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Social Media Turns a Page

By Andrew Frank | January 20, 2009 | 0 Comments

(This post is by Andrew Frank and Allen Weiner and is cross-posted on both of our blogs)

Online coverage of President Barack Obama’s inauguration brought new clarity to the media opportunity for social networks, proving the inherent value of varying social graphs and demonstrating what it takes to ignite powerful, meaningful conversations at a huge scale.

With a dizzying array of online coverage, ranging from Hulu’s feed of Fox News to Livestation’s live broadcast of Al Jazeera, there was something for anyone connected to the Internet – by wire or wireless – looking for an alternative or supplement to traditional broadcast coverage. At the forefront of the fusion of broadcast and community, CNN teamed up with Facebook to allow Facebook members to post comments while a live CNN feed played in an adjacent window. By simply offering two tabs, Facebookers could communicate with everyone on the service or interact solely with their own contacts. The degrees of separation for your broadcast chat were up to you.

The results—a few technical glitches aside—held an unfiltered mirror up to whatever community you chose. Participants were funny, sad, insightful, heartfelt or downright loco—just like the people who populate your world or the world at large. The CNN feed provided a contextual stream to fuel commentary that included such whimsy the size of Aretha Franklin’s hat to a micro-evaluation of Obama’s inaugural speech. Moments such as the oath of office miscue were met with instant comments and many tossed in links to underscore their points of view.

CNN and Facebook were not alone in using social connections to enhance the media experience. Simulstreanming companies uStream, Mogulus and Now Live showed live webcasts with chatrooms and Livestation offered live chats with its broadcast feeds. CNN was reporting thousands of comments per minute, surely a data point not lost on incumbent (generally more risk adverse) broadcasters. While mega-events the scale of an historic presidential inauguration are natural catalysts for the fusion of broadcast and social media, there’s no reasons why communal TV viewing wouldn’t work for major sporting events and major news stories.

Beyond reinforcing the traditional broadcast value of capturing the rapt attention of a large audience, the presence of all of this concentrated chatter offers advertisers a glimpse of the elusive goal of measuring engagement in real time. The sheer volume of consumer commentary gives unprecedented evidence of real engagement which broadcasters can take to the bank. Beyond this, media and marketing organizations who know how to listen to this goldmine of unfiltered expressiveness and hear their customers’ voices in the din will quickly outperform competitors.

With CES just a few weeks in the rear view mirror, we have to wonder how the CNN-Facbook simulstream would have worked on a platform such as Yahoo!’s Connected TV. We are excited to find out.

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