Social Media: Moving Into Programming

Social content, particularly the high caliber programming from small studios that is spreading across the Web by word of mouth, has been happening for a while now. But adoption by both producers and consumers is picking up as this content stands on its own. Perhaps it’s because Santa forgot to drop off a big screen TV at our home (we have a 27-inch analog TV) or because Internet-based content and games are the primary sources of entertainment for a growing audience. Either way, I’ve been thinking about building a media center around the Internet instead of the TV. I’m hardly unique in this regard, and that is what’s driving my interest in high-quality, Web-based programming. As a marketer, you should be looking here, too.

Living Well

Susan Bratton, cofounder and CEO of Personal Life Media, is creating such high-quality content. Working with her husband, Tim, she has created an impressive array of content, with programming ranging from lifestyle and environment (e.g., Meredith Medland’s “Living Green”) to lifestyles programming with titles like “Buddhist Geeks.” Of course, marketing and marketing technology is featured, too, in Bratton’s trademark show “DishyMix.” These shows are typically sponsored, something I wrote about in an earlier column.

Bratton has created a place for dozens of channels and hundreds of shows. Because the content is delivered as podcasts as well as online episodes, it can be easily moved to the car or carried on a hike or run. In my recent book, I highlight the importance of giving your audience the choice of where, when, and how to consume your sponsored content. Podcasting is a particularly strong candidate for consumption in reflective settings: Consider for a moment what it means to be present during a 45-minute exercise session or 3-hour run. It’s no wonder a recent Podtrac-TNS advertising effectiveness study concluded that advertisements in podcasts and online shows provide a threefold ad effectiveness increase over standard online media and a whopping sevenfold effectiveness increase over TV. Further, advertising in podcasts drives purchases: There’s a 73 percent average increase in likelihood to use/buy following podcast-based ad exposure.

Sporting Content

Who doesn’t love sports? I met recently with Nathali Parker. Parker has the unique combination of athletic ability (she’s an accomplished athlete) and professional interviewing skills and technical sports knowledge, allowing her to create compelling programming around sports and relationships. Her show, “The Xs and Os” combines the give and take between husbands and wives when sports season is in full swing with a technical dive into the sport itself. Check out running back Sammy Morris as he teaches Parker to deliver a proper stiff arm. Like Personal Life Media, “The Xs and Os,” is largely sponsorship-based.

Sponsorships are the core of sports marketing: they not only deliver consumer awareness (think B2C) but also allow sponsors to get closer to the action than they’d be able to otherwise. They create a business-to-business component unique to sports marketing. And they’re something often overlooked when considering this channel, which is hugely important in developing business relationships between buyers and suppliers.

Working Inside the Box

How can you use original online programming inside the enterprise? Look no further than “Beach Walks with Rox,” a daily video podcast series filmed in Hawaii. Working together, Roxanne Darling and Shane Robinson have produced over 700 episodes. In this 2007 episode, Darling talks about applying video podcasting within an enterprise specifically to improve the workplace experience. Here’s a social experiment that you can actually measure: take Darling’s challenge, implement a pilot program inside your company, and measure the results. Very easy, very contained, and with a quantitative result you’ll know whether this type of programming application is helpful in the specific context of your enterprise.

The key to applying any of these technologies — audio podcasting, video podcasting, and online video programming — is taking advantage of the social aspects afforded by this media. Each features social tools, such as send to a friend, subscriptions, comments, and supporting blogs, along with the standard socialization tools: bookmarks, diggs, and similar. Each format is built for passing around. At a time when getting your message out there isn’t enough, channels that place your message in the direct context of a referral — as in “Dave thinks you ought to watch this” — is a real plus.

Take a look at these programming sources and the sponsorship opportunities they present. Ask yourself how much of your existing content consumption these online media forms might replace. By using the social channels and the types of content that fit well into a connected, digital world, you’re able to complement your basic (traditional) awareness channels. At the same time, this kind of original programming provides another opportunity to enhance your overall brand reputation. That’s a powerful combination, one well worth your time and consideration.

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