I watched the inauguration in what might be called the old-fashioned way, by viewing it on TV while working on an editing project on my laptop, scanning Twitter and Facebook for commentary when I could. But from what I could tell from what people were saying on Twitter, and also from replies I got to the question: "What was your favorite social media moment of the inauguration?" the preferred experience was, as Kevin Burke, founder of Lightiris.com, put it: "Watching on CNN.com with Facebook friends commenting along within the same window. Nice use of Facebook Connect." (Facebook Connect is a product other sites can use that allows Facebook users to log in to those sites, and interact with their friends on those sites.)
The CNN.com/Facebook Connect combination offered everything a social media addict
could want in a big TV event: a live stream paired with the ability to interact with friends. According to numbers obtained from CNN by TechCrunch, the site processed more than 1.5 million updates by late afternoon/early evening, and, during Obama's
speech, updates surged to 8,500 per minute. (CNN.com had 21.3 million live streams.) Social media usage, a big event, and streaming technology came together to form a perfect, and beautiful, storm.
"It was a confluence of events coming together," said Steve Mulder, director of emerging interactions for digital shop Molecular. (I should mention that there were problems with the live stream. Jon
Copeland, a research specialist at Fleishman-Hillard, said his favorite social media moment yesterday was: "EVERYONE who was trying to stream the event simultaneously posting: 'What's wrong with the
video?' and 'audio is down' and 'terrible stream, going to find TV.'")
Despite the technical glitches, it occurred to me yesterday, as I scanned Twitter for updates and channel-surfed looking for the best camera angles, that, especially being at the home office alone, I couldn't imagine watching such a major historical event without a significant social component. That's the magic of what happened yesterday from a social media perspective. Just watch (and comment): No big TV event after this is going to be the same unless we are surrounded by our friends, virtually speaking. I was at least as interested in what the Twitter-ati were saying as I was in what Jeff Greenfield or Brian Williams had to say.
The Super Bowl should be the next big marriage of social media and live streaming. If the honchos involved in such a decision aren't already thinking about this, they should be. Hulu has also licensed Facebook Connect, and so the site should attempt to stream a live feed of the big game, which Hulu co-owner NBC is airing, making for a social media/media event that has the potential to outdo this one. (Hmmm... interesting conflicts of interest arise here. Hulu's other co-owner is News Corp., owner of MySpace. Maybe both social nets could participate?)
From a business perspective, there are two great things here for Facebook. One, if Facebook can use its expanding share of the social graph to make for great experiences on prominent media sites, the licensing fees could get pretty sweet. Social nets are not a one-size-fits-all experience, and, with the possible exception of MySpace, no other social net would be worth partnering with for a big event.
Second, as Mulder points out, "Advertisers are going to love this because it encourages people to watch TV in real time." A workable ad model for Facebook, emerging on the same day that Obama was inaugurated? Things must be looking up.
(On a side note, if you haven't already signed up to join us at OMMA Social next Monday at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco, please do.)