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The Social-TV Connection That’s Redefining Content Partnerships Online

  |  April 24, 2014   |  Comments

As traditional television reinvents itself in the image of modern-day media, it's changing the rules of content production and distribution on the Web - without social media, TV is stuck in the past.

Media buyers and sales reps, publishers and advertisers - the digital media business is all about partnerships. It's built on a relationship of give and take that goes beyond the sales call to encompass branded and custom content. We've watched the lines between advertising and editorial blur with native ads and sponsored stories. Next to grow hazy is the line between social media and TV.

In anticipation of the 2014 TV upfront ad-buying season, Viacom announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with Tumblr that could deliver content from such channels as MTV, VH1, CMT, and Nickelodeon to the social site in the form of custom videos, animated GIFs, and images. "Viacom's partnership with Tumblr gives advertisers yet another way to ride the huge wave of social activity fueled by our passionate fans and constant stream of premium content," says Viacom's head of sales, music, and entertainment.

Viacom's commitment to integrating with social media extends to measurement through a second partnership, this time with social content curation company Mass Relevance. Social media marketing tools like Twitter Amplify, Echo, and again Tumblr will be used to measure the impact of TV campaigns for advertising brands.

Similarly, BuzzFeed introduced a program earlier this month called Social Tune In that aims to bridge the gap between online content and the TV screen. In collaboration with AMC Networks' comedy channel IFC, BuzzFeed has created BuzzFeed Blocks that are airing on Saturday nights. Currently promoting movies, the Blocks might pair a showing of Goodfellas with the BuzzFeed listicle "10 Signs You Were Born To Be A Gangster," or Cheech & Chong's Animated Movie with the list "13 Signs Your Reflexes May Have Been Significantly Dulled." The approach has already increased IFC's Saturday night viewership in target adult categories.


Meanwhile, BuzzFeed's partnership with Bravo TV matches listicles to shows based on context, but here the content appears on a branded BuzzFeed page promoting, for example, the Bravo series Online Dating Rituals of the American Male with GIF-rich posts like "The Definitive Guide To Online Dating Terminology." It's a different technique that achieves the same goal: marry mediums to provide consumers with an all-encompassing content experience.

This strategy is sure to appeal to Millennials, a key audience for TV networks and social sites alike, but its logic runs deeper than chasing a behavioral trend. Blending TV with social media is like converting a stage play into improv. When content producers take direction from the audience, the results are dynamic and customized.

This phenomenon has particular import for the producers of content that has a long lead time and only airs once a week. In order to sustain its relevance, producers must ensure it appears current. That means supplementing TV shows with fresher, more frequent material that lives online, and inviting viewers to take part in its distribution.

It's about being a content leader: pushing beyond the product to imagine other ways in which it might hold weight with consumers. And it's a lesson that applies to most brands. As traditional television reinvents itself in the image of modern-day media, it's changing the rules of content production and distribution on the Web. Companies of all kinds must follow suit, identifying ways in which to make their products more relevant, creating content that crosses channels to draw consumers in, and affiliating themselves with the platforms that can expand their reach. Traditionally, the notion of hitching your wagon to a star has connotations of cutting corners and smacks of a lack of drive. In media and marketing, raising oneself up by aligning with a winning formula - be it a publisher's already beloved content or a social network's loyal audience - is central to campaign success.

Changes are afoot for content marketing, and we have TV to thank. Without social media it's stuck in the past, but it's about to redefine the future of brand campaigns.

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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