Push-to-TV Facebook Live show engages viewers at Fox8 Cleveland

In just the first few weeks of production, the Facebook Live show centered around a controversial topic of the day is consistently getting 400-500 viewers for the entire segment.

A new engagement-boosting, push-to-TV Facebook Live show is gaining traction at television station Fox8 Cleveland, where Jessica Bates is managing editor.

Each weekday, Bates and her colleagues use various tools to surface topics that viewers want to talk about, and select a question of the day to post with a story on Facebook.

After the 4 p.m. newscast the anchor, Natalie Herbick, uses Facebook Live to pose the question of the day to viewers, kick off a real-time conversation and invite viewers to watch the TV broadcast at 5 p.m. Then during the 5 p.m. newscast, she again goes on Facebook Live right before and during the segment, and encourages viewers to comment so their opinions can be shared on-air.

“Right before her segment, we walk with her [the reporter] to the studio. She’s talking with her co-anchors about the topic, getting them engaged and then we stream that as it’s going on, encouraging our viewers to leave a comment because we could read it on the air,” Bates said. “On the topics, you see 800 or 1000 comments and shares. People are gravitating towards it and each day we see that number holding steady: 400-500 people, at 5 o’clock on a non-breaking news event, is pretty good.”

Bates and her team use the Switcher app to add production value to the Facebook Live videos, including text and banners with the topic.

“When she does that second hit [before the 5 p.m. show] it’s showing you the video and the topics, and the banner sticks out if you’re scrolling through your news feed. You’re going to want to stop and see what this is about. It’s not just three heads talking to you. It’s more produced.”

Outside of breaking news, the new topic-of-the-day Facebook Live sessions are some of the top-performing video content on the Fox8 Cleveland Facebook Page, Bates said. The station averages 12 Facebook Live videos per day.

“With the 400-500 people watching for the whole entire time, that does better than our normal Facebook Live outside of an event,” she said. “It’s a topic that we think is going to generate the comments and the engagement. Sometimes it outperforms the post we put on Facebook or the video we put on Facebook.”

Using social media monitoring tools such as CrowdTangle, Page Insights and other methods, Bates said she and her team choose topics that start conversations, which are often national newsmakers but sometimes local stories too.

“The national topics have outweighed what a local topic could do for us, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t necessarily use local. We look at what’s doing well. This is a story people are talking about; let’s bring it to the forefront.

“We’ll post it in the morning, and if we start to see those comments just on the post, we know by bringing in our anchor—who’ll be able to elaborate on it and feel like she’s having a conversation with our Facebook followers—it’s just going to get better from there. We start off to see just how well the story could do, and if it flops, we pick a different topic.”

Having the two Facebook Lives in this format at consistent times every weekday helps draw in viewers because they know what to expect, Bates said.

“We’re seeing that people like to have their comments read [on TV],” Bates said. “It’s more intimate, and it’s getting the eyes back on the broadcast … plus it’s promoting our digital work so they go hand in hand together.”