Facebook Live: An effective engagement tool or PR disaster waiting to happen? | Proactive PR - Communications that count

Facebook Live: An effective engagement tool or PR disaster waiting to happen?

In today’s social media driven society, the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are striving to gain a competitive edge in their market and provide consumers with the newest tools.

Among the most recently developed tools is Facebook Live, which allows users to stream a live video on their phone directly to their Facebook page. Social media giant Facebook has described its latest development as “a fun, powerful way to connect with your followers and create new ones along the way.”

For personal use, the tool is a new and exciting way to share your experiences with your Facebook friends; live streaming from a concert, sharing your latest make-up tutorial, or celebrating a significant event with your friends. But, is Facebook live an effective tool for businesses with larger audiences?

Companies are using the platform as a new and innovative way to engage with their customers, giving them insight into an event they are holding, teasing a product before its official launch, or revealing what a day in the company consists of.  For these companies, the benefits of live streaming include drawing more attention to their brands and the stream being placed higher up on a user’s timeline than other content would be.

In the Public Relations industry, however, success is measured by the quality of what people are saying, not the quantity of people talking about the organisation. This means Facebook Live is potentially a very risky tool for businesses with large audiences; while it may attract attention to their brands, it can also open them up to criticism. A larger organisation has even more at stake – after building and nurturing its brand and reputation, it could all be jeopardised by one mistake made on a live stream.

We don’t have to look too far to see evidence of this potential problem already. Global brands such as Benefit Cosmetics, Dunkin’ Donuts and Disney have benefited from the tool, creating a pioneering example for other brands to follow in their footsteps. However, fast-food chain McDonalds admitted it was dubious of the criticism it might receive if it was to broadcast its own live stream. To celebrate National Hamburger day, the company constructed a live stream of a Bob Ross-style art show, in which more than 80% of feedback was positive.

However, Buzzfeed’s first live stream had the opposite effect. The American internet company managed to arrange a live stream with one of the most influential figures in society, former American President Barack Obama, which went horribly wrong after the stream stalled only two minutes into the broadcast. This caused disappointment among the 35,000 viewers, who had waited for the live stream. Buzzfeed then directed its viewers on Facebook to watch the interview on YouTube, suggesting it is the more efficient live video service.

The potential risk with live streaming is there is no room for mistakes, which is out of control due to the videos being instant. Once something is on the internet, it can not be unseen.

But is that arguably the tool’s biggest selling point for viewers? The thrill of knowing anything can happen.

This blog was written by Proactive Pathway student Callie Sowerby, from the University of Lincoln

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