Tips for using Facebook Live from Monsanto’s team

The agriculture titan brings its audience along for the ride, from planting through cultivation all the way to harvest. How might you use real-time video to promote your brand?

Part of our agricultural company’s editorial calendar is telling the story of our products—seeds—and the farmers who use them.

From an editorial planning perspective, one great thing about the growing season is that it’s predictable—plant the seed, grow it, harvest the crop.

There are, however, several variables during those stages that make the season different for each farmer. From a storytelling perspective, the variables can provide the tension that makes a story compelling.

The stories and stunning visuals associated with farming make video an excellent storytelling device. Throughout 2016, we have visited farms, events and our campus beehives to experiment with Facebook Live and to tell the story of agriculture and how it’s connected to our lives.

We visited a farm three times to provide an update on the crop. Here’s the first visit:

The live capability enables us to provide real-time updates to fans about our business and our customers’ business.

For those of you dealing with a skeleton staff of camera crews and video editors and reviewers, you know that shooting, editing, reviewing and posting a video can be a long process. Facebook Live provides the story right now.

On a farm, particularly with weather events, it can take less than a day for the story to change. In addition, video is just cooler when you’re watching it live.

Here are a few reasons we decided to try Facebook Live and a few tips to consider as you strategize:

Live video engages fans

Farmers are only 2 percent of the U.S. population. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” That gap in understanding persists 60 years later, as many of our Facebook fans—farmers, agriculturalists, scientists, employees and students—struggle to connect the importance of agriculture and the science behind it with urban and suburban audiences.

As an agriculture company, we’re trying to help make better connections. One part of our content strategy is to be relevant in the agriculture and food conversations. To be relevant, you have to show up and create compelling content. So, one content goal is to share and create content that encourages people to learn more about the solutions that agriculture and, specifically, our company are working on.

Facebook Live enables us to share real-time stories from the farm. It gives viewers a peak into what our customers are dealing with—a behind-the-scenes look in which anything can happen and high production elements are stripped away, creating an exciting, authentic experience for the viewer.

It was a gamble, but our fans seemed to love it on the first video:

When you get comments like, “This is super cool,” and “love,” it means the content resonated with your fans. Why wouldn’t you create more content like that?

The allure of the live experience

If you see a live video, wouldn’t you feel a heightened need to watch it? Right there in that moment, you get to share an experience with the videographer and other fans.

Live video has a unique allure and gives users the opportunity to break news first on their social media channels. You’re more likely to stop on live content, right? You could be the first among your group of friends to experience it and share it. It’s a much different experience watching something live (and being first) versus something a day (or year) old and being the last to know.

As we’ve done more live videos, we’ve come to realize that their value lies in real-time interaction with the audience. For a few of our videos, we have received more comments during the video than we receive on entire posts. People are genuinely curious about what we’re talking about, and we have an avenue for discussion among fans. It’s a great opportunity to obtain real-time feedback and understand your audience—like a live focus group.

Live video turns companies into media entities

A lot has been written about organizations’ emergence in self-publishing. Live video is another tool in the toolbox for yours to publish its own content.

Are there live TV shows in your industry that can cover a topic the way you can? Probably not. None of us in social media or public relations can dial up the national network and demand air time. Facebook Live gives brands that opportunity. For Monsanto, there are a few TV outlets that produce live agriculture shows, but they have their audience. We have ours.

Now for some tips:

Keep it simple.

Our audience members are looking for information to share with their urban and suburban networks to show that agriculture is cool. We don’t want to use too much jargon or insider examples. Our goal is to help our audience connect with consumers who probably know very little about farming.

In the second video, I continued the theme of checking on the wheat crop, but I also introduced something that most people deal with in their yards: weeds. I briefly mentioned how the farmer will manage the weeds, without going into the jargon side of agriculture:

Stick to what you know.

Our business is about seeds and helping farmers plant, grow and harvest those seeds. We’re not going beyond that. There are plenty of interesting stories to be told in each stage of raising a crop.

Prepare for your shoot.

Practice what you’re going to talk about. You’ll lose viewers quickly if you’re stumbling through the video, but try to keep some spontaneity so it doesn’t become boring.

Bring a camera operator.

When I shot our first two videos, it was selfie-style, which wasn’t too terrible—it’s more authentic. (That’s what you’d do for your personal channel, right?) Also, I was close to the camera, so the sound is clear, but I was squatting on the ground and trying to turn the camera and talk at the same time.

For our third video, I brought Chris from our video team to assist. I needed his help because I planned on interviewing the farmer. The extra set of hands was helpful for me to focus on chatting with the farmer and to have Chris move the camera around a bit:

Stay thick-skinned.

If you’re the social media manager at your company, and you put yourself in front of the camera, be prepared for some tough comments:

Invest in swag.

This caught us off-guard. It started with one viewer at the start of the video.

Then, several others jumped on that, and by the end of two minutes, 20 people wanted a hat.

Now, we’re shipping 150 hats across the country to our fans. It’s rare that we get requests for swag on social media, but we’re honored our fans wanted to support Monsanto. That wasn’t in the budget, but it’s in there for next year.

As with most new social media tools, experiment with live video before you dive into using it. After three videos, we know we have something cool with Facebook Live and the farm visits—particularly with our Facebook audience of farmers and aggies. We’re planning on doing the “On the Farm” as a weekly segment.

Grab the selfie stick, find something your audience cares about, and hit the road for some live videos.

Nick Weber is the global social media strategy lead at Monsanto. A version of this article first appeared on Convince & Convert.

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