was Twitter that really came into the mainstream during the London riots. It was where middle managers in the organisation and the public could find out what was happening.
Twitter and Hurricane Irma
In 2017, Twitter is the bread and butter of emergency communications. The US Government department FEMA have been using it and have been using this and the web to shoot down rumour.
— FEMA (@fema) September 8, 2017
In 2017, live video and Hurricane Irma seems to have made a similar transition.
Both platforms allow you to use your phone as an outside broadcast unit and stream to the internet.
Both platforms end up feeding in the media by providing eye-witness reporting from the scene. In an environment where fake news has undermined trust in text, video is hugely important for communications people.
Case study #1: Behind the scenes news room tour
A journalist takes a tour of the TV news room that is keeping people informed of what is taking place.
Case study #2: The calm before the storm
Residents took to walking around deserted streets to show what was happening.
Case study #3: The eye witness
Views from the balcony showing the hurricane as it is striking.
Case study #4: The professional storm chaser
In the US, storm season is met with enthusiasts chasing down tornados and extreme weather. People like Jeff Piotrowski have been using Periscope to connect with people and give a realtime sense of the storm.
Late Saturday night just as I was going to bed somethingremarkable happened.
Shortly after midnight, my timeline was filled with people sharing live streams from US airports. Pop-up protests were taking place. People angry about a ban on people from hand-picked Muslim countries were making their voice heard.
As a former journalist and as someone is interested in the changing media landscape this was fascinating. Protest has made Facebook Live come of age just as protest in Iran eight years ago helped embed Twitter.
An unscientific snapshot at the time showed short clips and commentary on Twitter and live streaming on Facebook.
For previous generations the route for moving images was TV news. Now, protestors as well as online media were just filming what was going on. In this case, they look like they were using their own web-enabled devices rather than an outside broadcast truck.
This one stream from Rewire News recieved 1.2 million viewers within 24-hours. You can watch here:
The live experience is different
While the footage viewing back on Facebook Live above looks clean and straight forward the livestream on mobile was also showing a feisty battle in the comments box between those in support and those against. You can watch here:
Mainstream media picked-up the footage
Channel 4 news in the UK picked-up the footage and repackaged it in an edited short news video. You can see it here:
- It’s ephemeral. A day after the live footage was hard to track down on Facebook and on the Periscope Live. Once it’s gone, it’s pretty much gone.
- Your smartphone is like an outside broadcast truck in your pocket. Live streaming is powerful and an instant way to beam pictures so long as you have a good WiFi connection.
- It can spread the word quickly. By plugging into the networks of social media the link with the video can be widely shared.
- The experience live and later is quite different. With live viewing you get the cascade of likes and comments. Looking back later once the broadcast is over you don’t.
- The role for mainstream media is as aggregaters. With dozens of streams and lengthy broadcasts the role of the journalist is to spot, share then aggregate and explain.
- The quality of the footage doesn’t matter... the value is to see what is happening at that particular moment in time.
- The echo chamber still exists. As widely shared as it is it is still likely to be shared within a network of like-minded people.
- The corporate comm, policy maker and emergency planner needs to keep man eye on what is going on. Live insight is needed to help shape decisions.
- There’s a lesson from history. Public mood turned against the Vietnam war after protests at Kent State University saw protestors killed. What happens next will be interesting to see.
- Crisis comms and emergency comms need to take account of Facebook Live – and Twitter’s Periscope in their forward planning.
Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.