Leave it to Facebook to have us all chasing the next big thing. Since it launched in April 2016, Facebook Live has evolved into a powerful tool to reach viewers in our community and around the world. For news organizations, there is more to it than just hitting the “Go Live” button and hoping viewers, and eventually revenue, will follow.
To be successful, you have to agree on a goal and understand the metrics that will tell you if you’re reaching that goal (or not!) before you even start streaming.
As I prepare to lead a MediaShift training session on Facebook Live for Journalists, I’ve examined what we’ve done in our own newsroom to really use the tool to its full potential. For context, I work in a mid-market TV newsroom where we do everything in-house, including graphics and decision-making for social media. I oversee our overall social strategy and everyone contributes. We have one employee that does social media as her full-time job.
Like most newsrooms, I don’t think we’ve even come close to scratching the surface with Facebook Live. We’ve experimented with everything from streaming the anchor desk throughout the newscast to live polls, using emoji to drive engagement. The biggest takeaway so far: you never know exactly what will work. But there are tried-and-true methods I can recommend that will cut through the noise of your viewers’ Facebook feeds and engage them in exciting new ways.
Facebook Live Basics for News Organizations
Facebook loves its live feature. Because of that, live videos are more likely to show on people’s feeds than articles, pictures and other video. The more engagement you get on the live video meanwhile, the more traditional content on your feeds will also get in front of your Facebook followers and prospective readers/viewers. Because of that positive reinforcement cycle, engagement on your live videos is more important than ever. The best Facebook live videos not only tell a story, but prompt questions and engagement as well.
Facebook Live comes naturally to television newsrooms. We’re used to working quickly and delivering a message. We’re used to the concept of using pictures and videos to tell a story. We can ad-lib.
But, making Facebook Live works requires a different way of thinking.
Not only do you have to think social first, you also have to realize that the medium requires more interaction than delivering a one-way message through a TV screen. Going live on Facebook is fast, easy and, compared to rolling a live truck and full news crew to breaking news, cheap. But Facebook Live for the sake of Facebook Live does little to drive engagement.
Too much stagnant content will turn off your followers and they’ll stop clicking when they see that your organization is going live!
Picking Video Goals and Metrics
So, how do you measure success in Facebook Live?
Like much of social, its value to a media organization feels nebulous. Post reach is the sexiest of all the Facebook metrics, but it only means your posts are showing up in the news feed. Reach doesn’t drive people back to your page; it doesn’t build affinity to your brand. But you can still measure success in other ways.
Post engagement is key. You need viewers and followers to connect. You need to give them a reason to like, share, comment and interact. In the metrics dashboard below, we did a live Facebook poll and asked a question about a proposed bill to divide Washington State in two. You can see the post reached 2.8 million users. But, the metric we care about is engagement — which, on this post, was 27,000.
We achieved that level of engagement because we used Facebook reactions to signal the answer to the question. One simple click from a user recorded a vote and also counted as engagement. The question itself was broad enough and controversial enough that people felt compelled to add their voice to the conversation. And, people thought the idea was absurd — or attractive — enough to share with their friends. It was the perfect setup for Facebook Live.
In addition to these Facebook reaction polls, we’ve also used Facebook Live for breaking news, a simple static shot of the waterfall rushing through our city’s downtown, and much more. Inherently, some videos elicit more engagement than others. But the beauty of Facebook Live is that you can see instantly what’s working and what is not.
As a newsroom, we’re still working on exactly how we want to make Facebook Live work for us. Ultimately, the goal is to gain more overall Facebook followers, which we believe will build brand identity and drive TV ratings. It’s not an immediate cause-effect relationship though, so in the meantime, driving viewers to our page and improving engagement every month is the short-term goal.
Finding Inspiration for Your Facebook Live Videos
The Facebook Live map allows you to quickly see who’s going live anywhere in the world. That makes it really easy to go online and see where live videos are coming from.
I believe the biggest driver of people to Facebook Live is the unpredictability.
With a simple click, you can watch a military base wait for a speech from President Trump or a lady in Tampa doing her makeup (two of the thousands of live videos popping up on the Facebook Live map as I wrote this). At any given time, viewers don’t know what they’ll see next. As a news organization, you can’t underestimate the value of people’s curiosity.
Facebook Live also works because people want to interact. So make it interactive.
Comments are one thing; asking questions live and getting an answer in real-time is quite another. Be responsive. Otherwise, you might as well post a static video and walk away. Identify the people within your organization who embrace the platform. A one-minute Facebook Live that only teases the news story they’ll tell later that night won’t drive viewers to your page. It doesn’t encourage a two-way conversation. And, if someone is forced to do it, it will never translate into good, compelling content. For the most part, TV personalities are good at Facebook Live. We like interacting, we like the instant gratification of viewer question and page views. But as managers, it’s important to identify the unique elements of a news story that will translate to Facebook Live.
Get More Actionable Tips in my Online Training
We’ll go deeper into best practices in my training “Facebook Live for Journalists” with MediaShift on March 22. I’m excited to share everything from what time of day works best to the types of posts that will continue to drive engagement even after the live signal is over. I’d love to hear your questions and ideas as we navigate this changing world of Facebook Live.
Melissa Luck is the Assistant News Director at KXLY4 News. Follow Melissa and KXLY 4 on Facebook.