How GE uses live video to tell stories & humanize the industrial side of the brand
Five questions with GE's social media lead Sydney Williams
As GE’s global digital marketing manager, Sydney Williams oversees all of the brand’s social media strategies.
“I sit on the global brand marketing team, and part of my focus is to make sure that the GE brand shows up in really interesting and relevant and entertaining ways on social media, as well as any new emerging platforms,” says Williams.
One such emerging platform is live video – an effort Williams has been on top of since day one. GE was on Periscope the first day it launched, and she says the brand was on Meerkat when it first came out. Most recently GE launched its Pi Day campaign via Facebook Live.
“Part of our role on our team is to really put the brand in people’s hands,” says Williams, “We are less and less focused on our consumer products now that some of those businesses are being divested, and we’re more focused on telling our industrial story.”
Today, Williams answers our five questions around how GE is using live video to tell those stories, as well as the challenges that come with producing live video, and where she thinks it’s headed.
Amy Gesenhues: To start, tell me about your most recent live video campaign.
Sydney Williams: The most recent campaign that we launched, that focused on live video, was to celebrate Pi Day on March 14 – 3.14, the first three numbers of Pi. It’s a holiday we’ve celebrated in the past.
It’s sort of a fun holiday for us to lean into and talk about all of the different applications of Pi in engineering. For us, some of our most impactful and credible machines all use Pi in some capacity from both design and understanding how to optimize their performance.
From jet engines to wind turbines to gas turbines – all use centrifugal force and different elements of Pi to understand how they work. This past Pi Day, we partnered with pro skier Nicolas Vuignier, who actually invented and designed something called a centriphone.
The centriphone really was his version of a way to hack 360-video, and so we thought it would be really fun and interesting to partner with him to produce the first every 360 snap chat video.
#PiDay comes once a year but we use it every day. Check out @generalelectric to see pro skier and Centriphone inventor, Nico Vuignier, bring Pi from the research center to the ski slopes in the first-ever 360° Snapchat story.
Posted by GE on Monday, March 14, 2016
With his centriphone, that was our way to open the door in an interesting way to talk about centrifugal force, and the implications of Pi – not only in everyday life, but how it really impacts some of the every day machines that are helping to move the world forward.
Amy Gesenhues: And what platform did you use to produce and share Vuignier’s video?
Sydney Williams: It was the first time we actually experimented with Facebook Live, since it has been offered now to brand pages for a few weeks.
We had two streams on the 14th – one was Nick actually doing a live scope of a run down a mountain using his centriphone. We sort of gamified it, and asked our fans to point out and identify different circles or pies that they saw on the run.
Π Day w/ Nico Vuignier
Posted by GE on Monday, March 14, 2016
The second stream that we did later that day, we were up at our global research center in Niskayuna, New York with a scientist. His name is Jim Bray, and he’s one of the chief scientists at GE.
His role is actually to study a lot of our rotating machines, so again, jar engine and gas turbines that we manufacture at GE. He really broke down the applications of Pi and how it’s used in both design and understanding our machines.
We're live on Pi Day Ski Science w/ GE Chief Scientist & pi expert Jim Bray.
Posted by GE on Monday, March 14, 2016
So we were on Snapchat, we were on Facebook Live, and those were the primary platforms.
Amy Gesenhues: What other live video platforms have you used for marketing purposes?
Sydney Williams: We’ve experimented with a couple of the other live streaming platforms like Meerkat when it first came out.
We’ve done a lot with Periscope. We were on Periscope the day it launched, and we’ve actually launched a few campaigns that were Periscope first activations. One example is last summer we launched a campaign called Drone Week.
Drone Week was focused on giving our fans inside access of different GE facilities around the country. We spent five days at five different GE sites across five different industries, from oil and gas to aviation to healthcare. We Periscoped from a drone at these five different sites and had different GE engineers narrating along the way through the comments stream.
That was a really successful program for us. It was the first time that we’d really kind of gone all in on programming specifically for a live video platform. It was so successful that we’re planning on doing it again this summer. This time bringing it to Brazil in preparation of the Olympic games.
Amy Gesenhues: What have been the challenges around producing live video content for your brand?
Sydney Williams: I think certainly technical challenges, making sure that you have a good connection or otherwise, particularly for us in some of the locations that we’ve chosen to go to, like some of our factories around the world or some of our testing facilities. They’re in the middle of nowhere, right?!
So making sure we’re equipped with the technical aspects for a successful stream is probably number one. And then, I think, going into it and having to roll with the punches a little bit can also be a challenge. I think sometimes you have people who kind of freeze up when the red light turns on and you’re recording.
There are some times when stuff happens that was completely unscripted, which I think in some cases can be a little bit intimidating for people who maybe are used to working in conditions where everything is perfectly scripted and they know exactly what the outcome will be. In this case, it’s trying to make people feel comfortable with the fact that it’s live and it’s okay if you mess up. You can start over. It’s not a big deal.
Amy Gesenhues: What do you think is the appeal of live video for your audiences?
Sydney Williams: I think it gives a very authentic and human perspective for brands, right? It’s very raw. It’s very under-produced. And, I think, that gives us a feeling of authenticity and realness.
I think that’s what’s been intriguing for us to experiment with it. There have been times, due to band connections, we’ve lost the stream, or it’s kind of shaky, or maybe you can’t hear the audio that well – and that’s part of it, right? That’s the appeal that it feels very true.
And, I think, that’s appreciated by a younger Millennial audience. That’s how they’re consuming content from their friends. That’s what their content from their friends looks like. That’s what they are used to seeing. And so, I think seeing it from a brand sort of helps humanize it a little bit versus feeling so over produced.
I think one of the elements of live video that we want to continue experimenting with is giving control into the viewer’s hands – how do we not only broadcast live for broadcast’s sake, but actually give control over to the viewers to tell where they want us to go? What do they want to see? What are the questions they want answered?
I think having that opportunity in the future will be an important part of where live video goes.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.