Zuckerberg Suits up for Obama

by Lauren Picarello 21 Apr 2011 Blog Post

How Brands Can Suit up for Customers Using Facebook Live

By: Lauren Picarello, Joe Pinaire, and Allison Squires

Yesterday’s Facebook Live Townhall with President Barack Obama and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg prompted a lively discussion in our Austin office. Not only about Zuckerberg’s shirt and tie, but our social business take on how the live event went down.

It made us think: If we were going to host a Facebook Live event for a client, how would we do it? Our goal: optimize the Facebook platform to make the most of this opportunity.

First off, here’s what we liked about yesterday’s event:

  • Real-time engagement. Real-time engagement allowed for participation from multiple audiences: in-person, Facebook and select online destinations like whitehouse.gov. All audiences could watch and simultaneously interact with the event by commenting (806 Facebook comments), replying to others or “liking” posts (1,113 Facebook likes) (See below: Figure 1).

  • Viewer-reported metrics. The channel allowed for engaged viewers to ask the President questions from a predetermined subset of topics. Although the President fielded an underwhelming number of questions from the Facebook Live virtual audience, Facebook and perhaps the President captured valuable viewer-reported data (i.e. city, state and age) via the question functionality (See below: Figure 2). Applying this demographic data to the question topic chosen will yield valuable insight into policy matter and sentiment. From a strategist standpoint, the data set collected would ideally be used to inform the President’s strategy — as it could a brand’s — social or otherwise.

  • Sharing buttons. The event offered multiple ways for viewers to share their experience: Facebook, Twitter, email and embedding in the actual channel. In allowing viewers to spread the word, the program’s reach was extended. By now, most brands understand that including sharing buttons is among the bare essentials for improving amplification of any social experience.
  • Employee involvement. As the event host, it was a nice touch to not only see Facebook employees in the audience but to hear from them directly during the Q&A. For us, it helped humanize the “big Facebook machine.” How often do we get to hear from those behind-the-scenes at Facebook’s headquarters? Thinking about our clients, customers may not need to get to know your corporate employees, but there’s always something more a brand might reveal to get closer to its audience.

Opportunities moving forward:

  • Provide direction without constraining the content. The content during the live event was limited. During the Obama town hall, viewers were provided five buckets to choose from when submitting a question during the event: The Economy, Fiscal Responsibility, Innovation, Women in Technology and Startup America (See below: Figure 3). Although there was also an “Other” category provided, the buckets make the agenda fairly clear. If viewers had a question about the War in Afghanistan, they definitely were not encouraged to ask it. It’s important to leave question fields open-ended in order to maximize activity, yield real data and mitigate potential backlash.

  • Aggregate unused questions and respond publicly. Unused questions should be aggregated for experts to respond to after the town hall. If questions go unanswered, it has negative implications for the brand. Public, timely and informed responses by people on the brand side whether it be via Facebook, blog posts or video messages, heighten an organization’s image and leave event participants with positive sentiment toward the brand.
  • Set your brand up for success: customize and position. Facebook and Livestream did not take full advantage of viewership. To most effectively communicate the brand’s message, organizations should work with Facebook to add layers of specificity to the event constructs. In yesterday’s case, let’s look at the automated Twitter message made available on the event page (See below: Figure 4). The pre-populated tweet for Livestream viewers to share via the Facebook event page was, “watching FacebookGuests,” rather than a more specific and inclusive message such as “watching President Obama during his first-ever Facebook Live town hall event.”

President Obama’s Facebook Live Townhall illustrates the simplicity, yet often overlooked nature of many social tactics. Facebook and Livestream have done a good job optimizing the platform, but brands should never forgo doing their own due diligence in such engagements. As such, it will be interesting to see how future events are customized to fit not only a brand’s needs, but more importantly the needs of their audience. For brands thinking about optimizing the Facebook platform, Obama’s event should serve as a reminder to remember the details and to deploy unique tactics that make the most sense for the audience within the event’s context.