With social media, a lot of work must go into evaluating what new platforms are worth the investment of time and energy. In the summer of 2016, WGBH productions were excited to try out Facebook Live, with its ability to stream directly to the News Feed and solicit engagement from fans through comments and reactions.
Challenge: Evaluate the platform
After only a few weeks, it was clear that Facebook Live was a feature that aligned with the larger goals of our productions. Live streaming was emerging as one of the major social video formats, and the larger trend showed Facebook increasingly as a video-first platform. In fact, in April 2016 Mark Zuckerberg had told Buzzfeed News that within five years, the majority of content that people will be sharing on Facebook is video.
What’s more, Facebook Live’s biggest opportunity was in engagement: Facebook Live videos are inherently more engaging, offering direct access to shows and talent with content that is created for me, the Facebook fan. Direct impact through engagement is core to our mission, both as a Foundation and as individual productions.
Strategy: Scale up, with control
In August, I teamed up with our Production Group to hold a brainstorm meeting with interested producers. The meeting was packed, with dozens of producers expressing interest in the new feature. However, we quickly learned that not all Facebook Lives were the same. The production setup required for Alan Cumming to go live from the Masterpiece set, for example, was much different than the production solution required for an Antiques Roadshow “post show.”
We quickly got to work purchasing all the production equipment needed for each different use-case, and four major “tiers” of production requirements began to emerge.
Facebook Live Production Kit
In November, we debuted the Production Kit to the rest of the station. The four tiers of Facebook Live production that we identified — mobile streaming, Mevo, Wirecast, and studio broadcasts — allowed producers to create a live stream with the level of production and quality that they were most comfortable with. To use the toolkit, producers submit an IT Service Ticket (through our IT Helpdesk) where they indicate the type of Live stream they’d like to produce. From there, Production Group contacts them to arrange equipment rental and any other support they might need. I get an indication as well, and follow up with the team to make sure they’re thinking about pre-production, live streaming flow, talent communication, promotion, plus any rights or copyright issues that might be a factor.
For the mobile unit and Mevo tiers, we also have a list of production equipment available to producers that they can choose from: Download the equipment guide here.
Steal this Idea: Create a Facebook Live Production Kit for your station!
Before diving with Facebook Live or any other new social platform or feature, help your station evaluate the idea. Ask yourself and colleagues: How does this directly serve my show goals? And: Is it helping me engage with my core audience, or reach an audience we’ve defined as aspirational?
Once you’re ready to move forward, create a best practices handbook (or steal ours!) and stay up to date on new features. For example, Facebook is rolling out a great new feature called “Live With” that allows you to bring in another person into the broadcast, from the Facebook mobile app.
Then: Jump in! And roll out a production toolkit to your own station. Start with the basics by purchasing Tier 1 equipment as outlined in the production equipment document above. This Tier 1 kit is ideal as an on-the-go mobile unit for reporters or local journalists. Once you get proficient at high quality broadcasts using your phone, think about purchasing the Mevo or a “studio in a box” like Wirecast. You can also use your TV control room or production equipment to live stream directly to Facebook using the Facebook Live API.
Finally, keep following the Social Media Portal for more examples of Facebook Live experimentation and broadcasts! We have a calendar that we keep up to date with Facebook Lives around the building; check in once a week to see what’s cooking.