Using live chats and livestreaming video for community engagement

ScribbleLive statistics from my cancer chat held March 21.

ScribbleLive statistics from my cancer chat held March 21.

Have you used ScribbleLive or uStream to hold live chats with your audience as they view your event online? Whether you’re an independent blogger or journalist working for a news website, these tools are great to incorporate into your skillset so you can provide better community engagement and practice interactive journalism.

I have been using uStream and CoverItLive for nearly a year to share our workshops at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, formerly the Community Media Lab, with our online audience, and recently switched from CoverItLive to ScribbleLive. I held my first ScribbleLive chat, broadcast at news websites affiliated with our chain across the United States, March 21, and again March 28. Having these two chats — one on cancer and the other on marketing blogs — under my belt has helped me build not only on my skills, but my confidence, as well.

The cancer chat was a little intimidating because it was my first and I knew I’d have a national audience. I recruited experts for the chat from the American Cancer Society, Southgate Surgery Center and the University of Michigan cancer AnswerLine. Although none had participated before, they were excited for the opportunity.

I started by setting up the event in ScribbleLive and adding them as guest writers. They were sent invites through ScribbleLive a couple of days in advance so they could register, upload avatars and become familiar with the platform. In the meantime, I researched the topic and came up with questions in advance to facilitate the chat and fill in when the talk was running slow. I also created shortened links in Bitly to facts and information I was citing so I would have analytics later to view. ScribbleLive also shares data.

Although I don’t think the other media outlets promoted it as well as they could have, I tried my best, using all of our Michigan publications’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts affiliated with our mastheads in Washtenaw County that I had access to as a former editor. So, it’s no surprise that most of our audience came from Washtenaw County.

In all, we had 41 concurrent watchers, 1,551 total uniques, 2,186 page views, 16 unique users who posted comments, 24 published comments and 101 total posts for our cancer chat. To view the chat, click on our article page at, where it was posted.

I also organized and moderated the chat for the Southeast Michigan Media Lab’s workshop “Marketing blogs so people can find, read them,” the following week March 28. I upped my skill level by incorporating livestreaming video with this chat, embedding our uStream channel, which has had 465 views since inception, in ScribbleLive. For this, I had help from Paul Kampe at The Oakland Press, who has been my ScribbleLive mentor. In the past, I uploaded three embeds — chat, video and PowerPoint — in an article page with a headline.

To prepare for the marketing chat, I asked the presenter to send me his PowerPoint in advance. I uploaded that to to share with our audience, but also so I could prepare questions and information blocks. This chat had 149 uniques, 200 page views, 48 posts, 13 comments and five unique users posting comments. It wasn’t as many as the cancer chat, but the subject was pretty narrow, so it was expected. In comparison, The Oakland Press hosts a chat on the Detroit Lions. On March 28, that chat had 3,455 page views, 3,046 uniques, 16 unique users posting, 34 published comments and 37 posts.

I expected both of my chats to get a wider audience than they did, especially the cancer chat because of its broad interest, but I think as I do more and as I get more cooperation from each newsroom in promoting them, future live chats will fare better. I am still pleased, though, with the outcome. These are awesome community engagement tools that I anticipate will grow in popularity as our audience becomes more familiar and comfortable with the platform as they’re exposed to it more.

Just as I have been working steadily over the last month to recruit bloggers — partnering with 20 in the last month — I’ve been working equally as hard at lining up live chats, asking editors across Michigan and our audience for their suggestions. Some future chats in the works include a talk on Alzheimer’s disease, suicide prevention and tax filing headaches and deadlines this season.

If you have any ideas for live chats or workshops at the media lab, or want to learn how to use these tools, please contact me through Twitter, @digitalJRN.


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