Entertainment news in the 21st century: ‘A sentence with a link’

It’s a simple theory that’s fast become a reality. More and more people are getting their entertainment news via tweets or Facebook updates from friends. This is something Don Buckley, former head of Warner Bros. Interactive, and now president of Terry Hines and Associates interactive marketing company – and those on a panel assembled as part of Social Media Week in New York – have capitalized on.

As the moderator of this panel, Buckley asks the audience to, by show of hand, reveal how many people have tweeted or “Facebooked” their entertainment news lately, either on the receiving or sending end. There is no need to count the hands that go up in the room.

The overwhelming numbers bear testimony to the figures Buckley then throws out. He says the sales figures of copies of the weekly tabloids People Magazine and US Weekly are both down, by 2.3 and 7.8 percent respectively. But, he notes, People has 2.3 million likes on Facebook, and US Weekly is growing fast with around 400 000.

“Is this helping or draining the outlets?” he asks. “News-stand sales are down, but the Facebook numbers are way up. Is this cannibalization? Or a new transition?”

Jordan Hoffman, the Entertainment Editor at UGO.com says it’s best to see Facebook and Twitter as a “firehose“, a combined tool to point people to where you want them to go. “You can get more interest from a Twitter feed or a status update, directing people onto your site, than just hoping they’ll enter your site from the front page. You have to use what you see as hurting you to help you.”

Indeed Monique Ware, the VP for Digital at BET Networks details how the channel used an existing Facebook group for the show The Game, as part of a grassroots social media campaign to create the channel’s most recent victory.

BET scored 7.7-million viewers for the first two episodes of the show’s return premiere, making it the most-watched sitcom ever on cable television, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Much of this, Ware says, can be attributed to the relationship they had with the fan who created the Facebook page out of disappointment when the show was cancelled on another network.

“The Game is a great social media story. The Facebook page the fan had started amassed 2-million fans by the time we met her. We worked with her to leverage this relationship with the other fans to make sure they all tuned in the night it premiered on TV, making it the number one show. You get great feedback on Facebook,” she adds. “We can see it in the ratings and in the traffic to our website. We can see double digit growth in page views, and triple digits in unique views because of having 3,7 million likes on Facebook.”

Buckley comes in again, asking how this strategy affects the bottom line. “It allows us to be strategic on where we spend money. When you’re coming into a situation with 3-million followers, that’s a good place to be, and we were able to mobilize them. It’s a move away from marketing though, to where you are creating content for fans so you need to think about what they would want to see on that Facebook page.”

Showtime Network’s Marcelo Guerra, who is VP for Digital Media Marketing, says they have also used Facebook to focus on developing relationships with fans. They have 19 million subscribers of the TV channel, but 15 million across their Facebook properties.

“The communities really react positively to content. Video is great, but the quotes are getting the most traction. Just putting up zippy lines from the shows are commented on and liked in a high percentage. So even something as simple as a quote becomes a really important piece of giving people something to share.” This works for Twitter too, he adds, by getting the writers from TV shows to tweet via the characters they’ve created.

But even so, the panel agree, not all social networks are created equal. Buckley notes there is a divide between Facebook and Twitter, with the latter experiencing some drawbacks, namely that it is text-based. But it still ranks high up there. As for the rest, he recommends ditching all other social media, and sticking with Facebook for the foreseeable future.

Mike Lazerow, CEO and founder of Buddy Media agrees and sums it up well. “It’s an issue of scale. With these great technologies, we just can’t devote our energies to all of them. The dominating one by far is Facebook. It’s already at 500-million members and that will probably reach a billion in the next 12-18 months. With Facebook you’re building an asset. You can’t really say that about other technologies. People interact with Facebook so much that it’s become like air for some of them. Without it, they suffocate. So systematic effort on Facebook builds an asset.”

He ends with this piece of sterling advice: “The single most engaging piece of content is a sentence with a link. That is the single, by far, most engaging piece of content. And you’ve got to ask yourself, how are you optimizing that?”



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