The Bayer North American Bee Care Center.

Live-streaming video app a hit at recent North American Bee Care Center event.

 

Bayer CropScience is known for taking advantage of cutting-edge technology, and that includes the latest in live streaming video apps.

The company recently began making use of Periscope, which allows Twitter users to broadcast live video to the world, to communicate with people in the digital realm.

“We pride ourselves on being an innovative company and a pioneer in using new technologies, so we’re always looking for new ways to share all the great things that are happening around Bayer,” says Jeff Donald, who works on Bayer’s external communications team. “The new live-streaming apps seem like a great way show people what we’re doing in real time.”

Donald used the Periscope app — released earlier this year to worldwide fanfare — for the recent grand opening of a new breeding station in Pikeville, North Carolina. He says the app allows Bayer to communicate up close and personal with people on Twitter who otherwise would only get news of the event in more conventional ways, like live-tweeting or post-event coverage.

“Pikeville is in a rural area and probably not somewhere a lot of people, even within Bayer, will ever have the opportunity to go. But its contribution to innovation in cotton and soybean breeding is very important, so we thought doing a Periscope live stream of the grand opening event would be a good way to connect people to this exciting new facility,” he says.

“Our ultimate digital goal is to provide the best and most relevant content to our customers and stakeholders while also connecting consumers with modern agriculture.”

Donald and his team also used Periscope at a recent celebration of the first anniversary of Bayer’s North American Bee Care Center.

“For that one, we not only broadcast the remarks, but we went around and talked to some of the scientists, beekeepers and others at the event to give viewers the full experience,” Donald says.

Bayer is among a growing contingent of agriculture industry stakeholders using Periscope as a means of reaching out to their Twitter followers and the public in general.

At a time when it’s becoming increasingly important to educate the public about how the industry works, Periscope allows users to not just watch a live broadcast, but actually interact with the broadcaster in real time and ask questions.

“There is so much interest right now in food and where it comes from, but more than 90 percent of the public has no connection to agriculture. Our ultimate digital goal is to provide the best and most relevant content to our customers and stakeholders while also connecting consumers with modern agriculture,” Donald says. “There is no doubt that live streaming through apps like Periscope will help us do that.”

Periscope is currently in a battle for market share with rival Meerkat. Periscope integrates with Twitter, so anyone who uses the iPhone app can download Periscope and log in with their Twitter info. The broadcaster can see how many people are viewing the broadcast and thereby track their level of engagement with the public.

“It was a big hit at the Bee Care Center anniversary,” Donald says. “We had several dozen people tuning in throughout the day and one video with a beekeeper showing off one of our hives had 70 viewers. We think being able to hear from a variety of different people as if the viewer was there really helped drive continued engagement throughout the event.”

Currently, Twitter allows Periscope broadcasters to archive videos for a limited time after the live broadcast, something Donald says will likely have to change in order for the app to really take off and become mainstream. Broadcasting useful, engaging content is also key, he notes.

“It takes time to build up a following of people and even then, a majority of followers won’t be able to tune in when you’re live-streaming a video. It will be important to be able to archive footage and present it to people where they want it and when they want it, or at least allow people to set up searches and notifications for topics they are interested in,” he says. “Also, a potential stumbling block is if people aren’t broadcasting valuable content. If it all becomes white noise, users will tune out the tool completely.”

Still, now that he’s got his feet wet using Periscope, Donald plans to keep making use of the app at future Bayer events. “I’m really excited to explore how we can use tools like this to help our education goals by connecting what’s happening on a farm with classrooms around the country, or even connecting farmers with expert agronomists to help them answer questions and overcome challenges.”

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