WRAL broadcast 75 Hours on television simultaneously with the Facebook Premiere on its WRAL Documentary Facebook page.
WRAL broadcast 75 Hours on television simultaneously with the Facebook Premiere on its WRAL Documentary Facebook page.

TV station WRAL in Raleigh, N.C., experimented with a relatively new feature on Facebook and saw positive results.

The main WRAL-TV Facebook page has more than a half million followers, but its documentary subset, WRAL Documentary, has a following of about 1,730. Wendy Gatlin, WRAL social media manager, said she wanted the niche WRAL Documentary brand page to be a testing ground for Facebook Premieres. In November, WRAL Documentary aired 75 Hours, a 25-minute film including interviews and reporting accounts of Hurricane Florence’s impact on the Raleigh area.

“We had it scheduled to air at the same time as the documentary aired on TV, so everything meshed well at the same time together,” she said. “We had engagement [on Facebook] before the documentary started, so we felt like we had people invested in the documentary and they watched it. We actually had a lot more viewers than we typically would have on a Facebook Live.”

What is a Premiere?

This feature was rolled out to to all eligible pages in October as an add-on to video offerings. It’s similar to Facebook Live posts, but is built for pre-recorded content. From Facebook:

Premieres lets you schedule and debut videos as Live moments. After the broadcast, the video is saved on your Page. Once your Premiere is scheduled, a Scheduled Live post is automatically posted on your Page. Viewers are able to Like, Share and comment.

Viewers click a button to subscribe to notifications on your Premiere. Subscribers receive their first notification 20 minutes before your Premiere begins. Three minutes before your Premiere begins, subscribers are again notified that they can join the broadcast lobby. In the lobby they can Like, Share and comment live before the Premiere begins.

We asked Gatlin how testing Premiere went for the WRAL Documentary Facebook page.

1. Why did you choose to use Premiere on those videos? What guided your decision?

“Using the Premiere feature seemed ideal for what this was created for: appointment viewing for special content. I also like to use new Facebook tools, as we stand a better chance of reaching more feeds, since we know Facebook is weighing this type of viewing heavier.”

WRAL used Facebook Premieres to air its documentary about Hurricane Florence, and included poll questions throughout the airing.

2. How do you plan to use Premiere in the future?

“Utilizing our niche brands and specials that we spend a lot of resources on will be a main way for us to focus on using the Premiere feature.”

3. What value if any does Premiere bring to your social strategy and/or video strategy?

“I really liked the idea of being able to create [and add] interactive elements [such as] voting into the premiere. This helps keep the user engaged and invested in watching longer. It also cements our niche brand focus, and allows us to point to other platforms for them to watch past content. I also loved that our reporters and anchors were able to go in and chat with the audience live as they watched! That was a really cool element that we planned on the back end.”

4. Would you recommend other broadcasters or publishers use Premiere, and if so, what type or size companies could it work for?

“I recommend all publishers try every tool available to them to see if they can find a place to use the tools that Facebook is putting first in the algorithm. You want to always mix up what you are doing and not be formulaic in your approach. We should all, no matter the size of our accounts, be testing and trying new approaches to posting.”