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Producing Live Webcasts

OVERVIEW
Over the past year, I’ve produced a few webcasts for dance companies. I recently wrote an article about these webcasts, asking questions – mainly – is it worth it?

For this article, I’ve included a few insights and considerations for producing your own webcast.

The examples I will look at include Misnomer’s webcast in December, DanceBrazil’s webcast in March, and another Misnomer webcast in April. Two of these webcasts were done in conjunction with a season, whereas Misnomer’s performance in April was a work in progress showing.

All of these webcasts were done with a few goals in mind.
1. Diversify Audiences (Build New a Audience, online)
2. Expose current audience members and their friends to the work and company (Broaden our reach)
3. Give audience members who already saw the work (Deepen the experience of existing audience members)

Additionally, it was quite important to consider these webcasts as a web event. These webcasts were successful because they were conceived as a web specific piece. Online audience members were excited to chat with each other and experienced a unique event. In preparation for all events, I prepared online media (photos, blog entries, interviews, slideshows). While preparing these materials, I was conceiving a unique online experience. I thought, “What would hyperlinked program notes look like?” and went about publishing and sharing those materials online.

TECHNOLOGY
The technology required was not too complex. For the Misnomer webcasts, I signed up for an account on UStream.tv. For DanceBrazil’s webcast, I partnered with Dance-Tech.net, and used Mogulus (now LiveStream). LiveStrea and UStream.tv are currently very popular solutions for producing a webcast. Both services offer many broadcasting options, including overlays, pre-roll video, and even a webchat. All of these options were great additions to the webcast. However, the webchat proved to be one of the more engaging experiences. While you are doing your webcast, you can also record video, and archive it. This webcast can also be rebroadcast and embedded on other sites and blogs if you wish. In short, it’s like YouTube, but live.

To produce a good webcast, you will need to ensure your video quality is optimal. Invest in a good camera person, and practice. Just like you would do a tech rehearsal for your stage performance, you should do a tech rehearsal for your webcast. You will be connecting your video signal from your camera (or video mixer) to a computer, so you need to make sure the video looks excellent. You should also ensure your internet connection is optimal. I would not recommend doing a webcast with a wifi connection. To ensure the best quality and the highest speed, make sure your laptop or computer is connected to the web via an ethernet cable.

In addition to a videographer, you should also secure at least one solid person to handle all things online. While the videographer is focused on the image quality and overall video shoot, the online moderator will be focused on the web experience, webchat, and quality of the streaming experience.

After you secure your team (and good internet connection), you will simply connect the video signal to your laptop or computer. UStream.tv + LiveStream both have a fairly straight forward interface. As long as you have your video signal connected to your computer (via firewire), and you are signed into your UStream or LiveStream account you can start broadcasting. Like a good videographer, it is imperative you have someone onsite to monitor the online experience, moderate the webchat, and ensure the web experience is optimal.

SURPRISES
The webcast did not take away from ticket sales. I was chatting live with all the online, I did not encounter any online viewers who opted to see the work online instead of in the theater. Many people who were watching the webcast had already seen the work. Also, some viewers of the webcast were not able to see the work, so this was a nice replacement for them.

There were also many viewers from different countries. All three webcasts were produced from New York City. However, we had visitors from over 19 countries including Brazil, Turkey, Israel, Spain, England, Canada, and Germany. For Misnomer’s webcast in December, we had over 1200 viewers. This means that Misnomer had more viewers – online – in 1 night than they had during the entire run during the New York Season.

Another surprise – more people came to the websites after the webcasts. I archived all 3 webcasts online, and offered viewers a chance to see it again. Since many viewers were not able to make the performance or live webcast, they came to see the video after the fact. With DanceBrazil, more people visited DanceBrazil.org the day after the webcast than any other day of the year. Additionally, many people subscribed to DanceBrazil’s email newsletter as a result of the webcast.

Simply stated, the webcasts provided a great experience for current fans and audience members. They were able to connect with the company in a new way, and on their own time. For many new fans, the webcasts gave them a unique way to experience dance, and ask questions. Several viewers had never seen the company’s work live, and this was their first encounter with the work. On the other hand, some people found the video quality inferior, and did not like watching the performance online.

As video quality continues to improve, and audiences continue to diversify, performing arts organizations will have to diversify their methods of presentation. Providing a high quality experience online and in the theater are equally challenging and essential. Producing a webcast for your audiences is a great way to reach new audience members across the globe, and deepen your current audience’s experience online.

SUMMARY
1. Test. Test. And Test. For all webcasts, we did a few tests.
2. Hiring a good camera person is essential.
3. Testing is also critical. Just like you would tech a show before premiering, do a few tech rehearsals with your streaming gear.
4. Make sure your venue has a fast Internet connection. Don’t use wifi to stream.
5. A webcast is markedly different from a stage performance.
6. Prepare online content for your online viewers
7. Make sure you have an online chat moderator who understands the company and the work.

And finally…
Feel free to contact me with any questions.

RELATED LINKS
Article 19 did a nice overview of Misnomer’s webcast in December.
You can take a look at the article here:
http://www.article19.co.uk/06/written_feature/live_on_the_internet.php

Misnomer’s Webcasts can be found here:
http://misnomer.org/live

DanceBrazil’s Webcasts can be found here:
http://dancebrazil.org/

Using Facebook for marketing your Organization

I don’t usually do these “How to use xyz to do abc” kind of posts (or do I?). So while I might be able to write a post on “how to use facebook for marketing your organization,” I’ll spare you. There are many other places you can go for that

HOWEVER – I just saw a post on Danciti and wanted to respond directly.
Here’s the post : http://danciti.com/post/89689559/using-facebook-for-your-organization-well-show-you

The post said “Facebook isn’t a marketing panacea. We’ve never seen hard numbers that show it sells tickets or even holds people’s interest. Sure, it’s free and easy but maybe your limited time would be better spent elsewhere especially if you are over 25 and weren’t born holding a Macbook.”

I am writing to let you know that Danciti is right. You should not be using facebook to market your organization if you’re like 50 years old.

Another thing Danciti is right about – Facebook does not sell tickets.

People sell tickets. But smart people can use facebook to help them sell these tickets (and many other things).

Let me put it in simpler terms. This past season, I ran an online marketing campaign for DanceBrazil. In addition to putting together their site, producing a webcast, and inviting bloggers like Tonya Plank to see the show, I setup a facebook page for the company. I also ran ads on facebook for the company.

Without betraying any implicit confidentiality, I’ll say this. The company received approximately $20 for every $1 I spent on facebook. For example, this means that if we had a budget of $100, the company would have sold $2000 in tickets (via facebook). This, of course, is not as simple as I am breaking it down. I spent alot of time on facebook on behalf of the company. Alot. And by alot, I mean alot. I engaged people. I asked them questions. I listened to them. I reached out to people individually. I built a small audience for DanceBrazil on facebook. And THEN – once I had an engaged audience – I ran ads. On facebook. And we sold tickets. Lots of them. On facebook.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a 25 year old, but I was born holding a Macbook. Also, DanceBrazil is highly interesting to watch. If your product sucks, you’re going to have to spend more money to either make your product not suck, or marketing a sucky product. Either way, it helps to not have a sucky product.

For those interested in a full blown case study (without the words um, like, Macbook, and sucky) …stay tuned…..

Setting up Facebook Ads: Part 1

This past month, I setup a facebook ad campaign for a company. There are many who say that facebook ads do not work. For the purpose of this article, I will disagree with them. The goal for the campaign was to generate awareness about the company on facebook, and it worked.  I was able to target my ad according to age, demographics, interest, price, and schedule. I was also able to track the results of the ad in real time.  

For this test campaign, I budgeted $20/day. As I stated above, my main goals were simply to build awareness of the company, and drive traffic to their facebook page and promote their event on facebook. In a matter of days, the ad appeared on facebook over 300,000 times. 107 people clicked on the ad. In terms of clicks, this is wildly disproportionate to other ad networks like Google. Nonetheless, there was a small, but extremely relevant increase in participation.  Here’s a breakdown of stats

 

Impressions: 328,307 Clicks: 107 Click through rate: 0.03%     total spent: $64.01

I knew the benefit of setting up a campaign on facebook would be the targeting that facebook provides. For example, if I wanted to reach people who are interested in Aerosmith, The Who, and/or The Daily Show, I had the option of doing so. And my ad also appeared ALOT.

If you’re looking for impressions (awareness), facebook is a good platform. If you’re looking for direct conversions (leading to purchases), I would still consider it. However, I would strongly consider running a google adwords campaign at the same time to compare results.

For those interested in running a campaign, I’ve attached some visuals.

Below are a few screenshots of what the ad setup process looks like on facebook. 

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If you’ve run a facebook ad, or are thinking of doing it, let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and questions. What are you looking to advertise? What are your expectations for setting up the ad? What do you want your audience to do?  What kind of results do you expect?

Social Media Strategy

social networks statistics
With a growing number of sites and social networks, how do you decide what networks to join? What strategy should you use? What kind of time will it take? While all these questions are valid, the most useful question is: what will be most useful for me? What will keep me connected to others and others connected with me?

A few tips from a few blogs:

Duct Tape Marketing says:

I think the best way to look at social media is to view it as a way to open up access points. These points can then be leveraged to create content, connection, and community. Do that well, and they can also add to lead generation, nurturing and conversion.
I’ll talk more about this in a free webinar this Wednesday put on by the good folks at Jigsaw, but here are couple point to ponder.

Choose your social media tools with an ideal interaction in mind
– Is a blog a starting point or an ending point?
Choose your social media objectives with connection in mind
– Are you after traffic, primary and secondary links or access to communities that think and act alike?

Jeff Pulver writes about the role of an online “Community Developer”:

A company’s Facebook strategy is just a piece of the answer. It is not the complete answer. At best it is a tactic. And a company’s social media strategy isn’t something which can be entirely outsourced either. When implemented it requires a commitment from the company to support the efforts, not to just press play and walk away and hope for the best.

While I have actively used the term “community” since 1994, and hired a friend in 1999 and gave him a title of “Community Developer” it has taken a number of years for the world to catch on to some concepts I have been taking for granted for years.

It turns out when you decided to put your company “on the Internet”, like it or not, it would be a lifetime commitment to being subject to ongoing change and innovation. What at first was creating a gateway for company email and a website to establish an Internet presence has evolved into being able to leverage the best tools whenever possible when playing in an always-on world of pervasive broadband.

Chris Brogan writes a series of articles on social media. A few of his tips:

1. Social media isn’t that scary, but it is different than what you’ve been doing. For one thing, it’s far more messy, and requires a lot more hand-holding.
2. You have SO MUCH to gain from figuring out some of these tools and the way we’re using them.
3. Blogging isn’t the same as releasing marketing materials.
4. Putting up commercials on YouTube isn’t videoblogging.

I read this article by Britt Parrot some time ago and thought it good enough to repost here:

Social media is not about technology, nor about keeping up with the latest trend. The primary goal of using social media has to be communication, not technology and not viral marketing. A company has phones because it wants employees to be able to talk to other people, not because it wants to be at the “cutting edge of voice-activated, enterprise digital communication systems”—and not because it wants to call everyone in the phone book with a sales pitch! If the main goal for using social media is to be at the cutting edge of technology, or if your client’s eyes light up when they realize they can use social media to send a mass message to followers, it will fail. Social media is part of a long-term communication strategy to build relationships.

Ignite Social Media writes about the difference between a social media campaign and social media strategy:

Social media strategy: A social media strategy should always come before a social media campaign. Ideally, it should come at least six months before the social media campaign. In it, you re-evaluate your internal assets and begin to (a) analyze and (b) engage with the community, but you don’t “ask” for anything in return yet. We did this first for Ignite, and it pays huge dividends.

Social media campaign: A social media campaign derives from a social media strategy. The major difference here is that now you (a) understand the audience that cares about your subject and where they gather, (b) you’ve given quality information away and developed followers, and (c) you now have measurable goals. Now you’re activating people and trying to “get” something.

Effective Use of Webtools

This coming Thursday, the Queens Council for the Arts will be hosting a panel for artists. As one of the panelists, I’ve been asked to address the question, “How to effectively get your message out.”

Essentially – you’ve got a website, a social networking profile, or other online identities – now what?

This past May, I gave a presentation on this very issue.

You can see the presentation here.

And I know – the very challenge we all face is “Not enough time, money, or space.” (Hint: This challenge is not unique to artists). And we also have the inevitable question – do we have to do everything like setup a facebook, myspace account, and linkedIn account?

Simply said, if you’re going to actually use these tools to communicate, then of course – use them. They are popular sites because they are useful tools. But if you’re not going to use it, don’t set it up. It’s like having an email account you never check. Why bother?

My question for you then, the reader, revolves around content production :

  • TOOLS: How do you envision producing content for the web?
  • RESOURCES: What kind of resources do you already have that will enable you to produce this content?
  • MESSAGE: What will this content communicate?
  • ACTION: What response would you like to elicit from your online audiences?
  • PURPOSE: How will this serve your mission and connect to your work offline?

Answering these questions will benefit you much better than answering, what do I do with my MySpace account? If you can answer these questions, you’ll be well on your way to developing your online presence and growing your audience – online and off.

Some Places to start:

1. Start working with a CMS (Content Management System)

If you want to be able to manage and update your website without a web programmer, invest in a content management systems.

I suggest you use one of the following:

  • WordPress (typically a blogging platform, but scalable for large sites) – easy, cheap setup
  • Drupal (open-source) – higher learning curve, large set of functionality
  • Joomla – most popular, though typically more expensive to develop
  • Plone – popular with environmental organizations
2. Create a production calendar, just like you would create for any other work you may have.
3. Start documenting your work online. We’re living in a green-conscious world. We should resuse all we can. Documenting your work online offers you a chance to reuse materials from your process.
This can mean:
  • posting your photos online (I recommend flickr)
  • writing about your process on a blog
  • posting a series of videos online
  • offering tutorials
  • revealing your process as its own art form
4. Offer your audience members a chance for feedback. Be prepared to listen and respond. By offering users + audiences a chance to submit their own content (user-generated content), you relieve yourself the responsibility of producing and uploading content. However, you still have the responsibility of making sure you respond, and participate in the community you are creating.
5. Create a place for experimentation. Your mission will not change from month-to-month. So your basic website should not change drastically from month-to-month, either. However, you do need places to try new things out. Setup a test blog on wordpress, or a personal account on flickr. Begin testing things out for yourself. See what works for you.
The most important thing in building your online presence is to remain open and responsive. With a positive and open attitude, you’ll create possibilities you haven’t even thought of yet!
RELATED LINKS:
For an interesting read, check out 11 Ways to Market your Site

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Networking