Commentary

Social Media Has Changed Us - And Now We're Going to Return the Favor

The top 100 TV shows have Twitter accounts.  Every new theatrical release has a Facebook page.  Heck, a quarter of TV ads now proudly display a URL or handle.  Marketers and publishers are racing to augment their content with social arms and legs. 
 
And from the Olympics to the Election, it is inarguable that social media has changed how we interact with content.  But what if we’ve been overstating that change?  What if social media is just the garnish to the content main course:  enhancing its presentation and appeal, but not fundamentally changing the consumer/content dynamic?  What if social is not a driver, but rather a casualty of shifts in consumer behavior?
 
Here’s what I mean.  Social media has been heralded as the savior for “live,” linear television.  Sure, program-related Twitter feeds and Facebook posts are a blast, but work only if consumed concurrently with the original airing of content.  And consumers are resigned to that tradeoff: watching linear TV to get the augmented social experience.
 
But I argue that that paradigm is short-lived.  If we’ve learned anything, it’s that consumers are what/where/when.  Technology has taught them that they need not compromise.  If they can time-shift their content, why not their social “commentary track” as well?
 
Some companies are already starting to play with this concept.  The IntoNow app recognizes a show whenever it’s played, and incorporates shifted-time commentary.  Bravo replays its shows with a “Pop-up Video”-like social feed.  Consumers will get a taste.  And they’ll want more.
 
Facebook and Twitter will need to revamp their offerings to this new synched reality of “Social on My Terms.”  Social without content is less than worthless.  Twitter sees the writing on the wall:  they’re pivoting to focus on “events.”  Facebook is desperate to get advertisers to create compelling content to keep fans returning.  But if they continue to ignore the reality of time-shifting, the social element will be yesterday’s newspaper.
 
Increasingly, consumers are coming home, firing up their DVRs, and curling up in front of their favorite shows.  And they’re saying to themselves, “why is it that I can watch my content when and where I want, and on whatever platform I want – but I can’t get a relevant comment stream?”
 
Content-creators need not cede the answer to social networks.  Publishers have earned the right to deliver this experience – after all, they own the content.  Social platforms have been extraordinarily successful in inserting themselves between the consumer and the content.  In the future of media, smart publishers will cut out the middleman and build direct, lucrative relationships with willing, socially engaged consumers.
 
Ben Winkler Chief Digital Officer, OMD

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1 comment about "Social Media Has Changed Us - And Now We're Going to Return the Favor".
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  1. Mick Darling from http://tomorrowish.com, September 27, 2012 at 11:33 a.m.

    You are spot on about how content creators need to think about the whole lifetime of their content and how to keep that social, rather than just the absolute first airing of a show in the earliest timezone it airs in. My issue with apps like IntoNow's social commentary is that it is still completely out of context for the episode and the moment in the show being watched.

    "Real-time" social media relies on everyone being in perfect sync. We have the capability, at my company Tomorrowish, to make the social stream "real-time for me" and sync the social media conversation to the moment in a show someone is watching.

    This doesn't require building separate content-creator social networks, we simply need to integrate the entertainment content with the social streams of public social networks, and both can benefit. The content-creators can leverage the present social graphs on different social networks, and the social networks benefit from more and more interesting conversations.

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