5 Key Lessons for Engaging Your Audience on Facebook Live


May 23, 2017, 11:02 AM by David McMillin

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Last year, during the PCMA Education Foundation’s Visionary Awards celebration in Washington, D.C., Peter Wigren, senior vice president of digital strategy and integrated media at PCMA, looked at the iPhone and tripod being used to broadcast to Facebook Live and saw a sea of possibilities. “My first big event as a full-time member of the PCMA team was the newly revamped Visionary Awards,” Wigren said. “And my first thought was, ‘Why don’t we go bigger next year?’”

So this year, Wigren and Corey Fennessy, PCMA’s director of digital marketing, did exactly that. Working with a professional on-site production team, PCMA’s broadcast of the gala for the events industry placed award winners in a spotlight that shined well beyond the walls of the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C., on May 3, 2017. If you’re considering using Facebook Live to expand the reach of your next event, consider these five key lessons first.

1) Put Your Network in Place Early.

With approximately two billion users, Facebook offers event organizers access to the biggest community in the digital landscape. With some of the most well-known names in the business events industry taking the stage at PCMA’s awards event, leveraging the platform’s tagging capability meant that each of their friends would receive notifications. The friends-of-friends alert system can deliver a seemingly limitless reach, but tagging someone requires the most basic piece of Facebook: You have to be friends. “If you want to take advantage of the tremendous reach potential,” Wigren said, “it’s helpful to personally send them friend requests ahead of time.”

However, you don’t have to rely on the personal accounts of your staff members. Wigren mentioned an alternative approach, which involves coordinating with partners, nominees, and other companies ahead of time. “Instead of friending everyone, you simply ask them to be ready to share and tag at the appropriate time during the broadcast,” Wigren said. “This option eliminates the need to friend everyone, but it still takes full advantage of Facebook’s vast reach.”

2) Live Doesn’t Have to Mean Low-Tech.

While one of the big benefits of Facebook Live is the easy ability to broadcast from a phone, PCMA wanted the live stream to match the look and feel of the outstanding on-site quality of the event. “This year, we wanted to step up the production quality,” Fennessy said. “We didn’t want to limit viewers to seeing the awards from one smartphone.”

Wigren said that they worked with PSAV to plug directly into their equipment, and PSAV also helped arrange multiple camera angles — one close-up of the speakers, one from the side, one wide shot, and one audience angle. “We wanted to truly make it more of the Oscars feel,” he said.

3) Use Extra Creativity for Sponsorship Recognition.

Elevating the production quality typically means increasing the cost of the production. Allied PRA, a huge supporter of the Education Foundation, offered to sponsor the event. However, giving credit where credit is due can be challenging on the social-media platform. “Facebook has a very strict policy on sponsored content,” Wigren said. “You aren’t allowed to run pre-roll, and banners are prohibited.”

The policy did allow PCMA to place a sponsored logo in the corner of the screen, but they wanted to increase recognition for Allied PRA. The solution included tagging the company in the post. An above-the-video message that acknowledged the company’s support greeted every viewer who tuned in.

4) Maintain the Momentum After the Show.

Facebook Live is geared toward catching viewers in real-time — the name says it all — but the video can create more engagement opportunities after all the cables are unplugged. While approximately 1,500 viewers tuned in during the program, bigger crowds arrived later. Between a $50 investment to promote the video and pinning the post as the top entry on the PCMA Facebook page, the video has collected nearly 6,000 views, 125 likes, 96 comments, and 26 shares.

5) Play the Long Game With Your Goals.

Many organizations have begun exploring broadcasting portions of conferences on their websites, but Wigren noted that Facebook Live is very different than traditional live-streaming. “With educational programming, there’s typically a registration process that functions as a lead-generation tool,” Wigren said. “But with Facebook, it’s all about brand awareness. It’s about introducing people to your community, delivering them a social experience they’ll enjoy, and giving them a reason to return.”