WPBT: Facebook Live Events

WPBT check please.JPGLive Facebook events have become an innovative way for stations to engage communities and take part in online program discussions. Miami, Florida's WPBT2 has already produced four live FB events since May. Most recently, they have conducted live chat following the local program Changing Seas . We have asked WPBT2 to describe their experience with Live Facebook events.
What is a Live Facebook Event?
"Our live Facebook events involve a preview showing of a program before its first broadcast." Jack Kelly, WPBT2's Vice President for Production explains, "Think of it as a preview event for our virtual community." 
"We stream the event and use the Facebook chat feature to create conversation." To help facilitate and answer questions during the online chat session, conversation participants include the producer and either a host from the program or program experts. In the Changing Seas FB event, scientists who appeared in the program were part of the live chat session. Chat sessions usually last about an hour.

The integral part for the event is having an active Facebook page and fans of the station or program that you could invite to the premiere. WPBT2 maintains a station Facebook page in addition to separate Facebook pages dedicated to a program. WPBT2 uses the station Facebook page to host the live event.

Despite being a free platform, Facebook has a suite of tools that are required:
•    FB's social plug-ins, specifically their "live stream" application
•    FB's Static FBML application
•    FBML, (Facebook's coding language)
•    The 'live stream' application was used as the chat platform during the event
•    And last, but not least, your server for streaming the program.

For WPBT2's FB events no outside funding was used, but as far as staffing, be prepared to dedicate about three staff members for the page creation and administration of each event. Jacqueline Gutierrez, WPBT2's Social Media Specialist who built the page, was responsible for the admin side of the event. Other roles involved were WPBT2's interactive manager on the tech and video player end and the station graphic design for the page design. Two weeks were allotted for actual event promotion. 

Currently it takes WPBT2 about one week to set up and host a live Facebook event.  Work flow, Jaqueline advises, is "to start off with a solid workflow plan. It is very easy to spend days troubleshooting the details of your event page. Make sure all tasks and details are laid out before you start working on the event." 

How successful has it been?
According to Jack, "During the last event for Changing Seas, we made a direct ask of support for the series during the chat. I suggested that if folks were enjoying this event that they consider supporting it by going to WPBT2's main page and click on the donate button. We had one person donate $250...It was rewarding to have someone step forward to support the station's original content."

Engaging the Community
During the recent FB preview of Changing Seas, Jack reports, "One of the folks asked if teachers could use the program in the classroom. We said yes, but we would need help in developing the appropriate lesson plans. One of the folks volunteered their education staff to assist us in this." 

 "We use the event to reach an audience who might not traditionally watch our [on air programs]. It is a way to engage them in real time conversations about a subject that they are interested in or passionate about - that's why they are fans."

Next Event
WPBT check please.JPGWPBT2 will follow up the Changing Seas FB event with Check, Please! South Florida. It will revisit one of its most popular episodes. Host Chef Michelle Bernstein will lead the live chat conversation with some well-known guest reviewers: radio talk show hosts Paul & Young Ron, TV journalist Julia Yarbough, and Palm Beach Post gossip columnist Jose Lambiet.

Feel free to check out the event on July 22nd at 8:00 pm. If you have any questions for WPBT, Jack Kelly, or Jacqueline Gutierrez or have your own Facebook event experience to share, please leave a comment below.  

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