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What's Trending: It's Alive!

By Selena Fragassi


A decade ago, no one was talking about Facebook. But today, it’s all people can talk about with an estimated 1.13 billion people actively using the social media platform every single day. That’s nearly one in every seven people around the world.

Not only has Facebook become a versatile tool for many to stay tuned into their own personal networks, but more and more businesses have started to use the platform for practical marketing purposes as well. That transition has had execs in Silicon Valley paying attention. In recent years, they’ve rolled out Facebook ads and rejiggered algorithms (much to the dismay of many traditionalists).

But, in the summer of 2015 came a golden ticket. Building off the rapid success of YouTube and Vimeo services, Facebook Live was launched. Initially it was a way for celebrities to communicate with their fanbases; but by April 2016, the live streaming option was rolled out to the mass market of Facebook users. Within the past several months, many in the planning industry have gleaned to the tool as an effective way to broadcast special events, build excitement through promo videos, and stay engaged with their audience on an ongoing basis—all without needing huge production budgets.

For Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Grenfell Campus, Facebook Live literally saved the day. In August, officials had gotten just days notice that the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be paying a visit. “Our Prime Minister is super popular right now, especially with young people, so we knew there’d be a lot of interest,” recalls Melanie Callahan, communications advisor. Just one problem: the small campus didn’t have the space to fit such demand.

The highly anticipated speaking engagement was held in their Arts and Science Atrium, which has a capacity of 300. “We wanted to try to find a way to make the event accessible to people that couldn’t be there with us in the room,” Callahan says. “[Prime Minister Trudeau] also doesn’t visit many campuses, so we wanted to show off a bit.”
Facebook Live allowed her team to accomplish both, producing a 90-second video that now lives on the venue’s page in perpetuity and can “remind people that we had such an important visitor,” says Callahan.

The platform, she says, is very simple: “We put a cell phone on a tripod and pressed start; it was that easy.” But Callahan did find some issues; first and foremost, the sound quality. “If you’re able to mic somebody, it can work better, but for impromptu events like ours, it was a challenge.” As well, she says, the visual quality of the video was subpar: “Facebook Live’s platform seems to shrink the video for your page, so if you’re looking for a professional video, this might not be what you want.” Furthermore all Live videos can only live on Facebook—there’s no way to export them to websites or other social media for more multilateral uses. But, Callahan concedes, “If you’re looking for a quick and free way to present video content, with very little planning, Facebook Live is great. It was worth it to use despite the challenges.”

The American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania has also started experimenting with Facebook Live, using it for the first time at their annual Father Fest gathering in June—a day-long event with rides, games, vendors, authors, and other entertainment all celebrating dads.

“We thought it would be a good idea to try it out on this weekend with all the activities we had planned,” says Jan Feighner, PR and membership coordinator for the museum. Colleagues banded together to take turns filming a series of videos (from 30 seconds to 19 minutes in length). Included were a speech by the board president, demonstrations from participants in a “drone show,” interviews with the women in aerospace and technology program, and teaser pieces for the arrival of the 2016 McLaren automobile.

In the end, Feighner thought the platform was incredibly useful and the quality sufficient (but also wonders if using equipment beyond smart phones would help); however, she says it also provided a learning experience to let her team know what to do next time.

“Absolutely we would use it again, but we’d do things a bit differently,” she admits. “One of the main takeaways is to really think about what we should be filming. I want us to take it more seriously as a live broadcast, and ask ourselves, ‘Do we have enough here to captivate people to watch the stream?’”

Rather than film the entire event ad hoc (as they had done with the 19-minute piece on the drone show), she envisions preparing interview subjects and putting together almost scripted segments. Feighner also wants to focus on doing more teasers in advance to promote the event and possibly drive attendance, or at the very least let people know to tune in. In the future, she sees potential for making the tool work as a fundraising campaign for the small museum, too, “almost like how PBS provides programming and then asks for donations.”

Callahan agrees that the key to Facebook Live is to promote the stream earlier to get more people to tune in and increase viewership, comments, and shares.

“We’ve done events with our YouTube feed before, but you have to direct people there and that’s a challenge,” she says. “But on Facebook, most people are already logged on anyway and checking multiple times a day, so even if they don’t take time to sit and watch the stream, they can see it’s happening, which can be a great way to raise awareness. And let’s be honest, there’s very little [marketing] these days that you can do for free.”

Get Connected

American Helicopter Museum
West Chester, PA
(610) 436.9600

Memorial University, Grenfell Campus
Corner Brook, Newfoundland
(709) 637.6255