Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

The buzz surrounding social media

By Kate Bulkley

IBC E Daily

For IBC E Daily September 11, 2010

“The future of television is search and recommendation,” Philip O’Ferrall, senior vice president of digital media for MTV Networks told the Forum audience at the IBC conference session ‘Social media: look who’s talking now’.

A few years ago that kind of statement might have sounded like a call to arms among broadcasters, but the rise of social network giants like Facebook (500m users) and Twitter (100m users) and the propensity of particularly younger audiences to want to interact rather that simply watch a TV programme, has driven an increasing amount of broadcasters to ‘socialise’ their progammes.

“If you are not fully integrated with a social platform and if you don’t have Facebook Connect on your websites and if you don’t take your content to third-party social networks then you are in trouble,” said MTV’s O’Ferrall.

Indeed, it was Facebook’s technology on CNN’s website that made US President Obama’s inauguration and the funeral of Michael Jackson the biggest ever social networking phenomena to date. “We are not in competition with broadcasters,” Trevor Johnson, head of strategy and planning EMEA for Facebook (pictured) said. “We see ourselves as a platform not a website.”

Simon Nelson, controller of portfolio and multiplatform at the BBC, countered that although the BBC is implementing all sorts of social media applications for many programmes, he thinks smart scheduling and channel brands still have a long way to go before becoming redundant.

“I am an evolutionist, not a revolutionist,” said Nelson. “If you look at a heat map of how people use the iPlayer it is absolutely dominated by people going to BBC1 on Wednesday night to find what they are looking for. That said, this is an audience that is very familiar with the grammar of TV. As the years go by the personalised and socialised functions will be will increase.”

The BBC iPlayer version 3 has social functions on it and in the next few weeks the BBC will be unveiling ‘Buzz Pages’ for many of its programmes that will turn the one-way programme sites that every BBC programme has on the web into socialised experiences. A Buzz Page will “suck all the blogs and linked programme pages that we will moderate and then reflect back on the BBC website”, said Nelson. “This will help people find and join conversations. So we are exposing an linking to a wider conversation on the Web that will deepen engagement around our programme and increase their impact.”

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