Social Media - Livestreaming - November 2017

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Facilities can connect with customers by livestreaming, but should remain alert when guests do it themselves

by Mike Bederka

Jordan Carter livestreamed the season opening of Boulder Beach water park at Silverwood Theme Park this June. The Facebook Live video simply consisted of him walking around the Athol, Idaho, facility with his phone in hand, giving a tour, sharing upcoming promotions, and urging the steadily growing audience to send him questions to answer. Viewers asked about tips for visiting, height restrictions, ticket prices, and more. By the end, the stream racked up an impressive 20,000-plus views.

“I didn’t know what kind of engagement we would get, but it surpassed our expectations, for sure,” says Carter, director of marketing at the park. “We knew we had something we wanted to keep doing.”

The park followed the debut video with livestreams that offered unique behind-the-scenes looks at the Fourth of July fireworks show setup and the making of the park’s TV commercial. The facility also created a giveaway, where guests entered to win free tickets to Silverwood if they liked the stream and added a comment. This one received a whopping 85,000 views and was shared roughly 2,000 times.

“The biggest benefit is the engagement,” says Carter, who handles the livestreaming duties. “Our fans and followers can ask questions, and we can answer them right there. Plus, it makes the park feel a little more ‘human.’”

Ashley Irvine, lead host of the live theme park video talk show ParkChatLIVE, agrees, saying streaming allows venues to connect with their audience instantaneously and unedited. 

“There’s a sense of realism,” says Irvine, based in Brisbane, Australia. “Livestreaming gives facilities the opportunity to reach out to their customers in a way that has never been done before.”

SILVERWOOD THEME PARK

At Silverwood Theme Park, the marketing team livestreams planned events but may one day livestream an unconventional interview while riding a roller coaster. (Credit: Silverwood Theme Park)

How to Get Started

Parks do not need to blow their marketing budgets to effectively livestream, Carter says. He just bought a gimbal to hold his phone steady, and a couple external microphones to help with the audio. In the future, he might affix a mount so he can livestream an unconventional interview with a general manager while riding a roller coaster. 

For those who want to further step up the production, Irvine recommends a dedicated video camera with an external mic connected to a computer or streaming dongle.

Both Carter and Irvine suggest Facebook Live as the best platform to work with. “Without a doubt, it’s the No. 1 way to effectively reach a lot of live viewers with minimum fuss and preparation,” says Irvine, noting that with Facebook’s scheduling feature, broadcasters can give their audiences up to a week’s notice of a pending stream.

YouTube, however, tends to be higher quality and more reliable compared to Facebook, Irvine says. It also allows attractions to edit the video—including trimming the length—following the live airing.

Livestreaming FAQs

Do you need to notify customers you will be livestreaming? 

Most attractions have language on their tickets or signage at entrances that advise guests that filming for marketing purposes may occur during the day, says attorney Erik Beard of Wiggin and Dana LLP. That’s generally sufficient warning to people who would prefer not to appear in a livestream.

How long should the livestream last?

Silverwood’s Jordan Carter aims for 15 to 20 minutes: “You have to give people time to jump on and watch.” 

How should an attraction handle negative comments during a livestream?

Try to put a positive spin on mildly negative remarks, Carter says. So, if someone writes it looks too crowded, suggest a tip like, “Come visit on a Wednesday, and the lines probably won’t be as long.” If you receive a glut of comments related to the video quality or presenting style, try listening to the feedback and make improvements for the future, says Ashley Irvine of ParkChatLIVE. Ignore obscene comments and then delete them later if the park posts a recorded version of the video, Carter says.

What are the most common mistakes facilities make with livestreaming?

Irvine points to a few main issues: livestreaming without planning; doing multiple short videos because of confusion on when the event will actually start; holding the phone in vertical mode; having poor audio; and not focusing on making the video interesting to viewers.

Find a Purpose

Attractions should have a goal in mind when conducting a livestream. That is why Carter moved quickly away from merely wandering around the water park in favor of more planned events. For instance, he filmed a park magic show, enticing audiences with just a snippet of the opening trick.

“You don’t want to give them everything,” he says. “Whet their appetite, and leave them wanting more.”

Carter also says the narrator should momentarily flip the phone to selfie mode and introduce him or herself right when the video begins. This way, the audience has a face to match with the voice.

Enforce the Rules

Attraction staff may not be the only ones doing the livestreaming; guests sometimes like to capture their experiences with this medium. This could become problematic in certain situations, says Erik Beard, an attorney who focuses on amusement counseling and litigation with the firm Wiggin and Dana LLP in Hartford, Connecticut.

It would be tough to police a complete livestream ban throughout the park, Beard says. Instead, he suggests restricting it in certain areas (for example, spots that already ban photography).

Existing signage prohibiting photography or filming on rides is probably sufficiently broad to cover streaming, he says. However, attractions may want to consider adding a specific reference to “streaming video” when installing new signs or rehabbing a ride. Vigilant employees also must be trained to politely, but firmly, enforce the rules and ask the phone be put away if they catch someone livestreaming while on a restricted ride.

SILVERWOOD THEME PARK

Silverwood’s marketing team used Facebook Live, a popular livestreaming platform, to broadcast the season opening of Boulder Beach water park in June. (Credit: Silverwood Theme Park)

Take Action When Necessary

The stakes are raised if an incident happens, and people whip out their phones to broadcast the event unfolding.

Beard recommends attractions take the following steps if someone livestreams such an incident:

1. Employees can ask guests to stop streaming out of respect for the privacy of those involved. Many people will understand these concerns once they’re pointed out. 

2. If they refuse, staff can become firmer about insisting the streaming end if the guests are in a posted “no photography” area. “Employees should not, however, physically take phones or cameras or become aggressive with guests who refuse to stop streaming,” Beard stresses.

3. Facilities may engage in crowd control to move bystanders away from the area so they cannot easily stream the situation. This would include evacuating waiting guests from the queue and station areas, and blocking access to parts of the midway from which the scene may be visible.

4. While not guest related, a venue’s emergency response plan may specify that a nonessential employee monitors social media in the moments after an incident for livestreams and record any found. These videos might contain evidence that could be useful in a subsequent investigation or litigation, but they may be lost if not immediately captured.

“In the wake of an incident, the park’s concern should be the health, safety, and privacy of the guests and employees involved, and in preserving the scene for a subsequent investigation,” Beard concludes. “To the extent that a guest livestreaming a video of the incident interferes with these concerns, the park should discourage its use.”