Viewing habits are changing and broadcasters are responding in a number of ways.

Some of these include delivering content designed specifically for digital distribution, and complementing and enhancing original programming with additional content. This additional content can come from viewers through real-time social-media feeds such as Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram and Vine.

Surveys in the United States and United Kingdom have reported that 70 to 80 percent of viewers use a second device while watching television to post comments to social-media feeds, such as Twitter and Facebook, about what they’re watching. During the 2014 Super Bowl, 25,000,000 tweets were sent overall & rates peaked at 381,000 per minute during a big kickoff return. Social-media content is now so closely linked to television in the U.S. that Nielsen has announced a new rating system that will track the traction of specific television shows on Twitter. Facebook is also getting into the act and has announced partnerships with CNN and others that will see Facebook providing access to demographic information about conversations happening around specific programming.

Clearly, social-media content about television programs is growing rapidly. What many broadcasters are still struggling with is how to use social media to proactively drive increased audience participation, dialogues and interactions, and then translate that increased engagement into new revenue streams.

Win the competition for attention
In the digital space, as in any other space, the most important thing is to win the competition for attention. To build an audience—and engage it—you must not only create compelling content, but also make longer-term, deeper connections with your followers.

There are a number of things you can do to build an engaged audience:

1. Create a strong social-media presence: Twitter and Facebook have become the modern-day equivalent of the water cooler, but on a global scale. Keep your corporate Twitter and Facebook feeds concise and compelling. Don’t overwhelm your followers with excessive numbers of comments and posts. Twitter and Facebook shouldn’t be used as channels for the distribution of the primary product, so make sure the ability link to content is front and center.

2. Remember the 80/20 rule: Only 20 percent of your social-media content should be self promotional; the remaining 80 percent should provide added value to your followers. The 80 percent could include comments about changes in your industry, provide valuable tips or link to information on trends. Whatever you post, make sure your followers will find useful.

3. Deliver choice: Make your content available through multiple devices, including television at scheduled times, on-demand viewing on television and online, laptops, tablets and smartphones, so that your audience can decide how—and when—they want to view it and interact with it.

4. Enable audience participation: Ensure the flow of your programming includes opportunities for audience participation and include audience comments in real time whenever possible.

Perhaps the most important of these is the last one: Enable audience participation. More and more, people want a chance to participate in the shows they watch. Including social-media content, even if each tweet appears on screen for only a few seconds, gives viewers the opportunity to see their name on screen, and delivers a fleeting moment of fame. You can also use social-media data to help you tell the story and it can even be the story itself. Trending polls can be used to gauge the mood of the world, a nation or even a single community on a specific topic. Directed polls can be used to create engagement and enable viewers to “have their say.” Either way, you can create compelling graphical information that connects your audience to your program.

Create an effective social-media strategy
At the heart of any effective social-media strategy is compelling content that’s timely and pertinent to your core message. There are many ways of creating that content. You could hire a team of people, plug them into your core content creative process, and then have them create relevant social-media content in real time. Or, you could install an integrated platform that enables the people creating your core content to quickly and easily craft social messaging in parallel.

There are many advantages to this latter approach, including being able to use the same people for core and social-media content creation. This co-creation of content also ensures your messaging is always consistent across platforms, and that your social content can be published at just the right moment based on the release of the core content.

When comparing integrated social-media platforms, look for a powerful and simple system that will enable you to control your message, whether it’s news, live events, breaking news, promotions, sports, weather, alerts or updates—and get it out to the widest possible audience in a timely manner—without adding to anyone's work load. An ideal platform should connect your control booth directly to the web, provide a simple process to guide you from story concept to publication, and enable you to choose when and where stories come from, how material is published and ways to customize the system to work most efficiently with your existing workflows. Make sure your chosen system lets you create live running orders or use MOS to load them from your newsroom, make polling data available in real time, and connect to all the popular social networks, video-hosting sites and workflow solutions.

An ideal integrated social-media platform should:
• Connect your control room directly to the web, enabling you to use a professional production process for all content being published as social media.
• Provide a simple “Create -> Edit -> Submit -> Approve -> Publish” process to guide you from story concept to publication.
• Enable you to choose when and where stories come from, how material is published and ways to customize the system to work most efficiently with your workflows.
• Let you create live running orders or use MOS to load them from your newsroom.
• Include tools that make polling data available in real time.
• Have plug-ins for all the popular social networks, including Twitter and Facebook, for video hosting sites, such as YouTube, Brightcove and Vine, and for workflow solutions like scheduling and email approval.

But, what about the revenue?
The truth is that social media should be used only as a way to connect with—and engage—your audience. If you try to advertise to your friends and followers, you’re more likely to alienate them than generate revenue. This is especially true when it comes to younger consumers. This means that your overall social-media goal must be audience engagement and not monetization. However, if you achieve the former, the latter will take care of itself.

Revenue is realized when someone who follows you clicks through from a social-media post to view a video, read an article or document, or get more information. Advertising and information collection can be part of this secondary level of engagement without running the risk of turning away or turning off your follower. If you tweet or post to Facebook a link to relevant informational content—a white paper, for example—you can collect data, including name and email address, from anyone who asks to be sent the document. In this way, you can collect leads and generate revenue from advertising indirectly from social-media content.

Future-proof your investment
Social media is changing rapidly. What’s true today is not necessarily true tomorrow. Make sure that any integrated platform you invest in is able to react to the “next big thing.” Any solution that requires major upgrades or large changes in process to address a new reality will cost more in the long run that they will ever deliver. A good strategy should be centered on technology and workflow solutions that will evolve as the social-media distribution and consumption landscape shifts and changes.

Peschau-Photo2An acknowledged expert in newsroom systems, Matt Peschau facilitates worldwide sales, marketing, training and support efforts for Ross Video’s broadcast news planning and production software applications including Inception, EZNews, EZPrompt and EZCaption.