Facebook Live secrets from Southwest to help your content take flight

The airline’s social media team has embraced livestreaming, and so can you. Consider these insights to craft content your viewers crave, measure your success and more.

In terms of content, video is quickly becoming a mainstay in PR and marketing pros’ tool belts.

Livestreaming is an especially effective tactic for those looking to jump on the video bandwagon. Eighty percent of consumers would rather watch a live video from an organization than read a blog post—and 82 percent say they want to watch a livestream rather than read a social media post.

Livestreaming can be even more effective on Facebook because the platform caters to that content type—and 78 percent of the platform’s users are already watching videos.

“Live video is enticing because in an over-filtered world, audiences feel a greater sense of authenticity,” says Brie Strickland, social business specialist for Southwest Airlines. “You never know what might happen and I think audiences really appreciate brands being vulnerable like that in lieu of the heavily produced and scripted videos that are everywhere.”

Follow these tips to take advantage of live video and help your content marketing efforts soar:

1. Focus on your viewers.

“Southwest goes live to satisfy one or more of the following areas—to celebrate, inform, and recruit,” Strickland says.

A few examples are Southwest’s live videos with a member of its meteorologist team, discussing the solar eclipse:

Another Facebook Live video from Southwest’s Network Operations Control warned travelers about the effects of Hurricane Matthew:

Thinking of your viewers when preparing to go live on Facebook can help you create content that your consumers want to watch—but it can also guide your PR and marketing decisions in other ways.

Putting your audience first can also help you decide which platform to use when livestreaming—and where to allocate budget dollars. This can be especially helpful for communicators with small budgets and large goals to accomplish.

Strickland says:

When determining where to allocate budget for live video, we evaluate our ‘why’ and focus on the platform that best suits that pillar. We also believe in cultivating the audiences we already have on established channels, rather than jumping to new channels and focusing budget there before we’ve built it out on our bread and butter. With that being said, we always try to at the very least explore new channels and are never afraid to make a switch if something isn’t working, but that primarily requires resources beyond what constitutes a traditional budget.

PR and marketing pros should use a variety of social media platforms and employ new or different tactics in order to create videos that give the biggest bang for their bucks—but ultimately, cater to the places where your consumers reside online and subjects they care most about.

‘We’ll always try to be in the same places as our customers, in the way that best suits them,” says Strickland.

2. Listen for feedback—and potential stories.

As with any content efforts, livestreams can be greatly improved by PR pros who are constantly on the lookout for trends, customer preferences and news hooks.

“The key to uncovering great brand stories is listening,” Strickland says.

Strickland offered examples of how Southwest uses a Listening Center each day to “scour social for what [its] customers are thinking, feeling, and sharing.” The airline also featured a few employees who are also military veterans live from the center to support its “A Million Thanks” campaign:

However, you don’t need a special room to watch out for news, trends and customer feedback—nor do you need a big budget or team to uncover consumer stories and increase engagement.

Strickland says:

It doesn’t take a command center to listen on some level. Brand managers also hold the key to eliciting some of that user-generated content through engaging, rich media, with specific calls to action. We live in a world where people love sharing their stories, they just need a place to do it and to know someone is listening.

3. Plan your videos in advance.

Facebook Live videos should be authentic and are often unscripted, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan an outline with specific goals for each live stream.

Southwest uses a storyboard approach and employs the “5 C’s” when preparing for its livestreams. Those are, Strickland explains:

  • Continuity: The theme of your live stream
  • Content: Stories that support your continuous theme during the live stream
  • Characters: Individuals or groups that are the focus of your stories
  • Composition: Camera shots and the overall look and feel of your live stream
  • Completion: Defining success metrics and gathering the data

Using a storyboard approach can help live videos enhance more produced pieces of content. Take, for example, Southwest’s video introducing its new employee uniforms:

The airline’s Facebook Live video showed off employees’ thoughts and excitement about the uniforms, along with reasons why the new outfits were chosen:

Planning out live streams is a good way to divvy out your budget, too.

Strickland says:

From the outset, I think it’s important to begin by figuring things out organically. If you’re privileged enough to get a budget first, it should still be preceded by organic test-and-learn.

… You should also assess how you’re going to allocate the money—is it going to equipment, the experience, distribution, or a combination? Brand managers should understand the ‘why’ when allocating budget video efforts.

4. Measure, measure, measure.

The goal of any livestreaming strategy—whether on Facebook or other social media platforms—should be to meet your campaign’s goals and objectives and ultimately boost your organization’s ROI.

Strickland says that many times, engagement and sentiment will remain consistent across social media channels, but your audience’s demographics might change from platform to platform—which can change “the kind of experience they’re seeking from channel to channel.”

One Facebook Live video that resonated with Southwest’s viewers was the final flight of former captain Lou Freeman, the airline’s longest-tenured pilot. The livestream racked up roughly 314,000 views along with 9,200 likes and 1,270 shares. More than 1,500 comments congratulated Freeman and his efforts.

“With live video, a good place to start measuring is viewership and the amount of time people are engaging with the video,” Strickland says. “Experiment with time of day and day of the week to better understand when your audience is tuning in most and the longest. […] Authentic engagement in the form of KPIs like shares and comments reveals how well the content is resonating with that audience.”

Learn more from Strickland at Ragan’s Measurement for Communicators Conference on Feb. 20-21. You can attend and learn right from your desk by signing up for our live webcast.

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