Category: higher ed

Lessons learned with Periscope and Facebook Live

I explained in my previous post how we came to start using live social video at William & Mary, now I’ll share some of the lessons learned from our first three broadcasts.

It doesn’t have to be a long planned out project

Our first two broadcasts were scheduled a week or so ahead of time. However, our most recent interview was put together in just a few hours. When all you need is a quiet-ish room, a good WiFi connection, and somewhere stable to put your iPhone, a broadcast can come together pretty quickly.

Have two people on camera if you can

Having two people on a broadcast makes things feel a bit more natural, and allows for some pre-generated questions if your community is quiet. For all three broadcasts we have had two people “on camera”. For the Periscope broadcast we interviewed Professor Settle and one of her research students together. This was great as they were able to interact with both each other and the audience asking questions. Plus, it showcased the relationship between our students and professors and how well they can work together. For the interview with John Dickerson we had asked for questions beforehand but did not receive any. We brainstormed questions in the days before, sent them to him so he had some idea of what we’d be asking, and then used those as the base of the interview the day-of. We followed a similar protocol for the interview with Professor Clemens.

Periscope may have been first, but Facebook Live is much more user friendly

Having comments not disappear is very useful, especially when the person running the broadcast is not the one on camera. For our first broadcast with Professor Settle, I was frantically writing down questions on a notepad as they came in on Periscope while someone else was keeping an eye on Twitter for questions. When something came in I’d raise my hand to get their attention and then read the question out loud off camera. It made things a bit awkward and honestly more stressful as I was afraid I would miss someone’s question.

Always download the raw video

Both Periscope and Facebook Live give you the option to download the raw video to your phone. As much as I’d like to trust these companies to seamlessly save the video for posterity, having a backup is always great. Plus, in the case of Periscope up until a few weeks ago, saving the video to your device was the only permanent copy of the broadcast. This also allows you to put the videos up on YouTube or another video hosting platform to use for other projects.

You must have good WiFi

Securing a solid WiFi connection was the biggest obstacle for us when we did the interview with John Dickerson. The show was being filmed in the historic Wren Building’s Great Hall which had weaker WiFi than Facebook preferred. Facebook won’t even let you start the broadcast if it doesn’t think your connection is sufficient. To ensure we had a good connection I found an ethernet port in a nearby room and ran cable to my MacBook and used that as a private WiFi hotspot to use during the broadcast and it worked great.

Stay stable with a tripod (real or makeshift)

A shaky video can be really annoying for your viewers, so try to avoid holding your device by hand if possible. A tripod is ideal but a makeshift one using books or office supplies will work just as well. The first time we used a file holder that could be placed on a nearby desk that cradled the iPad Air we were using for the broadcast. For the second interview we used a standard tripod with an iPhone 6 held by hand on top (that was a bit more precarious than I’d prefer, but worked nonetheless). For our most recent broadcast we commandeered a small clock stand and a large stack of books to get to our desired height and angle.

You don’t have to use special media equipment (but it’s nice if you have it)

For our first broadcast we used an iPad Air, for the following two we used my iPhone 6. The reason we transitioned was camera quality, the iPhone camera is leagues better than the iPad one overall. We used no external microphones and overall I think the quality and sound were good (or at least, what would be expected for a livestream). Whatever device you’re using, having good, clear audio is key for your broadcast so make sure you check and test this before going live.

We’ve discussed purchasing some external equipment and there are over a dozen live video services out there that integrate with Facebook Live so some improvements may be made (multi-camera options would be amazing) but the simple iPhone works great.

Always test first

We have a dummy Facebook page that we use to test each video before we go live. Before every broadcast we have done a test broadcast. This allows us to know exactly what to expect when going live, check audio quality, lighting, and the WiFi connection.


As you’re setting up your video be aware of how to frame your shot. Facebook Live will crop your video square when showing it in the feed so make sure your subjects are always in that square frame even if you’re filming in landscape. Also when framing your shot, keep in mind how your video will appear in the user’s Facebook feed: no sound. So try to make the visuals interesting on their own without the audio if you can.

Give people time

It will take a minute or two for your audience to get the notification that you’re live (if you’re not on a scheduled time for your broadcast) and folks will need to get onto Facebook and find your page so give them a little time before diving in to whatever the main topic of your video is. Spend this time introducing your topic, who you’re interviewing, what’s happening on campus, etc. Also, around halfway through your video it doesn’t hurt to reiterate whatever you said in your introduction to catch those that may have come in later in the broadcast.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook will be launching a feature allowing you to pre-schedule broadcasts along with a “waiting room” for folks to wait in beforehand. They’re also going to allow two-person broadcasts (so folks from two different locations in the same stream) so that will be a nice new feature whenever it gets released.

Have you tried one of the live social video platforms? What lessons have you learned?


Cross-posted from William & Mary’s University Web & Design Blog.


William & Mary’s forays into live social video

John Dickerson interviewed for W&M's Facebook Live, photo courtesy of Sarah Juliano

Finding great ways to use live streaming social video on campus had been on the agenda of the social media folks at William & Mary since Periscope launched in the spring of 2015. However, no great projects or ideas really materialized, as the ephemeral nature of the Periscope videos made it feel like it was a lot of work for something that would disappear after 24 hours (granted, Snapchat has a similar issue but it is a very different platform, and possibly another blog post).

When Facebook Live entered onto the scene last year and then opened up live video to all people and pages this past April, that seemed like the true tipping point for live social video as the biggest social network was throwing their hat in the ring. This presented a really interesting new (and more permanent) way to communicate with our audiences on social media and I knew this was a tool we needed to be utilizing at W&M.

In University Communications we are always looking for ways to showcase our great faculty and students. Offering a way for our entire community to interact with interesting W&M people in real time (and ideally discuss some of their research) via live social video on platforms where our audiences already existed was a great melding of trying out an new technology and tying in to part of our general social media strategy.

W&M did our first live social video in late March, interviewing Government professor Jaime Settle about politics and social media. We had planned to use both Periscope and Facebook Live simultaneously (because why not just dive in head first and try all the things?), but at that point Facebook Live was still being a bit squirrely as to whether it was available to all pages or not. The day of the broadcast Facebook didn’t cooperate so we just used Periscope.

Our first Facebook Live post was right before graduation in May, when Face the Nation was on campus to interview our chancellor and W&M alumnus Robert M. Gates. John Dickerson, the host of Face the Nation, agreed to “Face the Tribe” in a short interview after they wrapped up filming of the show.

We completed our second Facebook live broadcast yesterday, talking to Government professor Clay Clemens about the the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

I think this new way to interact with our audience and showcase great folks from W&M is definitely staying in the rotation. There have been a few lessons learned from these first forays into live social video and I’ll share those in my next post.

Cross-posted from William & Mary’s University Web & Design Blog


#heweb13 poster: Deciphering Facebook Insights

This year for the HighEdWeb conference I presented a poster, Deciphering Facebook Insights. I received lots of great questions from the attendees and have lots of ideas coming back to W&M both from the poster session, and the conference as a whole. This event is always a great time, with lots of amazing knowledge and educational experiences being shared and it’s also a great opportunity to catch up, in person, with all the folks that I typically only get to interact with via email or Twitter. Definitely looking forward to seeing everyone again in Portland next year (or maybe sooner?).

Recommended Facebook Insights Resources
New Insights
EdgeRank and News Feed
Tips on utilizing the “full” Post and Page Insights data exports

Hey good lookin’…introducing W&M’s new responsive design

Cross-posted from the W&M Creative Services Blog

Back in April we mentioned that we were working on a new responsive design for the main W&M website (, and after a few browser fights (thanks Internet Explorer), a dozen test devices and many hours coding and tweaking, we launched our new design on July 23, 2013. (Grad school sites will follow suit in the coming months.) Now every office, every academic department and every other page on the W&M site adjusts its layout to best accommodate how you are viewing the site, regardless of what device you’re using (desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile).

The announcement

To announce the launch our office made a little stop-motion video (our first!) starring the computers, phones and tablets of various Creative Services staff members:

The motivation

Desktop/laptop view of the W&M website. The green bar on the left is the page navigation, center light tan area is the main content, and the darker tan boxes down the right side are the supplementary content.

The idea behind this change was spurred in large part by the fact that our mobile and tablet visits have gone from less than 2% of our site traffic in 2009 to over 17% of our traffic this summer. With so many mobile and tablet visitors (and more sure to come) we wanted to ensure everyone could easily navigate and view all of the content on our website, not just our homepage (which we made responsive last year).


So what was involved in this redesign? Up first was evaluating which parts of any given page are the most important, and it is, unsurprisingly, the main content. That main content is why you search Google, click a link in a social media post, or work your way through navigation menus. This needs to be front and center (and top) regardless of how you are looking at the website. So, after our global site navigation and header, the most prominent thing you will see is always the main content. We then ordered the rest of the content: page navigation, supplementary content, etc.

The major changes

Tablet view. Here the right column has been moved below the main content area and the top “global” site navigation has been adjusted from one row to three.

As you begin decreasing the width of your browser window we adjust the global navigation to become three columns rather than one row (since the single row will no longer fit).

We then move the right column, which contains “widgets” with photos, Twitter feeds, related links and other supplementary content, down below the main content area.

So, with this first batch of changes nothing is removed, only rearranged to best showcase the content (this is a key feature of responsive design). Once the page width is even narrower, the menu on the left side of the page drops down below the main content as well (keeping its familiar green background for continuity). However, keeping in mind that page navigation is a useful and important part of the page, we provide a “Site Menu” link so you can quickly get to that area when you need to. In between all of these steps the content is stretched to fit the width of the page, and photos and tables are resized to be as visible as possible.

Those with a careful eye may also notice a few style tweaks, all made to enhance the user experience. We removed busy lines from the menus, adjusted the color and size of the content headings, and increased the font size and line height of the content. All of these updates were made to give the site a bit more space to “breathe” and to make things easier to read. We also ensured that our treatment of text links is consistent throughout the site, helping with the overall usability of the site—if a word is bright green (underlined or not) it is always a link.

Cheap as free “mobile version” for all, no app needed

Mobile view. A link to the site menu replaces the menu itself and the main content comes up front and center, with supplementary content following.

One of the best parts about a responsive design is that it is a seamless improvement for the folks creating the web content. Nothing changed in Cascade (our web content management system) from the web editor’s perspective. They still enter their page title, content, photos, links and so forth, just as they always have, except now the content they entered is mobile (and tablet and desktop) “friendly.”

What’s next

Currently our team is focusing on updating our four graduate school sites with their own responsive designs. Along the way we’ll also be making a variety of supporting sites responsive (those W&M sites not hosted in Cascade, like the directoryW&M Experts and W&M Events).

What do you think of our new design?


More than just a social media directory

In my previous post I talked about W&M’s Social Stream(a combination of the latest posts from the College’s official social media channels and a social media directory for all College-related organizations) and how it has evolved since it’s creation two years ago. While writing the code for this, (and truly satisfying my organizing obsession by going through our student club directory and A-Z office listings to ensure that our directory had all of the accounts listed that we could possibly know about) I began thinking “what is the

Photo by quinn.anya

purpose of having this directory?” Yes, like a phone book you can use it to look up a particular organization’s social media channel, but that usually means you already know it exists (either the organization or the channel). But what about if you’re a newly admitted student? Or a newly hired employee? Without even really looking at the particulars of the list it’s easy for them to see W&M is (as so many colleges are nowadays) very present on social media. By seeing this, they can look through the lists and find organizations that they want to connect with, or are interested in joining, in a more personal and interactive way than just visiting their website.

A social media directory isn’t just useful for new folks or for looking up a random account. If you’re in charge of social media for an academic department, you can go through and see what your fellow departments are doing, get ideas, share posts or tweets, perhaps even strike up a conversation with the person behind the page. For Creative Services, I know these lists are invaluable for keeping tabs on the happenings of campus and what our community is currently focused on. By following all of the student organizations on campus you get to hear about the little concert that is happening in the student run coffee house, or about the award a volunteer organization was given for their service, that you may otherwise not hear about. You can then share those stories on your “official” channels, helping your followers and fans feel more connected to campus.

Twitter lists are maintained on the main @williamandmary account for all of the Official-ish and Unofficial accounts and make sure that the main accounts follow every account on the list in an effort to show support for those accounts and what they’re doing.

Every three months Creative Services does an audit of all of the accounts, checking to see whether they have posted anything in the last few months. If a “slogger” (aka, slacking blogger) is encountered, an inquiry email is sent to the manager of the account, asking if it is still active or whether another page has replaced the one on file. It may feel a bit “big brother-ish” but often this helps the manager to realize that the page or account has been a bit neglected, and either they request help with ideas for things to post (this is where they are referred to the W&M social media resource pages and SMUG group), or the email simply spurs them to post just a bit more if it went off their radar over the past semester.

What other uses do you see for a social media directory?


EDUniverse…go explore!

I wanted to spread the word about a new site that launched on Friday called EDUniverse. It’s a great centralized place to keep up to speed on blog posts and presentations from higher education folks all over the web. The site is a great resource for finding new, relevant and interesting higher ed related content, discovering higher ed folks on Twitter, and just keeping up with what’s going on in the industry. I was asked by mStoner to be an early contributor to the site and am so excited to see it live (and had a great time at the launch event in Boston this weekend, so great to meet and chat with so many amazing higher ed folks in person). I’d encourage you to sign up for an account and start exploring.