The social media hype

Social media channels

Social media is a big deal; even we have finally taken to a blog, Facebook and the occasional tweet. Broadcasters have rightfully taken notice.

And, that makes sense. Social media is a natural fit for media companies in general and broadcasters in particular. They are in the business of creating “engagement.” This has been the industry's raison d’être since its earliest days.

What we began years ago with "interactivity" - displaying SMS in crawls - has evolved into what is, in effect, content contribution in the form of running commentary, feedback, and video submitted via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and numerous other services. The audience is part of the content and that contributes to the audience’s commitment.

While exciting in its prospects social media is simultaneously a threat to broadcasters. In a very short time it has captured a statistically significant and growing share of the time and attention of key demographic groups. Loaded with links and referrals to content of all flavours, social media is serious competition in the drive to capture the eyes and time of viewing audiences.

Amongst ourselves - that is between the people who are part of this industry including broadcasters and technology vendors - there seems to be marked confusion with respect to who does what with respect to social media. From an operations and engineering perspective, what is social media and what makes it so difficult and costly to integrate into the playout stream?

We were puzzled ourselves. So here is the dirty little secret we’ve uncovered: in the context of signal flow, social media is just data. Admittedly, that answer is rather simple, perhaps even disappointingly so.

It’s popular to wax poetic about what social media means, how to use it, etc. Shareholders certainly expect to hear the companies they are invested in talk about it. But it’s also rather easy to get caught up in the hype. The fact is that if you’ve deployed systems that are open and flexible when it comes to handling data, then social media will not be a challenge.

There are countless live information feeds that need to be brought to air every day--sports stats, weather, election results, etc. We don’t pretend to be sports experts or meteorologists. There are excellent statistics vendors who know the ins and outs of sports and weather providers who optimize data sets for severe weather. Thankfully, companies like Mass Relevance, never.no, VDS and others are expert at getting the most value from social media interaction and opportunity.

Our job is to help broadcasters bring that data to air with the flexibility and creativity to meet any program objective.

In the context of signal flow, social media is just data. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to sell you something ;-)

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