In an unprecendented use of social media for any U.S. President, President Obama’s first-ever Oval Office address, broadcast live via YouTube, was followed by a live Q&A by the President’s Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs. This was nothing short of a press conference for the people (not the media) by the Administration’s top Communicator.
Throughout the day leading up to the President’s address about the BP oil spill, the White House social media team prepped The White House YouTube channel and Web site by integrating Google’s Google Moderator product to create a forum for the public to ask questions about the disaster, which would be answered by Gibbs. Wow!
Though I only found out about this historic Q&A a few minutes before the President’s address via the White House web site, I quickly logged into Google Moderator below the live stream window to add my questions before the Q&A with Gibbs began. Viewers who logged into Moderator were able to submit and vote for questions they liked the most (popular ranking), which helped determine which questions would be answered by Gibbs.
The metrics were impressive! The number of votes, questions submitted and people logged on mostly doubled from the time the live Q&A started to when it was finished. Video-based questions were also shown and answered as well. Within 30 minutes the vote count went from 67k to 172k, the number of questions moved up from 3,350 to 6,342 and the number of people logged in jumped from 7,385 to over 13k. (These metrics were publicly visible.) And though these are low numbers considering that there are over 300 million Americans, it demonstrates the American people’s interest in feeling a more direct connection with what is going on in Washington in an unprecedented way – beyond voting. I suspect that better promotion about this opportunity would have attracted a larger audience.
Lessons For Business
Though press conferences continue to be an important way for businesses to communicate their messages to a wide audience, the value of communicating directly with your customers/community members through a live stream presentation and Q&A is important as well. Give your community members access directly to your spokespeople and some of your executives. You can still screen the messages you want to answer, but you win valuable face-time with interested community members, regardless of whether or not you answer each person’s specific questions.
Placing media in between you and your audience is the old way of thinking about media. Embrace your community directly! Give them the same access and attention you would give to media – but in a more conversational and informal tone. Leverage live streaming and community engagement tools, from moderated forums to twitter live streams visible during the public session with a single hashtag to use whenever you do one of these events.
Adding a live stream communications strategy to your tool set may feel revolutionary at first, but I suspect it will be commonplace very soon. If the President of the Unites State’s spokesperson can do it, surely you can too, with far less at risk. Be a first mover among your competitors!