A Cook’s Tour of Facebook Live
Over the past 6 months, I’ve begun to see 20–30 Facebook Live alerts per day. Some are from people I know, others are from
news pages that I’ve liked or followed (or that
my friends have reacted to), and there are still
others that I bypass too quickly to categorize.
Since so many of my Facebook friends are in
the event video industry, I see a lot of what
could generously be called “behind the scenes”
(BTS) streams from a randomly placed iPhone
at their events in progress. I also see a lot of
personal testimonials and professional political
commentaries, which I find more effective than
the impromptu, pseudo-BTS streams (provided
the speaker has something interesting to say).
My feed also delivers a smattering of C-SPAN-type material from political press events and
legislative sessions. These broadcasts, designed
for other media, are interactive only in allowing live exchanges among viewers, rather than
leveraging the platform with responsiveness
from the presenters.
In a presentation at Streaming Media West
last November, Chad Sisneros of the Humane
Society discussed in specific terms how his
organization works to maximize the impact of
streams delivered to its 2. 5 million Facebook fans
( go2sm.com/manage). “This list really works for
us, so we try to take advantage of every time we
do a Facebook Live stream,” Sisneros said. “We
practice it. We block it out. We focus on the vi-
suals. We promote it ahead of time, tweet it out,
put it on Facebook a couple hours ahead of time
to let everybody know what’s coming.”
Most important, Sisneros says, is to engage
with commenters during the presentation.
Again, preparation is key. “Every time we do a
Facebook Live, we try to figure out what ques-
tions are going to come up in the comments. We
come up with a top 10 list of questions that we
know we’re going to get, we work with our ex-
perts who know the answers, and write out the
answers in advance. Then we have somebody
else outside of the live stream working to an-
swer those comments during the live stream.”
In the interest of seeing how other organiza-
tions are tailoring their efforts to the platform, I
chose a Facebook Live show that came across my
feed just before I sat down to write this column.
I watched to gauge the level of professionalism,
The show featured three lav-mic’d hosts in
an active kitchen. It was shot with two cameras,
one a static shot showing the three hosts, the
other a close-up camera that usually focused
on the food, with quick dissolves between shots.
The show began and ended with a still title
screen and intro-outro music. It featured Cook’s
Science and Mashable branding in two places:
the chef’s apron and a semi-transparent overlay in the lower-right corner. The hosts also intermittently plugged several items via verbal
mentions and pinned comments: a newsletter,
recipes for the foods they were demo’ing, a
giveaway for the Cook’s Science book, and the
next episode, coming in 2 weeks.
The show featured animated lower-thirds
with profile pictures for the hosts and occasional commenters, including commenters whose
questions they took. The comment lower-thirds
were a particularly nice touch, giving participating viewers temporary costar status. Questions were relayed aloud (somewhat clumsily)
from an off-screen staffer before appearing in
a comment lower-third.
Besides a compulsively chatty non-chef host,
nothing about the show seemed designed to
prize entertainment or flash over content. But
in addition to frequent references to the audience, the commenters, and the stream itself,
the show felt live and audience-engaged, providing a solid example of how to leverage the
Facebook Live platform without distracting from
the primary content of the show.
Steve Nathans-Kelly ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of
Streaming Media Producer ( streamingmedia.com/producer) and
video publishing director of Information Today, Inc.
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