Social media remains an important engagement tool for your audience. Mariah Obiedzinski speaks with Top 100 Digital Health Influencer Jared Johnson about some best practices when utilizing live media channels. Included is the Social Media Live Checklist to download to make sure you don’t miss any steps.
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Mariah Obiedzinski: I’m Mariah Obiedzinski, director of content services at Stamats. Joining me today is Jared Johnson, a Top 100 Digital Health Influencer, podcaster and keynote speaker, with more than a decade of experience in health care higher education.
Today, we’re discussing how schools of medicine can use live media to grow the school’s brand and encourage relevant authentic engagements with students, prospects, and the community.
Jared, in higher education, many markets avoid live media because of an overarching desire to produce perfect content. But that’s not the world their perspective students live in. Today’s medical students are social media native, so they grew up using that user-submitted live video, live audio, webinars, and chats.
So, as a social media influencer and video aficionado, what are your thoughts on the perfect media versus live media conflux?
Jared Johnson: Yeah, it’s a great question, kind of a great way to kick off this topic. You’re going to find that opinions on this keep varying. And, if you ask, a marketer’s answer is going to be different than somebody who’s in the target audience. Meaning marketers, we still do tend to be focused on that perfect—we’re used to a TV spot, or a radio spot, or a perfectly executed commercial of one kind or another. And we’ve kind of grown up in our careers with that mindset of “everything’s got to be perfect.” We have to have that controlled message and positioning statement involved in everything that we’re creating. So, all creative that we have going on, it’s gotta be perfect.
So, this doesn’t take away from that at all—the fact that you’re adding a live component to a strategy—at all. It just has to be recognized that you’re not going to have all of those elements. You know, probably if you’re talking 3 to 5 years ago, when a lot of live elements—when podcasts were really starting to make, kind of, they were coming back into the mainstream, when people realized that they could start listening to podcasts on their phone on their commute—they’ve come back into the mainstream, when live video was just getting going, when Facebook Live was just coming out, when Periscope and Meerkat and when you had all these new things kind of coming out.
A few years ago, I’d say it was more acceptable to just put anything out there live. And now it is that, I say, that the desire to have the next step of quality, so a little bit closer to perfection in your live video, that’s significant, that’s important. But don’t let that keep you from doing a live piece.
I’ve spoken to so many internal stakeholders as well as other fellow marketers who let the desire to be perfect just completely stop them from doing any live media because they said, “You know, what happens when I flub?” You know what I’m saying? “When I… when it doesn’t all come out right?” And we’re like, “Yeah, that’s kind of the idea.”
One of the reasons that live video and live streaming and live media, podcasting and audio, why these media channels have taken off is because they give a perception of authenticity. They give a recognition that these are not perfect people, these are people who are trying their best to convey a message or a status or some information. But we’re not always doing it perfectly.
And if all you see is that person behind the camera, you know, like we’re used to in a commercial where everything is worded perfectly, then we’ve actually learned that doesn’t convey the exact amount of trust that you’d expect.
It doesn’t help you trust an organization or brand is probably better way to say that. Here I am right now, trying to get—to put this idea out there, and I’m not perfectly expressing this in the same way either, and that’s okay. That’s the thought—it’s this recognition of what conveys trust at the end of the day. It’s not just this perfect message that we’re putting out there.
So, in terms of how that comes into play with a strategy, it really has to do with a mixture of both. I’d say if an organization has not attempted any kind of live media at all, then there’s the first step. Find one of these, latch on to one of these, and we’ll dig into this I think a little bit as we go on in terms of which of these channels might make more sense at particular times and what objectives you’re trying to achieve.
But if that hasn’t happened yet, then there’s your first step. Find one of these channels that is ‘dipping your toe in the water’ and learn from it. And then grow from it and be able to recognize that it’s not always going to be perfect.
Mariah: So, on the one hand, we have that really humanizing your organization, humanizing your university or college. And on the other hand, we have that, “Oh my gosh. What if something goes wrong and we look silly?” So, we always recommend creating a checklist to prepare for a live media event, you know, like a podcast, video, and so forth. Is that something that you usually recommend with the organizations you work with as well?
Jared: Oh, yes. Absolutely.
Mariah: So, if you are creating one of these “go live checklists” with one of your clients, what do you usually recommended that they include?
Jared: Well, you want to think about ways to reduce the margin for error while preserving a live nature of the media that you’re doing. So, in other words, some of the things we just described, there are things that are going to happen. Someone might tip over the tripod.
There are things you can’t control. But you want to reduce the number of those things that you can’t control. So, that might include things like preparing where to start and end the conversation. Simple things as addressing the logistics of it because, thinking behind the audio or behind the camera, essentially is somebody going to be addressing comments?
The idea is, hopefully, you’re getting some engagement, you’re getting people commenting during—if you’re talking live videos. So Facebook Live or an Instagram story or a live video on any other medium. Now, we’ve got them on LinkedIn, we’ve got them on Twitter. So, being able to prepare who’s going to do that.
Oftentimes it’s not the same person. It’s challenging if you try to have the same person keeping an eye on the shot and making sure all the technical aspects are still in line, that the audio didn’t just kick off or that kind of thing. And having that same person answering comments that are happening at the same time and then maybe showing those comments to whoever is on the camera or whoever is being interviewed, whoever is going to be answering those. So that can be a process.
And it’s a great idea to do a practice. So, we definitely recommend that on the checklist. We would sometimes, at least on Facebook. For instance, we found we needed a practice, like a closed or hidden Facebook group to practice the whole process. We would basically kick off, and we would do it before every single Facebook Live. We would try it and go live in this practice, hidden group first just moments before, you know, about 10 minutes before the actual live broadcast, just to make sure. Because just because the audio and video and everything worked last time doesn’t mean it’s going to work this time. So, you’re gonna have to do it every time. So, that’s one.
Framing the shot, if we’re talking about live video, absolutely. Are you talking horizontal or vertical? There’s still this tendency of people to just kind of go on mobile, and not thinking through it too much. Just a normal, run-of-the-mill person is going to think, just hold my phone up vertically and hit record because that’s kind of naturally how they’re set up. That’s literally where the button is or where the area is on your screen. Well, that’s doesn’t always necessarily lend itself to the best viewing experience. And so, yet, you have to think through that. Are you targeting something mobile versus desktop? So, framing the shot, what’s going to be behind the people? And what’s going to be in the shot.
There are other technical specifications. It’s as simple as is there a connection where you’re going to be? I’ve been involved in planning live streams, Facebook Lives, that turned out they were outdoors, and thankfully our team made the connection that there was no connection. It might not be the best place to try a live stream event! And in that case, there were a couple times where that happened. And we just ended up not doing them live, but then just posted them as a native Facebook video. Just wasn’t live. So, that’s important thing, though it and it didn’t occur to us at first on a couple of those.
So, literally testing the Wi-Fi connection where you are to make sure, so using the exact device you’re going to be using, using the exact connection you’re going to be using and just testing it. Don’t assume everything is going to work just because you’ve used it with a different device, or you used it, like I said, the previous week.
So, also knowing how long the shoot’s going to be. What our team found is, more often than not, the format that I’ve done the most is interviewing a health care provider about a disease state of some kind or a program at their institution. And that can go on really long sometimes. What we found, it typically took about 12 to 15 minutes to get the maximum audience on there before people really start noticing.
So, that’s the great thing and the challenge of live video is that you’re trying to capture people watching when and where they are. So, they’re not expecting it, which that actually leads to one of the other pieces on the checklist, which is to promote it.
Mariah: You can’t expect people to just tune in just because you have a live video going, for instance. Even if they like your organization, if they like your brand.
Jared: Yeah, they’re probably doing something else. And so, to expect them to just hop on because it’s you, well it depends. There’s a lot of factors in that. So, do some promotions. Throw some images out there. Maybe even have the subject matter expert out there, but on your LinkedIn, on your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, wherever you’re going to be doing this, let people know maybe a week in advance, a couple days in advance, and then the day of. “Hey guys. Just reminding you, this is starting in an hour.” That kind of thing. That doesn’t reduce the spontaneous nature of the live media itself, but it gives you the opportunity to maximize who’s watching while it’s happening.
Mariah: To generate some excitement, too. Like the Twitter chat kind of methodology there. “Hey, it’s coming. It’s coming, it’s coming. Giving you advanced warning that you can clear your schedule, or you can be in a place where you can watch if you want to.”
Jared: Yeah. And I don’t think we can overstate that enough. Despite the fact that it’s spontaneous, you’ll find that you gotta give people enough warning to clear their calendar, like you said. That’s a great example. We’ve seen a lot of tweet chats that do that exact thing, and that’s one reason they’re successful. Doesn’t matter who’s on it, a live event doesn’t help as much if you don’t have people watching it live. And that’s really where the power of it can be.
So, yeah. All the pieces would be on the checklist, as well as preparing the subjects who are you going to be on camera or being interviewed on audio. Whoever is actually going to be talking, or presenting or being involved in it, prep them as much as you can. Have talking points available, even if it’s, like I said, it’s not a full script, but give them something to go on. Give them the intro or some cues they’ll be able to recognize. “Okay, here’s where I talk about this again.” Again, it’s a lot of preparation, but it comes off very well when it’s executed right.
Mariah: Yeah. And I think you brought up the good point earlier, too, is regardless of the success of your first live video, a lot of platforms offer the opportunity to save that video down, and then you can use it later as B-roll or as social media snippets here and there. If it was an exceptionally good and clean shot, you can use it for embeds into your blogs or e-newsletters. So, a lot of different modalities there, which we found really can help with stakeholder buy in.
And as you know, you can have the most prepared marketing team. You can have the most prepared subject matter experts, and all it takes is one person higher up in the food chain to just say, “Nope, we’re not doing this.”
A lot of leaders in colleges and universities are really driven by data. So, what are some of those key metrics, Jared, that marketers can think about it and gather for baselines to prove the success of live media, even if they haven’t really done any before?
Jared: I think the key is that it’s most often you’re not going to have an audience that’s sizable that has any significance right away. So the key, as with any content, whether live or not, is to set the expectation that you’re not going to be driving enrollment, or sales, or any kind of marketing objective right away.
The key to this is people realize, ‘Oh, these guys are going to come back next week, or tomorrow, or later this week, and they’re going to have some more info for me that’s really cool. I’m going to start tuning in.” By far the more successful live media are those that are series, that are becoming something that their audience can recognize and depend on for information.
So, you know a one-off event here or there, it’s part of a publicity push or marketing campaign. It’s not to say there’s not a place for that, but you’re going to find success when you’re really creating something that people count on—when they recognize it, they’re looking forward to it. It’s their next show they’re watching that they can’t wait to tune in to.
So, even with that in mind, nothing’s going to materialize right away. But there’s no reason you can’t include some kind of call-to-action that would likely be—take podcasting for instance. I mean you’d be looking at your growth and your number of subscribers, your number of listens or downloads. You’d be listening, you’d be looking for opportunities for repurposing it, which I agree with what you just shared, repurposing the content is key.
If it started out as a podcast, turn that into a blog post. Transcribe it, turn it into a blog post. Promote both pieces of content on social media, because now you have a couple of different things to point people to. If you have some print media, you know, do a summary of some of those blog posts. Do a highlight reel, do whatever you can to repurpose the content.
So, then if you do that, then you’re augmenting the statistics that you want that are involved with the live media. If you’re just looking at a single Facebook Live episode, for instance, yeah, look at how many people—Facebook gives you a wealth of data. So, there you’d be looking at everything from—it tells you how many people have watched up to a certain point, a certain number of seconds in the video. So, you can gain a lot of insight there.
That’s why I guess I keep coming back there because, at the end of the day, that’s still where a lot of live video is happening and it’s where you get a lot of data from it. So, everything from who’s tuning in, at what point are they tuning in, that’s how we did know in the example I gave previously that it was a 12- to 15-minute mark before—we need to make it at least that long. And so, we tended to make those ones about 30 minutes because that gave people 15 minutes to tune in and then 15 minutes to watch and ask their questions while it was going on.
So, we looked at engagement in that case, too. How many people are commenting and asking questions, and liking and responding while it’s happening? And then we would look at the total video views of a Facebook Live event afterward, which was interesting. These are by no means scientific numbers, but just to give you an idea, for however many people watched one of these Facebook Lives while it was happening, there was easily 5 to 8 times that many watching it afterwards.
So, while that live audience is important, what we learned is it had a long life after that. Especially if we were repurposing it and pointing people back: “Hey guys, here is the recap. Hey, here’s some additional details. Here’s the blog post summary of the live event,” or whatever. “Thanks for tuning in. Here is a list of all the questions that were asked and here are the answers. If you have a question for Doctor so and so, and you didn’t get to ask it, then ask them now. They’ll get back to you.”
It was interesting. We would have 5 to 8 times as many people watching it afterwards. So, it just said to us that there was a lot more life to the live event then we realized.
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Mariah: Right. We’ve seen similar numbers here. We just did a live panel discussion event last month, in February 2019. Similar results. We got pretty good engagement during, a good local following, and then afterward, like you said, it kind of exploded.
So, we followed that same “create once, publish everywhere” model that you just mentioned. You post it up once, and you break it out into all of those different, relevant pieces and really keep it going. Stakeholders will tend to be a little bit more, at least in my experience, likely to let you do that or give you their blessing when they know that they’re going to get some life out of it. All of that investment wasn’t just for a 10-minute video spot or a 10-minute podcast.
Jared: Right. Yeah, exactly.
Mariah: You mentioned a couple of different kinds of planned live media things, like scheduled chats, scheduled video panels, scheduled podcasts. What are some of those engaging events or maybe newsworthy topics that teams should consider on campus that could be suited for live media kind of on the fly?
Jared: So, I would think most people would agree with this who have been involved in live media events. The ones that get the most engagement, more often than not, are those that provide you access that you don’t typically have.
So, think of a concert experience, right? So, you bought a ticket to a music concert, rock concert, rap concert, and you don’t typically get access to the artist, you don’t typically get that backstage pass experience unless you upgrade your tickets. There might be a VIP-type experience where you get to go meet the artist beforehand, and they even get to play a song for you. You get a signed poster, you get a picture with them. But it’s that VIP experience that’s sold separately, and only a few people get that for each concert date.
So, what you’re trying to do is kind of provide that same type of VIP experience, which is that backstage access. Think about those within your organization, the typical person who follows you and likes you and has engaged with your brand in one way or another. Think about, what type of access do they want? Who do they wish they could talk to? What kind of questions do they wish they could ask somebody who they typically wouldn’t get to see? And it might be somebody who isn’t normally the person responding on social media.
So, that’s typically going to be someone in a leadership position, somebody who’s in an influential position within the organization. How can you provide that kind of VIP experience to them? So, there’s a starting point for who you would have on camera. “Hey, today we’re with our CEO. Hey today we’re with our founder. Today, we’re with our rock star professor who everyone loves this guy.” Think about who those people are and then the topics—same thing.
But topics people are talking about already. And that’s as simple as going through—you talked about data before. Here’s where data comes in, and it’s not necessarily the numbers part. It’s the qualitative data. If you’re not regularly looking at the comments that are coming in on your social media channels, what messages are coming in, what questions people are asking, and what they’re asking about, then there’s your quickest way to come up with your topics right there.
And it’s going to be different for everybody. But it might not be what you expect. Most of the time, it’s probably not the things that you think people are asking about unless you’re in there constantly, on a weekly or at least a monthly basis, reading through what people are asking you about. A lot of times that might be getting with your digital team if you don’t have that kind of access. And maybe that’s a report that’s hopefully being shared within your organization to begin with. But that’s going to tell you a great deal, better than what I could.
I can give you some suggestions. Again, they have more to do with who you’re speaking with, who is the person being interviewed in your live media event, than what they’re talking about. It could be anything that has to do with, a bit of a somber example, say if a mass shooting happened. “Hey guys, listen. We’re going to do this quick little thing like something really hard, something really horrible just happened. We want to talk to you guys about this.”
And you can almost have like a Town Hall type experience. “Hey guys, we just want to be real, we just want to let everyone know this is a terrible thing that happened. Let’s talk about it, let’s get this out in the open. We’re here. We don’t have all the answers.” That kind of authentic connection really can create an entirely new audience for you. And you’re not doing it for that. You’re doing it to actually show people there are humans behind the brand, that we can see digitally. I think that’s one of the pieces of your live strategy that you want to make sure people understand. You’re trying to create those human connections.
So, when we come back to topics, that might be a good place to start. What’s making the news right then? What are people asking your organization? There are certain parts of higher ed people are always going to be asking about. They’re always going to be asking about how they pay for it. They’re going to be asking about how they can access it. How do they compare one organization to another? Their experience as a student, certain parts of it from enrollment to everything to do with your classes. There are so many questions that your stakeholders have. There’s some quick and easy ways to think through that.
Mariah: And I think that this brings up another good point that we hear often, too, is you can’t discount the value of user-submitted content, too. Especially on things like Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, where college students might be out there videotaping something that happens on campus that maybe your media team didn’t know was happening. Or, you would really like to emphasize—all you have to do is reach out. “Hey, student. Can we use your video? Can we use your audio and share that across our channels?” And really, again, like you said, humanizing and making that human connection with that individual student and with the community at large.
Jared: Yeah. That was a really good way of kind of framing that. At the end of the day, what’s your goal with this live media? If it is part of a series, if it is part of an ongoing show or program, then it’s a little easier to answer this on a one on basis. It’s when you’re looking at one event at a time, that you haven’t ever done an Instagram story before or Facebook Live program before, that you’re going to have to think through this a little bit clearer and recognize that nothing is going to really happen right away.
But you know, like you were just saying, you just think through what’s going to happen as a result. What do you want to happen? There’s always going to be an opportunity to explore topics that you haven’t before.
Mariah: Right. Absolutely. Now, when you’re thinking about Jared and when Jared is not at work, what are some of the channels that you like to go to to engage with live media from some of your favorite organizations and brands?
Jared: What I used to do, I mean I used to be on Twitter a lot. I will tell you, since the beginning of this year, I’ve I focused more on LinkedIn because I’ve seen more live videos on LinkedIn because they just enabled that feature for everybody recently. And I can’t recall. It seemed like it was somewhere last year. But LinkedIn recently made that feature available to everybody.
And it seemed like after the New Year, this year, that I have seen for the first few weeks of the year, I was seeing a new one every week and I love it. I love the authentic nature. There’s a lot of B2B knowledge sharing that’s happening there. And, just overall, like business and career advice that’s happening there. I think it’s cool. I think it’s awesome. I love it. So, I’m actually spending more time there because I’m just seeing what types of things people are talking about there.
And a lot of it has to do with, at the end of the day, LinkedIn might be a recruiting tool, but it’s very much a business and career development opportunity.
Mariah: I would totally agree, and we’ve seen a lot of organizations really jumping in with LinkedIn as well, thinking about that higher ed marketing, where you’re talking about graduate students and master’s programs. These are working professionals who already out there on LinkedIn, probably are already engaged with or are kind of poking around, looking at your brand. So, capturing them in that moment. And I’ll be quite honest, LinkedIn really is the only place that I look at video, because it has really a nice transcription features and, captioning features rather, has those really nice captioning features that just make it easy to engage on your phone when you’re sitting at the bus stop or what have you, without having to necessarily listen.
Jared: Yeah. That’s key. So, I guess that’s one reason why I’ve been spending time there as well. Facebook Live, I think it’s been around long enough. It totally depends on who it is that’s on it. I don’t really spend as much time on it as I used to.
The Instagram stories, why I keep coming back to that is that there’s such a potential there. I think there’s still a stigma for those who have not lived there in Instagram to think that it’s really not a B2B player, maybe not a higher ed player. But I’m telling you, almost everyone that you would target as somebody to be involved with your organization probably is on Instagram. And who are they looking at the most? Where are they spending most of their time is with the stories of those who are publishing on a regular basis. And by regular, I mean, like, daily.
It’s very common for those if they don’t publish almost every day that they almost get lost and it’s crazy. But there are, there’s so many who just excel at it, and it doesn’t have to be totally scripted and doesn’t have to be very long, either. It can be a couple of minutes. But the fact that somebody blogs on Instagram, and they’re like, “Okay, good. Mariah’s on there. Good. She’s got another story today.” It almost doesn’t even matter what it is, it’s crazy the amount of attention spent there.
So, I’m digging in there, and what’s interesting is, I think we even touched on this a little bit in our last interview, was that there are so many med students who are on there—and they’re not talking about med school. Some are, but they’re making it known. “I’m a third-year, I’m a fourth-year med student. I’m a resident. Here’s my status.” But then they’re talking about fashion, they’re talking about their pets, they’re talking about their travel, they’re talking about their relationships. And there are so many out there. So, if anyone wants a great place to start, I would always recommend that. I think that’s only going to keep growing.
Mariah: Really wonderful outlet, too, for university and colleges to engage with those students to show their support, to show that they care about them as a human person and not just as, “Jane Smith, med student.” She is “Jane Smith, avid surfer, or cat mom” or whatever that might be, and really developing that helps to carry them, not only through their career because, as we all know, medical school is incredibly stressful and difficult and time consuming. Knowing that your organization really cares about you personally has just got to bear so much weight with those students.
Mariah: Well, thank you so much, Jared, for your time today. And please feel free to connect with us if you ever have any questions about getting started with live media. Just go to stamats.com and get ahold of us there. Thanks for listening today.
Want more from Jared Johnson? Read this next: How Medical Schools Can Leverage Social Media Influencers
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