Ed Bottomley shares how Michigan Medicine developed and executed a successful Facebook Live strategy

When Social Media Strategist Ed Bottomley joined Michigan Medicine in January 2018, the team was right on the cusp of incorporating Facebook Lives into their social media strategy. Now, a year and a half and nearly 30 videos later, Facebook Lives are one of their top priorities, with broadcasts regularly garnering over 20,000 views.

According to Ed, the success of their Facebook Lives is tied directly to their ability to spotlight the experts from across hospital departments.

“We have our big health system accounts, and those are great brands tools, but they can't be as conversational a faculty member's Twitter account,” he said. “Some of our departmental pages haven't got as many followers as the faculty who run them, so being able to involve those leaders as experts for our videos and pushing them out to our audiences is a huge win.”

To find those experts and get them involved, Ed collaborated with teams across the hospital.

We chop the videos up, we have somebody timestamping every question that we get so we can then load it up to YouTube with those timestamp links. Ed Bottomley
Ed and his team — who sit between the marketing and PR teams — work closely with them, as well as individual departments in the hospital, to get recommendations for people who have served as champions or thought leaders in their respective spaces. Then, they reach out to them about being on one of their Facebook Live broadcasts.

“Depending on the topic, we might have a doctor, a physical therapist, and an even a patient,” said Ed. “And that patient piece can be very effective in engaging our audiences and getting them to ask questions about their experience.”

Ed pays close attention to their health system blogs and PR and marketing beats to decide on those individual topics.

He said so far the process of deciding which topics to focus on has been smooth since the beginning because of Michigan Medicine's expert-driven focus on their blogs.

“We also have editorial meetings where our PR team goes through the different beats they focus on, and these editorial meetings have become a perfect time for us to pitch Facebook Lives and talk through the topics with our different teams,” said Ed.

Once they have a topic down, they collaborate with their dedicated video team — which Ed said is a powerful resource for Michigan Medicine.

That team works to beam the videos out to our Facebook pages, which have quite a few followers already. Ed Bottomley
Through their work with this team, they put together studio-quality videos with audio through their lab mics.

“That team works to beam the videos out to our Facebook pages, which have quite a few followers already,” said Ed, who also serves as the host for all of their Facebook Live broadcasts.

Typically, they work with the video team to put together around two Facebook Lives a month. Then, they cut the video and share it out across their different channels to increase engagement with the content.

“After the fact, we always ensure we put a bit of money behind it and boost it to the important people that we want to see it,” said Ed.

Once they're setting up a Facebook Live and interviewing the experts, Ed and his team filter the questions in real time to keep the conversation moving.

“I always say I have the easiest job in the whole studio,” said Ed. “I'm in front of the camera with a laptop and a Google Doc and someone off-camera has the same setup. We have pre-prepared questions that we start with on the specific topic, then during the broadcast we're vetting the questions and adding them to list.”

During and after the broadcast, Ed and his team try to make sure they're using the content from the video in as many different ways as possible.

We have our big health system accounts, and those are great brands tools, but they can’t be as conversational a faculty member’s Twitter account. Ed Bottomley
“We chop the videos up, we have somebody timestamping every question that we get so we can then load it up to YouTube with those timestamp links,” he said. “I also push specific questions on Twitter with that timestamp link that go straight to the exact moment our expert answers that question.”

They also boost the YouTube video when it's uploaded and work with the experts to find two or three important questions and have them answer them while they're in the studio to turn them into separate videos they can use on their channels.

“We're trying to use it as much as possible,” he said. “We've even recently started stripping out the audio from the broadcasts and turning them into podcasts as well, and that's been quite effective.”

Although they've found a lot of success so far from these videos, Ed said they're still improving with each new broadcast.

Recently, they've been able to get the experts more involved in sharing and promoting the broadcast on their channels, some of which have a large number of followers.

“They've been putting their views when they retweet our tweets from the broadcasts, and that's been going very well,” said Ed. “That's one of the components we'd been missing before, so now I think there's an extra added value not only from them putting their name and the department out there, but also giving us a better foothold on Twitter as well.”

Ed said his next big step integration is being able to broadcast natively across all their social channels.

The best way to engage audiences on different platforms is to present them fully integrated video on that platform so you don’t have to try to force them to go to Facebook. Ed Bottomley
“The best way to engage audiences on different platforms is to present them fully integrated video on that platform so you don't have to try to force them to go to Facebook,” said Ed. “We want to be able to meet them where they are instead.”

As they continue creating more Live video broadcasts, Ed and his team also want to ensure they have a balance between strategic Facebook Lives on specific medical topics and ones that tap into the zeitgeist — like their video on marijuana after its legalization in Michigan, which garnered over 160K views.

Ed said another step moving forward may be collaboration with other health care systems, governmental units, or news organizations that could get them in front of new audiences.

While he emphasized they still have a lot to learn, Ed said there have been specific video choices that have helped increase their value internally and externally.

“We've done particularly well when we've had patient experts as part of that panel who can then tap into the patient experience and share the broadcast with their followers and any private Facebook groups that they're a member of,” he said. “Then, for specific strategic Lives, we share specific phone numbers and the information of our practices at the end of the broadcasts.”

He said these steps have helped ensure the Facebook Lives are a holistic win, not just for employees but for current and future patients who are able to ask crucial questions directly to their physician experts.

For anyone refining their Facebook Live strategy or just starting out, Ed said not to be discouraged early at any obstacles you face.

“If I look back at us starting off, we definitely changed a lot since the beginning,” said Ed. “We've had video backdrops that got torn, or guests who arrived late, and you just have to go with it and incorporate it. But as long as you're being casual in those instances but passionate about sharing that message, that's the important thing.”

He also said noting down your learnings as you go can be very helpful. “I keep an Excel spreadsheet of all our numbers so I can look into how many views and what time of day works best, but I still don't have a perfect answer,” he said.

More than anything, he said the real key is presenting your message in a slick way. “We're all competing against people's favorite teams, celebrities, family members, and puppy dogs,” he said. “To cut through that, your videos really need to look and sound good. If I had to strip everything away, the sound is the last thing I would sacrifice because without sound, no one's in there and none of the valuable content gets across.”

Finally, Ed emphasized that they wouldn't have any of their success with these Facebook Lives without all the other teams involved in the process.

“I'm surrounded by a team of expert writers and marketers, and I have a video team just down the hall from me who already know how to make this look good. They already have the expertise to look into a camera switches and how to get the right shots,” he said. “I'm the guy who's just reading the questions out to these people and then boosting and targeting audiences with some really good content. And when you do have genuinely good content that's produced in such a great way, it's not hard stuff.”

Ed Bottomley has been a member of SocialMedia.org Health since 2018. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.