By Tim Akimoff, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
As the former Digital Director at Chicago Public Media, host company of “This American Life” and “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” I got a lot of questions from smaller public radio stations about how to play catch-up on social media if you don’t have an Ira Glass or a Peter Sagal on staff.
My standard response: Don’t play catch-up, play leapfrog.
That has become my main response when social media coordinators from state fish and wildlife agencies ask me about how to do social media well for conservation and fish and wildlife management.
The hottest thing going on social media right now is live-streaming. If I could do only one thing on social media every day to connect with my audience, this would be it.
Why? Because live-streaming allows you to connect to all of your audience instead of just the few selected by Facebook’s algorithm. It’s immersive, it allows your audience to see and do what you’re doing. It’s now, which means it’s messy and unprepared, which makes up the bulk of videos we watch every day on YouTube anyway. We’re used to that kind of video, because it looks like us.
Because it’s authentic.
When you’re live-streaming, you can’t hide anything. You have to deal with information in real time. And if you do it right, it’s the most authentic way you can connect with your audience. You can bring out the personalities in your agency and answer questions far more directly than you can through any other medium.
So now that I’ve convinced you to start live-streaming for your agency, what are you supposed to do exactly?
Live-streaming is easy to do when the perfect opportunity presents itself. I was in the Umpqua National Forest doing some video work for some social media posts about our black-tailed deer research, when I noticed I had good enough bandwidth to go live.
Rather than filming one of our biologists ducking into the trap to show how it works, I asked her if she’d be willing to demo it live. She was up to the task and did an amazing job of telling the story of the research while acting out what it’s like for a deer to access the trap.
But opportunities like that are few and far between. You won’t always have good connectivity to go live when an opportunity arises. And since you can’t always plan for the unknowns, it’s a great idea to have some live-stream options on a weekly or monthly calendar to keep you going.
I’m currently building out a live-stream calendar that coincides with our hunting and fishing calendar. I put the dates of the season starts and mark a day about a week in advance where we’ll talk to our wildlife and fish managers live during the lunch hour or late in the afternoon to accommodate as many people as possible.
We’re also getting ready to build what we hope will be a live-streamed version of our Recreation Report each week.
Most recently, we began to live-stream segments of our Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission meetings to expand our audience. Eventually we hope to do live-streamed question and answer sessions with the commissioners during their breaks.
Most recently we’ve been doing live-streams from various ODFW-managed or funded properties to show what habitat restoration looks like. Some of these properties won’t be open to the public for a few years during the habitat-restoration process, so this is a great way to help them understand what’s happening in the meantime.
How to Live-stream
There are several platforms you can live-stream on, including Twitter’s own Periscope as well as its top competitor, Meerkat. To live-stream on Twitter, you’d need to download either Periscope or Meerkat from the Google Play store or the iTunes store. Log in to them with your agency’s Twitter account and follow the instructions to live-stream.
But the big dog of live-streaming is Facebook, for obviously reasons. For most fish and wildlife agencies, Facebook is the largest social media platform we use, and therefore reaching your audience on that platform is vital.
To live-stream on Facebook, you simply open your agency’s Facebook page and select the Live button beneath the camera. It will give you a chance to title your live-stream, and once you push record, it will give you a three-second countdown to recording.
You can also live-stream on YouTube as well as many other platforms, but chances are these don’t have as large an audience as your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
What to Live-stream
There are so many opportunities for live-streaming fish and wildlife management as well as conservation, from live-streamed press releases to live-streamed wildlife roundups and live-streamed hatchery tours, but it’s good to remember a few vital things before you press record.
- Try to stabilize your phone on a tripod if you can. Shaky video is all right, but smooth video will make it easier for people to pay attention.
- Live-stream horizontally whenever you are able to. That way your video can easily be incorporated into other projects.
- Try to make sure your subject isn’t looking directly into the sun.
- Start your video on you and introduce the topic before flipping your camera to the outward facing camera. It helps people to understand who is talking as well as to understand what they are going to see.
- Try to live-stream for at least 10 minutes. It can take a while to build up an audience and get questions flowing.
- Ask your audience if your audio level is good and make adjustments accordingly.
- If you’re taking a tour, try to keep the area in front of you clear and give your audience a chance to process things by going up close and panning your camera when you can.
- Even though I told you to live-stream for at least 10 minutes, make sure to go only as long as the topic is interesting to talk about, then get out of the stream.
- Try to let people know when you’ll be live-streaming if you can by posting a reminder in advance.
Live-streaming is, of course, a challenge to start doing. Building an idea calendar can help prioritize live-stream events and opportunities. As with everything, practice makes perfect. Or at least as close to perfect as you can get when you’re live. The key to it is that being perfect doesn’t matter, and if you can get comfortable just having great conversations and answering questions with your phone up at face level, you’ll have the best free opportunity to connect with large portions of your audience available.
Please feel free to contact me with questions or live-stream ideas. I’m always happy to try and answer questions and brainstorm ideas with you – Timothy.A.Akimoff@state.or.us>.