It’s a fascinating time to be a comms person… new tactics emerge and old ones fall away.
But like anything, your decisions should be driven less by the shiny and what will get you results.
So, Facebook Live. It’s something I’ve been fascinating by for some time.
The idea is quite simple. You post to Facebook and you have the option to create a live broadcast from your device’s camera as simply as posting some words.
But where does it fit into the landscape?
It’ll help you beat the Facebook algorithm
Being admin of a page used to be such fun. You posted something and your audience saw it, liked it, commented on it and shared it. You sat back and took the applause. But since Facebook Zero and Mark Zuckerburg’s announcement earlier this year that you’ll see less from pages and more from friends and family that’s long gone.
Right now though, use a Facebook Live broadcast and you’ll be reaching more people.
But what do we do?
Here’s where it gets interesting because you are really not hemmed in right now by convention. We’re all learning but please, for heaven’s sake, look outside your sector to see how others are doing it.
Sure, think calls to action. But also see your broadcast as educational, fun and interesting that will build your audience for a time when you really want them to do something. A social channel that’s just one long call to action isn’t fun.
Broadcast because the value is to be in the right place at the right time
English Heritage look after Stonehenge. This collection of Neolithic stone tablets has fascinated people for thousands of years. At the moment of winter and also summer solstice the sun shines perfectly at an angle. It is a special place to be. So a live broadcast of the moment and the build up to it makes sense.
Broadcast because you’ve got something visually interesting
National Rail celebrated the longest day of the year with a live broadcast from a GoPro in the train driver’s cab of the Aberdeen to Plymouth service. This is the longest in Britain and runs through some stunning scenery.
It says that the country is amazing, that as a feat of engineering its incredible and also that National Rail understand how the internet works.
Some kickbacks emerged when it was admitted that the video was not as live but the playing of a video recording. But I get that. But then again, what would a livestreamed suicide do for anyone? Or for the organisation’s reputation if the train broke down?
Broadcast because you are commenting on breaking news
Look at what newspapers are doing. They don’t call themselves newspapers anymore. They’re media companies that happen to produce some print.
When the football fixtures were published my team Stoke City’s local media company ran a Facebook Live to run through them. Leeds away is first up. They incorporated comments from readers – or should I see viewers – too.
The camera work wasn’t amazing. It doesn’t have to be.
Broadcast for a Q&A
Over in the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group I’m admin of, we ran a Q&A ahead of GDPR on how they may affect websites.
From the more than 2,000 members of the group we had more than 900 views and more than 50 questions and comments which was fine with us. We’re a niche but highly active forum.
If you’re a member you can see the broadcast here. But as the stream went into a closed group we can’t embed it elsewhere on the internet.
The topics you can live broadcast are pretty wide and vast. I’ve blogged more than 30 of them here.
So, if that’s the topic, how do I do it?
I co-deliver workshops on live video skills that goes into the planning and the delivery using some handy BBC principles.
Before you go live, run a test broadcast where you broadcast only to yourself. You can select ‘only you’ from the settings before you hit post. This allows you to see if your device can be help landscape or has to be held in upright portrait mode. At a big set-piece event like an election count you’ll need to be aware that media companies will more than likely be broadcasting.
But what if my audience isn’t on Facebook?
Then don’t use Facebook, you big silly. With Twitter, Periscope is the live app of choice and instagram and YouTube have their own functionality. But the numbers behind Facebook make it important.
I’ve heard it said that people are leaving Facebook. The stats don’t support that globally although I’ve heard of people leaving the platform in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica saga. That’s fine. I get it. But until there is a better way of sharing cat videos the mass audience isn’t leaving Facebook anytime soon.
I’m @danslee on Twitter and dan@comms2point0. If you hate missing out on the good stuff subscribe to my weekly email here.
Well, that was fun.
I’ve just completed the first Facebook Live to the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group. More than 200 people watched the live broadcast and more than 50 asked a question or took part.
If you are a member of the group you can watch the replay here.
Big thank you to John Paul Danon from Council Advertising Network and to Eleri Salter from Haringey Council for taking part and sharing some valuable expertise.
A few things really shone through from the exercise.
- As a platform, a Facebook Live is a good way to talk on an issue and solicit questions and discussion.
- There is a perception that GDPR is a scary stick to beat people with. If you want it ti be it can be. But the glass half full view is that its an opportunity to get your act together on how you are use people’s data. You are still fine to use it. You just need to make sure you’ve got permission is all.
- If there is a hit-list of people to be gone after by the Information Commissioner those at the top of the list are likely to be people who buy-up email lists and then spam them relentlessly.
- Speaking of which, it’s amazing the amount of GDPR spam I’m getting in my inbox. Which undermines the authority of the sender somewhat.
- You can do bright things with audience insight. It’s helping Haringey Council to better target those who may want to be foster carers, for example.
- As a comms person, you need to know this stuff. Or at least have a working knowledge of it. It’s pretty fundamental.
- You need to have permission to take someone’s picture or shoot them in a video. You need to set out explicitly what you’ll use that content for. The ‘general marketing on social media’ line won’t wash anymore.
- I do wish someone would hurry up and built an app that comms people can use to capture permission and then turn into a searchable data base. There’s a massive opportunity for some bright person.
- It’s always a bright idea to test broadcast a Facebook LIve before running the main broadcast. I did and spotted a few glitches.
- Responding to people who join by waving and saying ‘hello’ to them isn’t such a bad idea.
- The Information Commisioner’s Office will be running a public facing education campaign about GDPR. It would be useful for your organisation to build trust by getting right across that.
- Council Advertising Network employ bright people who know their stuff.
- Most councils use a lot of tools which may fall under GDPR. Don’t rip them out just to comply. Work out what you need to do.
- Don’t delete your existing entire image library. Mark it with ‘don’t until the GDPR process is complete’.
- The CIPR have got some really good resources if you are a member and Govdelivery have some useful stuff.
Big thanks if you chipped into the discussion or watched and also to John Paul and Eleri. This is the first of a series of occasional Facebook Live broadcasts from the headspace group.
It’s been a few weeks now since Mark Zuckerburg’s game-changing announcement on how Facebook will now work.
In short, his message was that people will see more from family and friends, more from groups and less from pages. Facebook Live will be rewarded. I’ve blogged on what that may mean for you as a communicator here.
It’s early days on how this is playing out. Some people have embraced the change. Others have sort of hoped they would go away. I’ve found people’s response perfectly mirrors how they are as a communicator. Some have rolled their sleeves up. Others, incredibly, don’t even know the change has taken place.
After delivering Essential Digital Skills for Comms workshops, for me, it boils down to five key questions you need to be asking yourself.
Q1 Have you got money?
If you’ve got money, the chances are you’ll be less affected by the changes. But you will have to spend more to get your content into people’s timelines. But make it good and engaging content to make it work.
If you’ve got a little money, think about tapping into Facebook’s immense hoard of data. So, if you are after brass band enthusiasts in their 20s in Stafford you can find the hard-to-reach easily. With some money. But this should be a small part of your strategy.
If you’ve got no money at all you
Q2 Have you conducted a review on your page?
Think about the area you serve. If it’s a community of 100,000 how many people like your page? From research I’ve done, the answer to that is a small minority. But how are your insights? Who likes your page? When are they most active? What content are they engaging well with? Make sure your content is engaging. Short, sharable, human and informative video. Information that people actually want rather than as a tick-box bucket to chuck stuff.
Q3 Are your pages fake profile secure?
Facebook’s terms and conditions are that each person can only have one profile. Not one for home and one for work. So the ‘Dan Slee Work’ or ‘John Smith’ profiles are against terms and conditions. Facebook calls them ‘fake’. They are at serious risk of being deleted by Facebook without warning. If access to your corporate page is only through fake profiles you at risk of losing access to your page.
Q4 Is your page connecting with an audience?
Just the one page? How is that working for you? How are the smaller pages faring? Are they doing a better job of reaching that sub-audience? If they are, that’s fine.
Q5 How are you with groups?
If you want to understand how groups work go and join a few. The place where you like will have one. The excellent Public Sector Comms Headspace is another. You need to join
Q6 Have you conducted a group review on your area?
Part of the fear of the unknown is not knowing what it looks like. The unopened box on the table is mysterious because we don’t know what is in it. Same with groups. Carry out a review of the groups in your area by town, village, estate, county and ward. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find. You can do this through using Facebook’s own search tool. Make a note of the numbers and the larger groups. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find.
Q7 Have you decided what approach to take with groups?
There are three ways to approach them. The first is ignore them. But I really don’t think that is a strategy for the forward-thinking comms person.
Approach A: Use your own profile to contribute
The second is to use your own profile to join them and take part in the conversation yourself as a representative of the organisation. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The advantage is that you are a human face contributing to the discussion. The disadvantage is that people can see who you are. You may want to lock down your profile. You may want to turn off notifications from the group so you don’t see what is being said.
Approach B: Use your own profile to contact the group admin and ask them to post on your behalf
This is less risky. Being identifiable to one person may seem a less exposed path than being exposed to hundreds or even thousands.
Approach C: Start your own group.
You’ll need to do it with your own Facebook profile and people will be able to message you. I’ve not seen an engaging group set-u by the public sector but I’m happy to see one.
Either approach A or B are tricky and ask a lot of the comms officer. This isn’t for everyone and managers would be foolish to expect this to be mandatory. But those who are answering this question are making inroads.
Of course, let’s not forget that Facebook may not be the channel for all of your audiences. But with almost 40 million users in the UK this is not a channel to disregard.
I’ll be tackling the Facebook issue and running through research on groups and what people are using them for at the ESSENTIAL DIGITAL SKILLS FOR COMMS workshop in Manchester on March 23 and London on March 29.
Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.
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.