At our recent discussion at IBC about the challenges of monetizing content through social media, Claude London of BBC Worldwide identified three evolutionary phases media companies go through with social media and their branded content. (BTW: if you haven’t already heard the recording of this event, including Alex Balfour’s presentation on how the London 2012 Olympics is using social media, click here).
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been explored Claude’s concepts with various media execs in the digital media space, and have generally received a “yep, that’s what we did” response. Given the general consensus, here are the three phases media companies go through:
Phase 1 – “Social” as Communications
Business justification: It’s cheap
Objective: It’s cheap; do we need another reason?
Given the “free” or low-cost nature of many social channels, many brands get into social simply because of the price point. There generally is not a holistic strategy or business objective beyond following the crowd, or even because the boss heard about this <Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc> thing.
This is the Wild West of social with little centralization or corporate standards. There is also wide variability in the type of editorial content pushed out via the channel.
Phase 2 – Promotional Vehicle
Business justification: Engaging a broad audience to make them aware of our content
Objective: Identify and recruit fans of our content. While there are some brands that “listen” or engage audiences in a dialogue, there is usually a push or one-way mentality to the engagement.
After some period of letting the interns drive the social strategy, the media company wakes up and realizes they have several thousand followers on Facebook or Twitter… the light bulb goes on when they realize how effective social can be in attracting and engaging audiences (and it’s cheap!).
At this point, they put more rigor around their efforts often:
formalizing and centralizing some social media processes/standards and
starting an editorial process for identifying what content to push out to audiences
Social efforts and teams are usually still decentralized, and the focus is on growing audience reach.
It’s at this point – when social starts becoming its own channel, and requiring some level of investment – that some media companies begin to outsource to outside vendors/agencies/experts. How much the company outsources is a good predictor if they’ll progress to the next stage or not. As Claude pointed out in his original comments “social media is as much content as it is marketing. Content is what we [the media company] do. Don’t outsource that.”
As Claude and others have recognized, entertainment content and brands distributed in social channels take on a life as their own as valuable audience experience. Companies that view social as just another promotional channel don’t recognize the value they’re leaving on the table by not making social and their digital content strategy one-and-the-same.
I’m not advocating that media companies should ONLY be social on sites they control – after all, it’s critical that media companies go where audience lives. Media companies should just have a strategy about when they’re using social channels for promotion vs a social entertainment experience that they’re trying to monetize.
Phase 3 – Relationship and Monetization Platform
Business justification: Audience want to interact with, and around my brands… why shouldn’t I build a longer-term, valuable relationship with them – one that I can monetize
Objective: Build brand value, and revenue
Few media companies have made the leap into this last phase, although many in the last 6-12 months are starting to make this transition.
Whether they’ve outsourced or not, in this phase media companies realize they have been giving away their three most valuable assets to 3rd parties:
1. Premium content
2. their brand and
3. the data about the audience (or in other words, the direct relationship with consumers)
They look to remedy this situation by exerting more control over their content and brands to make sure they are realizing some of the value being created on these high-value, social entertainment experiences. To achieve this, media companies begin to centralize staff and activities to realize economies / efficiencies of scale. They also tend to adopt a portfolio approach to their social channels, segmenting them by them by the experience or value they add at each stage of a consumer’s engagement with that brand or content.
The actual monetization of content is highly dependent on what is appropriate for that brand, audience and the social channel in which the experience is happening. Experimenting with what monetization efforts work with what social channels and audiences is the new Wild West.
I’d like to hear your perspectives on this. What phase is your company in? What do you think are the critical factors or items for a company to move from one phase to another? Are there any companies doing a great job at monetizing content in the social channel?
How do you find out about new TV shows, movies, and bands and artists?
At the Bandwidth Conference (a digital music trade show), a few months back, we captured some conversations about ‘how content finds you’, in this case, how you find new music. Jac Holzman, the visionary founder of Elektra Records(read a Cisco blog post about Holzman and the 60th anniversary of the label here), was asked if it’s a bad thing that technology has lowered the cost of recording, thereby allowing hundreds of thousand more musically inclined people to make records. With so much new music being released, isn’t so much of it just mediocre music? For instance, going online to sift through hundreds of blogs, unknown artist sites, music discovery sites like the Hype Machine and recommendation services like Pandora – is it worth all that time to find good new music? Holzman offers that record labels themselves, like Elektra (see the Cisco Eos powered site for the label here), are one of the best platforms to discover new quality music – he explains ..
When it comes to discovering new music, what if you don’t have a favorite record label or radio station, to be your ‘first filter’ as Jac Holzman calls it?
A little over a year ago, we introduced five new video vignettes, which helped us translate “What Cisco Eos® can do for you” through the lens of different roles in a media company, as well as for the end consumer. In the post New Videos: the Story of the Five Blind Men and an Elephant, I detailed how these videos helped us overcome the challenge of explaining what Eos is and how it can help bring value to media companies, as well as enable an engaging, interactive entertainment experience for fans.
What we discovered about these videos is that they worked. Engagement was high and we received anecdotal responses that these vignettes helped people “get” what Eos was. Presentations and collateral are great—but video can convey a lot in a pretty succinct and compelling way. These vignettes really served as conversation starters.
Since the release of the original video vignettes, the Cisco Media Solutions Group has been busy. In FY10, the team acquired five additional Eos customers who have already built 75+ Eos-powered sites. There were also almost 400 features and enhancements made to the platform within that time frame.
Today, we’re launching a new set of videos with our favorite characters, carrying the story into the new features that our customers are excited about. We also wanted to show that Eos can be used by any number of entertainment related companies. In these new stories, we follow a company that manages a sports site (Ole Ole) and a fan of that site.
Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to:
Brightcove / TubeMogul research chart showing web video consumption on broadcast TV network web sites far outstrips web video related to any other type of content – magazines, music videos, radio, etc.