Jennifer Watson began her career as a on-camera meteorologist in Mississippi and Alabama, where she also managed both stations’ social media channels and weather blogs. Accepting a job as a social media specialist at The Weather Channel in Atlanta was a natural transition for her. “The weather channel is a dream job for a weather nerd like me,” says Watson.
CCO: How do you manage the amount and variety of information you curate on a daily basis?
Watson: On the Weather Channel, our main goal is to provide weather information so that our fans can plan their day and stay safe in bad weather. One of the most important tasks of my job is storm outbreaks. We use Twitter to relay storm information to our followers and to make sure people have the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe. We have weather forecasters on the social media team to make sure we always post accurate information.
[email protected] has weather forecasters on the # socialmedia team to ensure accuracy, says @JWatson_Wx. Click to tweet
In addition to current weather information, we also publish information on many other weather verticals such as forest fires or drought. Weather affects every part of your life whether you realize it or not. It even affects the economy and what you buy. Many of our meteorologists are big space freaks, so we also publish information about satellite launches, various astronomical events, etc. We are excited and look forward to this year’s total solar eclipse.
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CCO: There must be risks associated with reporting breaking weather news on social media.
Watson: We want to make sure that users get real-time information when they can’t see it on TV. Social media is a great way to get this information out there, but there are definitely challenges.
Facebook is not ideal for breaking information as information is provided to users based on habits and preferences. However, with Twitter, we can issue alerts as soon as they are issued and update forecasts in real time. For example, when we follow tornadoes in Louisiana or Mississippi, we have automated location-based alerts that go out.
[E-Mail geschützt] is not ideal for breaking news. B / C information is provided based on user habits and preferences. @JWatson_Wx To the Tweet click
My role takes long hours to make sure everything is quality checked and to make sure we are giving people the information they need to be safe. With weather coverage, reporting on social media is a 24/7 job. it will never stop. I always monitor. I do not want to miss a Thing.
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CCO: What about fast moving systems where you are not sure if the information you see online is correct? What guidelines do you follow to make sure you’re sharing good content?
Watson: It is important for all of us at The Weather Channel to post the most accurate information online and on social channels. To ensure that the correct information is posted, we have guidelines and we always have a weather forecasters to review the posts before posting them if necessary. We have a lot of checks and balances to make sure that everything we post is timely and correct.
This is important during and after storms when people sometimes post old pictures of catastrophic damage to get attention. The same applies to the total number of snowfalls. You might see a picture on Twitter of a snow storm three years ago. Before we repost anything, let’s check photos via Google reverse image search to make sure they haven’t been seen anywhere. We are not perfect. If we retweet something inaccurate, we will correct it immediately. When it comes to weather reporting, we always balance accuracy and speed – because sometimes speed can save lives.
CCO: What tools do you use to manage all of the content?
Watson: We use a combination of native and marketing platforms for our social publishing, analytics and reporting needs. The combination of the two helps us manage multiple people and projects, especially the increased social volume during live weather events when conditions and dates are constantly changing.
We have gone to great lengths to use Facebook Live since last year. One way to achieve this is by using the Wirecast live streaming software, which allows us to combine live material from the studio and the field. We particularly like to use Facebook Live on site, where our meteorologists can give an update on the conditions at a certain location in front of the camera during weather events.
When we’re out and about, we have a dedicated mobile phone rig setup that gives you more even exposure. We also use a shotgun microphone if necessary. When one of our meteorologists covers a hurricane, we can focus on the sound that is coming from them rather than the storm. And lighting is vital – it can make a huge difference in the quality of your content and the number of viewers. All of these tools help us share information in a way that people can understand, especially when time counts.
With the live streaming hardware, they can record video with multiple webcams, graphics, and more. It also offers better screen transition options.
The team uses special cell phone rigs to improve the quality of videos outside of the studio. With phone rigs like Beastgrip Pro or Shoulderpod, you can attach a smartphone, lights and microphones in one handy package.
Live streaming tips
Watson suggests the following tips for using Facebook Live to build audiences and generate engagement:
- Teaser-Posts: A great way to increase the traction of your Facebook live streams is by posting a teaser post to let your fans know about the live streaming. You can also use the pre-planning feature on Facebook which will create a teaser for you. Remember, people tune in at different times. It is therefore always a good idea to reset a few times every Facebook Live and welcome new viewers.
Post a teaser post on @Facebook to let your fans know that you will be streaming live, says @JWatson_Wx. Click to tweet
- Live notifications: Remember the user during the live stream and at the end of the fact that every time your page is live they can subscribe to keep your audience stronger. Also, remember to alert your fans that they can opt out if they don’t want to receive live notifications, which will prevent people from following your page.
[E-Mail geschützt] Live Tip: Remind users to subscribe to notifications when you go live, says @JWatson_Wx. Click to tweet
- Focus: We publish a variety of content through Facebook Live. However, what works best for our brand is live streams and reports from the field during major weather events. We saw our best ever Facebook live performance during Hurricane Hermione, which hit Florida and parts of the Southeast in September 2016. We had a live stream from Cedar Key, Florida showing the high waves and water just hours before landing. It garnered over 3 million views, was shared over 42,000 times, and over 23,000 comments.
The best advice I can give to any brand is to stay true to your brand values and keep in mind that you may need to test different content first to see what works best.
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A version of this article originally appeared in the June issue of the Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bimonthly print magazine.
Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski / Content Marketing Institute
Please note: all of the tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No contribution can provide all the relevant tools in the room. Feel free to add any additional tools in the comments (from your company or from those you have used).