As the world shifts and morphs underneath us, so too must we change course. In a now socially distant physical world, we are tasked with the challenge of finding new ways to connect with each other and with our audience virtually. Through the power of technology and collaboration, I’m confident this is a challenge we can and will overcome.
To spark that collaboration, we gathered up some of the most brilliant minds in the digital, livestream and production space for a roundtable discussion on how to effectively engage a virtual audience. The conversation that emerged laid the groundwork on how to not only overcome the challenge ahead of us, but how to enhance audience engagement overall and come out stronger than before.
Below we pulled out seven of the top highlights from the conversation as well as some out-of-the-box ideas you can implement immediately. You can also watch the entire conversation here or listen to it on the #Storyteller Podcast on Spotify and Apple.
Make it Interactive
“It’s not just about lean back TV. If it were, then you could just have VOD content. The live streaming platforms allow you two way connectivity.”
— Blake Morrison, Executive Producer at Ripplebox
The starting point and centerpiece of any virtual campaign should be to drive interaction with your audience. Providing “lean back TV” as Blake puts it may help to entertain and fill the time, but is that passive viewing really creating the connection you want with your audience? If you instead provide content with a call-to-action that prompts the audience to respond and interact, now you’re creating a meaningful connection that lasts longer than the length of that video or campaign.
Whether it’s a livestream like the example below or a campaign run purely on your website/mobile app, make it interactive. Ask for questions to answer on air; provide a poll to vote on; encourage fans to send in photos/videos you can then display and connect with.
Now is the Time for Experimentation
“What we have the opportunity to do now is try a lot of those things that traditionally, you wouldn’t have had the bandwidth to try because you’re so full with engaging that hardcore fan…Here you can actually flex that creative muscle a little more.”
— Nick Cicero, VP Strategy at Conviva
Though it’s certainly a strange and uneasy time right now, it’s also an opportunity to experiment and be creative. Use this time to try something new, and you might just find something you can expand upon for years to come.
Maybe your event is moving to an online stream, maybe you’re going to have to host games without fans in attendance, or you only have historical games to air; think outside the box and find a way to keep your audience involved. One way you could do that is through a virtual second-screen watch party with on-air talent, athletes, and/or industry experts commentating on the event and incorporating viewer insights through social media. Taking it a step further, you could even make the entire event virtual like NASCAR did with iRacing.
Don’t Worry About Being Perfect
“Your first podcast is probably going to be pretty bad. Your first live stream is probably going to be a little sketchy. But it’s just getting out there and trying it…This is the time now where nobody is going to judge you for lack of quality. They’re just going to applaud you for going out there and trying.”
— David Brickley, CEO at STN Digital
As you start to experiment with new creative ideas, don’t focus on trying to make everything perfect. Now more than ever, your audience is simply looking for content to consume and for a place to connect with the rest of your community. Work on first giving them that medium and then iron out the wrinkles from there.
If you’re just getting started and have questions or want any recommendations, feel free to reach out to email@example.com.
Put the Camera on Yourself, and Go Live
“Leaning on employee generated content…put the camera on yourselves. Maybe this is a great time to go interview a GM, or a coach. Those guys and girls are looking for ways to stretch their wings and stay relevant.”
— Lauren Teague, Strategist at Convince & Convert
If you’re stuck on where to start, leverage the resources around you. Turn the camera on and go live! As Lauren laid it out, execs, athletes, and employees alike are available at home to chat and help out. Ask your audience for questions to drive the interview, or have them send in an MTV cribs style video of their home work (or workout) space.
Dip into the Archive
“It’s really hard to get over the hump internally of people thinking that the newest stuff is the best stuff. You can get two talents, get their favorite MLB moments of all time, use polling, and one of them wins. There’s a ton of easy gains using the tools you have.”
— Katie Richman, Social Video Program Manager at Facebook
No need to reinvent the wheel here and create brand new content for everything. Use historical moments from your company or industry’s past and put a new spin on them. Set up a poll to vote on the greatest dunk or product of the last decade. Re-air an old game but add in live commentary. Leverage the past to power the present and reconnect with your fans today.
Engage Your Consumers by Giving Back
“How can we now engage people? They’re not coming into the seats. They’re not coming to our restaurants. They’re not coming and doing business as they used to. Our cash flow as brands are down. Projections are looking dim. But this is an excellent opportunity to engage your consumers online. Give them a sweepstakes. A sports team, in my opinion, should be giving away a pair of tickets a day until COVID is over.”
— Tim Glomb, VP Content and Digital at Cheetah Digital
Just because you don’t have current events happening to connect with consumers, doesn’t mean you can’t promote future events and engage with them virtually today. Set up digital contests and sweepstakes to generate conversation, keep your audience optimistic about the future, and reward them for supporting you.
Build a Brand New Audience
“Reddit in the beginning for folks is often a very top of funnel exercise. In that there’s a huge amount of reach, it’s a great way to drive awareness. But we work people down that funnel with you because you create loyalty, that creates clicks, that creates audience.”
— Gabriel Sands, Sr. Partnerships Manager at Reddit
Whether it’s Reddit, TikTok, YouTube, or any other platform you haven’t had a chance to really focus on, now is the time to try and reach a new audience because they are out there listening. Open up an AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread or start a photoshop contest on Reddit. Start a new TikTok challenge or make training videos on YouTube.
Experiment with your content and with the platform you distribute it on. You may just discover a brand new group of people who want to interact and grow your supporters for years to come.