By Sarah Brown, Strategic Partnerships Manager, News (EMEA)

Local news publishers around the world use Facebook to deepen their relationships with readers by sharing the stories that matter most to their community. For this month’s spotlight, we talked with Karyn Fleeting, the head of audience engagement for Trinity Mirror Regionals in the UK. She walked us through how Trinity Mirror’s regional publications, including the Coventry Telegraph, Stoke Sentinel, Get West London, Birmingham Mail, and more went live in 360 degrees on Facebook to report throughout June 8 as election results trickled in from across the country. She gives some best practices for using this new product, what it offers audiences, and some other ways that the regional publications she oversees utilized Facebook products.

Why did you decide to use live 360? What does it do for the audience?
In terms of storytelling, Facebook Live 360 represents a shift in control, from the camera operator to the viewer. It’s about agency. For the viewer, Facebook Live 360 brings time and place together for a truly immersive experience.

For these reasons, Facebook Live 360 was key to our audience engagement strategy for the 2017 General Election. Our aim: to connect two million people with their candidates, through live media. We drew upon Facebook Live 360, Facebook Live and other formats, such as live blogs, to meet our target.

This was a snap election and, when it was announced, the commonly-held expectation was that it would be a landslide victory for the Conservative Party. This presented two challenges for audience engagement: how to make an impact in a relatively short period of time, and how to galvanize audiences despite the widespread conviction that the result was already a foregone conclusion.

For us, this was where Facebook Live 360 came into its own. Like Facebook Live, Facebook Live 360 performs particularly well for us when we are able to give our audience prized access to places they wouldn’t, or couldn’t go themselves. From live streaming spirited rallies for Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson’s visits to newsrooms, to immersing viewers within the electric atmospheres of counts and results on Election Night, we encouraged our audiences to join us in the thick of the action.

Facebook Live 360 also reflected our aim to show audiences all sides and all arguments, in a physical format. For example, one of our titles experimented with placing the 360 camera in the middle of the table, during a live, roundtable debate between local candidates.

Why did this work so well specifically in terms of election coverage and for local publications?
Facebook Live 360 was a gift because of the ways in which it enabled us to deliver the information local audiences wanted and needed on Election Night. They didn’t have to wait for the results ticker along the bottom of the television screen to reveal the local results in which they were most invested. Instead, they were able to hear the results as they came in. Facebook Live 360 transported audiences into the town halls with our reporters, revealed the results in real time – and even allowed them to wheel around within the crowd to clock any shocked or surprised faces.

Simon Gilbert, our Chief Reporter at the Coventry Telegraph, did an exemplary job with his Facebook Live 360s. His live broadcasts of election results ticked all the 360 boxes: he was positioned at the front of the crowd, with good sound and a good connection, his commentary kept viewers engaged, and during his broadcasts he provided guidance for those viewers who were new to the Live 360 experience.

Here’s Coventry South (fiercely-fought Conservative target seat):

Coventry North:

Coventry North-West:

Do you have any best practices for shooting Live 360 you can share?
Local elections took place the month before the General Election, which was good timing. We were able to experiment with different formats and ideas for live hustings on Facebook. Trinity Mirror reporters also drew upon the valuable opportunities to road-test the Live 360 cameras and we collated their feedback. The result: a detailed best practice guide to all the dos and don’ts, from how to get the best audio to tips for editing Live 360s once the broadcast had finished.

We quickly discovered that screen-tearing is an issue over sketchy connections, particularly when our iPhones are sharing a space with broadcast equipment and hundreds of other mobile phones. A good-quality Facebook Live 360 requires an upload speed of at least 4 Mbps, compared to a minimum 1 Mbps for a ‘regular’ Facebook Live.

We also advise our reporters to keep their phones still when they are streaming a Facebook Live 360. With a 360 video there is no need to move the camera around: the viewer has that agency. Also it is disorienting and can make the viewer feel nauseous.

That said, there are always exceptions to the rule and this Facebook Live 360 from the Stoke Sentinel, with the journalist moving through the count on Election Night, did a great job capturing the bustle and buzz within the room.

What camera did you use for live 360?
The Giroptic iO. We were so impressed by these cameras, when they were given out at Facebook’s F8 conference, that we ordered them in for our regional newsrooms. They are small and plug into your phone’s charging point. Plug in the Giroptic iO, install the Giroptic app and create 360 images, videos and Facebook Lives.

What other kinds of content on Facebook did regional publications produce during the election? Did you use other products?
Get West London had 360 camera equipment but on Election Night, found the connection wasn’t good enough for Facebook Live 360s. The decision to broadcast via Facebook Live instead meant that we were still able to deliver the results to our viewers in real time.

Another of our titles, the Birmingham Mail, did well with live constituency maps on Facebook Live, updated as election results came in. This Facebook Live post drew 39K views over four hours:

In addition to Facebook Live and Facebook Live 360, we also launched other Facebook initiatives to encourage our audiences to engage with the election process, find out more about their local candidates and register to vote. Wales Online and Manchester Evening News both launched live chatbots on Facebook Messenger. Wales Online’s chatbot was named Polly (for obvious reasons) and Manchester Evening News called theirs Emmeline (named for the celebrated suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, who was born in Manchester).

What kind of results did you see?
In Manchester, the launch of the Labour Party manifesto by Jeremy Corbyn was broadcast as a Facebook Live 360 by our journalists.

Our regional titles were able to help voters decide how to cast their vote with Facebook Live hustings events. In Nottingham these were run for every constituency in the city and for some voters, were the only opportunity to put questions to candidates. There were live hustings events organized by 14 of our titles and a further eight titles live streamed hustings events set up by other organizations.

Journalists in many newsrooms broadcast Facebook Live 360s from the election halls as the results in their constituencies were announced. We believe this is the first time any UK media has done this for an election result.

When we began broadcasting our Facebook Live 360s, we found one disadvantage to being such an early adopter: some of our viewers were quizzical about what 360 was and how to navigate within a 360 video on Facebook, despite the on-screen instructions. Our journalists provided live guidance, talking viewers through how they should move the phone or use the mouse. It worked: audiences picked it up quickly.

We were delighted with the results. Our network packs a punch on Facebook, but for some of our titles during the election period, the interaction rate for Facebook Live and Facebook Live 360 was four times higher than for all other post types.

To learn more about Facebook Live 360 and download out Getting Started Guide with a list of 360 cameras you can use, visit www.facebook360.fb.com/live360