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It’s surprising to see a seemingly slow-moving governmental body innovating faster than the top travel brands on social media but that’s exactly what the U.S. Department of Interior is doing, as it tries out Periscope and its live video functionality.
U.S. Interior is one of the beta testers of Periscope, Twitter’s recent acquisition. This social- and mobile-first livestream app makes it free and effortless to aim a smartphone and broadcast from anywhere and tap into Twitter followers and a broader public than its competitor Meerkat.
Tim Fullerton, U.S. Interior’s director of digital strategy, said the department had about a week before the app was available to the public for download to test it.
“We feel that this [Periscope] is another great way to bring America’s public lands to both a domestic and international audience. We’re uniquely positioned to use the app effectively as we manage so many beautiful and interesting places,” Fullerton said.
The U.S. Interior team was on hand today as its National Park Service unit conducted an event in New York City for its just-launched campaign, Find Your Park. The team livestreamed Secretary Sally Jewell showing how to use a touring kiosk to talk to a park ranger in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming or at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia.
As part of the campaign, the kiosk will travel from New York to Los Angeles (April 9 and 10) and then to Washington, D.C. (April 16-17)
For the most part, these semi-private events have a limited number of attendees so opening the digital door for others to join through Periscope is important for U.S. Interior to build support. This broadcast didn’t go as smoothly as planned. There was no tweet to inform people on Twitter that the event or broadcast was going to take place. Roughly 60 people stayed on the second Periscope stream. The U.S. Interior claimed that 215 is more accurate as it accounts for everyone who watched at least a part of it.
“This is a very new tool for our folks on the ground, so we’ve got a few kinks to work out,” said Fullerton.
Since the app’s release on March 27, U.S. Interior and Glacier National Park livestreamed five other sessions combined. Fullerton talked about the lessons learned after the first broadcast at the National Mall, saying “the audience on Periscope likes shorter streams than longer ones. So doing a Q&A for five minutes is more successful than being on air for a longer time period.”
Glacier National Park’s social media team has ‘Meerkated’ a few times and was excited to give Periscope a try, as well. They broadcasted three sessions on Periscope to start the week.
The first one introduced a park ranger who gave an overview of the park. Then, she did a second stream, a Q&A about bear encounters. Lastly, Glacier National Park’s team streamed a serene sunset showing a beautiful landscape to end the series.
“This was a new experience in sampling a destination before actually being there,” Fullerton said, adding that people seemed to love interacting with the park ranger through the app.
Currently, the Periscope app doesn’t make it easy to find recorded broadcasts. To Fullerton, this is a disadvantage.
“It’s a numbers game, you’re going to have more people watching if they can watch it after the fact,” Fullerton said.