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New Ways to Interact with Live Video

Recently an app called Periscope caught my attention. I know….big deal….another app in world of exploding apps. But, what got me interested in it is how churches can possibly use it.

Up Periscope
Periscope lets you to broadcast live video from your mobile device so you can share experiences, right now, through live video.  Why is that important? Churches have hard copy materials with information and even pictures that can give information about events, meetings, and other important things, but they can’t share the actual experience. “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around.” (Periscope article – Medium, March 26, 2015).

Even better, the live Persicope experience isn’t just one-way. Those watching the video event get to participate through chat, something  they’ve not been able to do before. Here’s a short video that gives you more detail on the app.

How it works
Periscope is owned by Twitter™ so you can use your Twitter account to set up a Periscope account. Being able to use your same Twitter handle makes it easy for anyone following you on Twitter to find you on Periscope. But a Twitter account isn’t the only way you can set up an account, you can also use your mobile phone number.

Like Twitter, Periscope lets you search for specific people to follow – people you know, leaders in your field of work or outside interests, organizations, and more. Whenever a person or group you follow is live streaming on Periscope, you get an audible heads up from your device and you can join in.

But life happens and maybe a scope (live session) is going on in the middle of an important meeting.  No problem, the scope is available on the app for 24 hours, and if the person who conducted the session wants, the scope can be saved and published on your website or elsewhere. And while you will probably be most interested in scopes from friends, family, or those with similar interests, you can watch anyone who’s streaming at that moment (as long as the scope is open), from anywhere in the world.

Scopes don’t have to be passive. Viewers can actively participate by chatting in the app and if they get excited about something said or shown, they can send hearts to show their enthusiasm. Questions can be answered in real time and enthusiasm can be shared with others.

Church application ideas
So how can church staff use Periscope? Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

1) Share announcements about new programs, renovation projects or challenge the congregation
2) Pastors can broadcast their thoughts, daily good news, a devotional in video form, or do a book review.
3) On Monday, have a staff member do a Sunday sermon recap.
4) Have a pastor host a Q&A on a specific subject – maybe something that’s happened in the world, the community, or within the church.
5) Stream special events.
6) Bad weather situations – if a service has been cancelled because of bad weather, use Periscope to host a simple, short service from a staff person’s home.
7) Youth members can share their real time camp experiences with parents.
8) Interview or chat with students.
9) Provide live updates to parents on trip ETAs.
10) Small Groups, stream your sessions to accommodate members who can’t physically attend.
11) Prayer requests.

A quick look at the players
I have a confession to make. Even though I really like Periscope, there’s another option I should tell you about and you should know that the market is still sorting itself out. In the short time of researching and writing this article, the options have changed. The first app on the scene, Meerkat, has moved its focus away from live video, so there are now two players to consider — Periscope and FaceBook Live.  While this isn’t an exhaustive comparison, it can help you start thinking about which is best for you.

Which should you use?
If you plan to use this technology it’s important to decide whether Periscope or Facebook Live will serve you best. Do you view this mainly as an internal communication tool, one for reaching nonmembers, or both?

While there are many similarities between the two, there’s a big difference in how you access the streaming sessions. With Periscope, someone watching will need to download the app to their smartphone. With Facebook Live, an app isn’t needed but, the person watching must be a Facebook friend of the church or staff person. While liking a church Facebook page is most likely not a problem for church members, nonmembers might not want that relationship just yet. However, they may be willing to download an app. Whatever you choose, be sure to work through the pros and cons for each before making your choice.

Create a plan
Once you’ve decided on a platform, create a plan.

  • Whatever you use, you’ll need to thoughtfully introduce it to your church. Your desired audience won’t engage overnight, so be patient.
  • Make sure your content is worth people’s time. You want repeat viewers.
  • Practice to make sure sessions are easy to follow. If early adopters watch a great presentation they’ll spread the word. If they view fumbles and bumbles, they’ll share that too.
  • Like using Facebook, Twitter, or other social media, create and enforce guidelines for usage.
  • Have a long-term plan for how you’ll use Periscope or Facebook Live. The tool is worthless if you start off with a bang and then peter out. Use it in a consistent manner.
  • Since videos are done “on-the-fly,” people don’t expect perfection but make sure your audio sounds OK and viewers don’t feel they are in the middle of an earthquake.
  • Videos don’t need to be long. Whatever your topic, leave people wanting more.
  • Make sure you follow your church social media guidelines. If your church already uses social media, you probably have best practices that you can apply to Periscope or Live usage. If you don’t have a policy, be sure to create guidelines for staff to follow.

Carol Brown is a long time ACS Technologies employee who lives in Mechanicsville, VA. She loves spending time with her grandkids, traveling, and quilting.

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