Using Live Social Media to Cover Events

Tricom frequently recommends using a mix of free media and viral communication via the Internet to promote their issues. One highly effective low-cost method of viral communication is liveblogging, an umbrella term to encompass live tweeting,  blog updates, video feeds, Facebook posts or any other live interaction over social media.

Some of the most popular live coverage events are seminars, conferences, speeches, news conferences, marches and rallies.

We recognize the impact of instant updates. In May 2013, the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported that 72 percent of online adults in the United States use social media, up from 67 percent in late 2012. When adjusted for age, 92 percent of Internet users ages 18 to 29 use social media. This high usage translates into even higher percentages of users as time goes on. Tricom has worked to integrate live updates on Facebook, blog sites, Twitter and video streams to capture this growing audience.

Our VP Marco Trbovich won't let a little rain stop him from liveblogging the UWMA rally Liveblogging gives readers a sense of urgency and immediacy, a trait readers seek out more and more. “On fast moving stories, live blogs give the ability to post significant developments quickly – more quickly than editing and re-editing a news article,” writes Wells in his Guardian article “How live blogging has changed journalism.” Live blogging also allows multiplatform engagement: livebloggers can include photos and videos from the scene, links to additional content or background, and comments from other users.

Liveblogging is also a low-cost, high-return form of interaction. Facebook, Twitter and the live video stream website Ustream are free to use for their basic offerings.

Here at Tricom, we think liveblogging is vital when covering an event for clients. Since the beginning of 2013, we have worked with the United Mine Workers of America to broadcast their rallies across the nation to viewers unable to attend. We paired the live video stream with live tweets and Facebook photos and posts. These rallies were held in support of coal miners whose legacy health care and pensions have been threatened by Peabody Energy and Patriot Coal.

We helped the UMWA grow their viewership over the course of the past eight months. Their main Facebook account gained more than 2,400 likes in this time. The account created for this campaign, Fairness At Patriot, gained more than 3,200 likes since January 2013.

Views of the live-streamed rallies soared to more than 2,000 viewers, with 61 subscriptions to the Ustream channel monitoring service. On average, each rally broadcast attracts a few hundred viewers.

While implementing the liveblogging plan set forth between Tricom and the UMWA, we encountered many challenges and hurdles. The largest hurdle we came across was a lack of strong broadband wifi or cell phone data service in many of the areas the UMWA held rallies. To combat this, we purchased a handful of personal, prepaid wifi connections to strengthen or provide 3G/4G access to update blogs and stream video. Despite the connection difficulties, we helped grow viewership of the streamed rallies, as evidenced by a spike in viewer counts and engagement on Facebook and Twitter.

Another challenge presented by this method of communication is the quantity of updates needed to carry a live rally. The UMWA manages two Facebook accounts, two Twitter accounts, one Blogspot blog and up to three live video feeds, resulting in up to eight social accounts needing updates throughout the rally. We used Hootsuite, a free, online Twitter management tool, to manage both of the Twitter feeds simultaneously. We assigned one to two people to update the Blogspot blog with well-written blog posts, one to two people to the Twitter feeds and one person to update the Facebook feeds throughout the rally. This resulted in well-rounded, timely representations of the rally supplementing the live video feed.

Just recently, the UMWA and Peabody Energy (parent corporation of Patriot Coal) came to a large settlement, clearing the way for continued funding of retiree healthcare. This settlement comes partially as a result of the pressure placed on Peabody executives by the social media campaign and rallies held outside of many Patriot Coal and Peabody Energy offices.