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On this episode of Bloomerang TV, Caroline Avakian, Founder, SourceRise and Managing Partner, Socialbrite stops by to talk about how nonprofits can take advantage of Periscope.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Hey there. Welcome to this week’s episode of Bloomerang TV. Thanks so much for joining us. I’m Steven. I’m the VP of Marketing here at Bloomerang. And if you follow Bloomerang or any of my blog posts, you know that I love new social networks and new apps and all the cool new things coming down the pipeline that non-profits can take advantage of if it’s a good fit, if it makes sense.

And one that’s kind of catching a lot of attraction these days is called Periscope. Maybe you’ve heard about it and I recently came across a really awesome blog post that just laid out all the uses for non-profits of how they can take care of Periscope. And I thought, why don’t I just invite that blog author to come on and talk about it. So she’s here. Caroline Avakian. She’s over at Socialbrite. She’s the managing partner there. She’s also the founder of SourceRise. So, Caroline, how’s it going? Thanks for being here.

Caroline: Thanks so much for having me, Steven. And it’s a real pleasure to be here.

Steven: Yeah, it’s awesome. I just sent you a Tweet and you’re more than happy to come on board so thanks for doing that. Maybe you could talk about the work you do over at Socialbrite and SourceRise. What are you guys up to over there?

Caroline: Sure. Yeah. So I’m managing partner of Socialbrite. And we are a social media for non-profits consultancy. We work with non-profits and NGOs all over the world, helping them do better social good with social media. And I’m also the founder of SourceRise, which is a social enterprise that helps connect international journalists to on-the-ground expert sources that are working for NGOs during humanitarian crises. So we help reporters report better on humanitarian news.

Steven: Very cool. And I was familiar with Socialbrite because you guys have really great blog posts and you put out good content. But I didn’t know about SourceRise. That’s awesome work that you guys are doing. That’s really cool.

Caroline: Thank you. We just started. It’s a brand new social enterprise, but we’ve gotten some good feedback that this is something that both the non-profit world and the journalism world needs.

Steven: Very cool. Very cool. Well, you wrote this awesome post recently about Periscope and it’s this new app. It’s sort of a video streaming app. Can you talk about what Periscope is for folks who may not have heard of it or maybe have heard of it, but not sure what it does exactly?

Caroline: Sure. Well, if you haven’t heard of it, that’s perfectly fine. It’s been around for about, I think, just turned four months old. And it’s a free mobile live streaming app that is both available for iOS and Android. And Twitter purchased the app right before launch. So essentially, what makes Periscope different from other live streaming tools is the fact that you’re able to chat on whenever you’re live streaming. So it has that functionality that really engages and opens up two-way conversations.

Steven: Very cool. And I’ve used it a couple times at events. It’s always kind of fun because you started up, you start broadcasting and people kind of log in and you can see who’s watching. You can talk to them there. It’s really kind of slick. And I didn’t know that Twitter had acquired them. So that’s good. I bet they play pretty nice together, I would imagine.

Caroline: They play great together. And I think the competitor for Periscope is Meerkat, which is also another live streaming tool. But I think what gave Periscope the competitive edge was its duration with Twitter. So essentially, when you log on, when you download the app and you try to get on it to make it work, you can just grab your Twitter credentials and they transfer over.

You can find all your Twitter followers and the people that you’re following and follow them if they’re already signed on to Periscope. So even though you’re starting from scratch, you bring over all your Twitter followers. You are able to find them. And if they do have an account, you’re able to follow them. So it kind of opens the door for quicker engagement and for the app to be able to really catch on fire, which is what it has been doing.

Steven: Very cool. So how can non-profits use that? I’m thinking maybe like if they have a live event or something special going on that they want to show people, what are sort of a few practical ways that maybe a non-profit could make use of Periscope?

Caroline: So having a background of video for social change, I’m always very apprehensive about new apps and their functionality if they can be really used for non-profits and social good. And from what we’re seeing and what I’ve noticed, the few non-profits that are actually using Periscope are using it for their events. If they have a speaker, a lot of them have speaker series, they will . . . it’s very stiff right now but essentially you hold up your phone and the app is recording this thing. And you’re recording your speaker.

And the good thing is that you can have two-way interactions. So you can invite your followers and invite your supporters and your donors to watch the event in case that they’re not able to attend. Right. They’re too far away, for whatever reason they can’t attend the event. They’re able to then watch the event with you. And they’re able to make comments.

Some of the difficulty is if it’s a quiet event like a speaker event, people are commenting. A lot of times what happens is they wind up commenting to each other because the person actually holding the phone can’t respond because that would be rude, right?

Steven: Right.

Caroline: But there’s an interesting interaction going on with the commenters that are watching from the app. They’re having their own discussions about what the speaker is doing.

One thing I haven’t seen that I would recommend as well is if you’re a non-profit or NGO that has a very expensive gala and most people cannot afford to attend those $500,000-plate dinners. This is a great time to perhaps have some type of Periscope live streaming correspondent that goes around and really shows you what the event is like. Right?

And I think it takes some bit of preparation. You have to hopefully schedule perhaps a Q&A with an honoree or one of your celebrity ambassadors that might be attending. But that’s a really great perk that potentially the people who are on Periscope watching are getting more than the people who are actually attending because they’re getting to ask questions.

Steven: That’s true. Yeah.

Caroline: It has that chat functionality.

Steven: And you can maybe generate some of that fear of missing out a little bit and maybe generate some interest in the event next year by doing that, maybe?

Caroline: Exactly. Exactly. It’s just a really good way to connect supporters and donors that aren’t able to attend your events and include them in a way that makes them feel like they’re there in a certain way.

One of the other ways that I think non-profits can really leverage Periscope is to do Q&A series. So interview your staff. Introduce to executive director. Have these informal chats. Because Periscope, it’s really social, right? So it’s not like YouTube, where you’re videoing and then editing your content. No. It’s interactive. And it’s spontaneous. And that’s the excitement around the app right now, is that it is spontaneous. So interview your executive director. Interview your program director. Interview your beneficiaries.

If you are, for example, working in the field and you want to bring it along because you’re doing a series of interviews with people that are benefitting from your program, bring that with you. Of course, you have to use your judgment. Only when it’s appropriate because there will be times that it’s not appropriate to livestream. Especially working with developing world where I have, people don’t understand what’s happening and it’s just, it’s not right to live stream things that perhaps would make them uncomfortable in real life. So using your discretionary judgment, I would recommend that this is a great opportunity to be interviewing your beneficiaries.

Another thing that’s right is live streaming from the fields, to kind of piggyback off what I just said. So if you’re working on Uganda and your program officer is traveling there, take the app with you. As long as you have the bandwidth and the connectivity available, you can actually bring your supporters somewhere that’s otherwise has been very, very difficult to connect your supporters and donors to the field, which is what they want. They want to know what’s happening in the field. They want to be a part of you when you travel to these places and get to the villages, say in India or in Uganda. Take them with you.

And experiment. I think there’s a lot of need for experimenting with the tool right now, see how it really functions, what it’s able to do and not do especially when you’re traveling. But I think that’s a really good way to connect your donors and supporters to the work that’s actually happening on the ground. If you’re a US-based organization, bring it along to those important mission moments. If you’re Habitat for Humanity and you’re building homes, if you’re doing another kind of event, like a race or a walkathon.

Any types of these events that are supporter and donor based, it’s fantastic to bring this out to and livestream from there. And just talk to people. Interview them. Have them interact with the people that are watching your Periscope.

And lastly, one of the things that I think is really great is to use it to work as a crowdsourcing tool and also to make announcements. So say you’re working on a new logo. Show them the new logo. See the feedback you get, right? If you’re introducing a new program, see how they feel about it. If you have questions about how well you’re doing on social media, then you’re actually showing them and talking about things that they want to talk about, it’s a great way just to ask them. “Is this stuff that you want to talk about? What do you want to see more of? How can we do better?” And it’s a great real-time way of finding out what your supporters think.

And announcements. The other thing, lastly, is announcements. So say you have a wonderful USAID grant that just came in. Besides the press release, get on Periscope. Make the announcement. Share the excitement. People will be excited for you. They’ll ask questions. Also a great way to announce a new staff member. You can announce them. They can do a little Q&A with people. So I think the possibilities are really endless and NGOs and non-profits will find ways that fit their mission and their needs to use it.

Steven: Yeah. You’ve got me excited. I’m thinking about the ways that even Bloomerang can start using it. And I want to go out and open a Periscope for Bloomerang. This is great. Now you kind of touched on this. Socialbrite is obviously someone who’s a great blog that’s covering lots of different things happening in social media. It seems like non-profits can maybe get overwhelmed by all the tools that are out there and all these new things. How did you kind of decide that maybe Periscope was one that has all these possibilities?

What advice do you have for people who want to keep up on all this stuff, but there’s so much? How can you choose the best app to kind of try out? Should you try everything? Should you just kind of wait until more bubbles up to the surface and really gets widely accepted? How would you go about choosing things like that?

Caroline: Yeah. That’s a really good question, Steven. I think that’s one that most non-profits grapple with, right? Most non-profits, frankly, are understaffed. If they even have a communications team, most of them are stretched out doing fundraising as well. If you have a social media person, that’s great. And I would say, yeah, try out all the new apps because that’s your job.

But if you don’t have that, if you don’t have a dedicated social media, I mean, try out the apps and see if they work for you. Not get on every app. Because I definitely don’t recommend non-profits use everything. I say pick your top three and focus on those. Well on those. Where is your audience? Go there. Right?

So I think if you have a dedicated communications and social media person, I think it is part of your job to figure out as the apps are coming in. Give it a test. Don’t use it on the main account for your non-profit. Perhaps apply what I did. I didn’t use it for Socialbrite or SourceRise. I use it for Caroline Avakian, for my own personal. I started playing with it. I started listening, right? It’s like with any other social media tool. You don’t want to go out and start broadcasting. Step aside and you listen first. You see what other people are doing with the app. You see how others are leveraging it. You really start to understand how to use the tool and its functionality.

And I think for me it happened very organically. The ideas just started percolating. I was like, “Wait a minute.” And I’m not one to be excited over new tools. I tend to have a very skeptical eye as to how helpful these new apps really are to non-profits. I didn’t jump on Vine right away. I’m not a Snapchatter. It’s just not my thing. There was something about Periscope. Maybe it has something to do with my background in video of social change that I immediately saw its potential to really be able to take supporters and donors to places that they can’t get to and that they desperately want to be at.

So my recommendation is, with caution, check out the new apps. If you’re going to be in charge of social media, if there’s one person and you respond to it well then do it. If it’s something that is tedious that you don’t feel is going to be connecting really with your supporters then leave it alone. Focus on what’s working. But I would say if there’s something that you think, “Hey, we do have that event coming up. Let me give it a try.” What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I would say, try it out. See if it works for you. You’ll learn a lot just by doing.

Steven: Yeah. I agree. It doesn’t hurt to try, right?

Caroline: Right.

Steven: Well, cool. Go download Periscope, if you’re watching this. Try it out. We’ll definitely link to Caroline’s article about this right here on this video. And I see you’ve also got a case study from an actual organization in Michigan that’s using it. So we’ll link to that as well. That’s pretty cool.

Caroline: Wonderful.

Steven: Well, this was awesome, Caroline. Thanks for sharing all these knowledge and hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon. Definitely follow Socialbrite. Really good content over there. So thanks for being here, Caroline. This was a lot of fun.

Caroline: Thank you so much, Steven, for having me.

Steven: And thanks to all of you for watching, for hanging out with us for about 15 minutes or so. We’ll catch you next week with another great episode. Hope you watch again soon. Bye now.

Caroline: Take care.


Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.