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SME '17: Engagement Paves the Way to Social Video Success
On social media, live is catching up with on-demand video, but different types of content demand different strategies. This Streaming Media East panel featuring the Broadway Video, the NFL, Ring Digital, and Zefr dug into the nuts and bolts of how to increase audience engagement.

"For years we've been told that when it comes to social media, everything has to be on-demand," said Rick Bashkoff, SVP of business development at Zefr and moderator of the "Social Video: Strategies for Success" panel at Streaming Media East 2017. Now, though, things are changing, and many of the social media sites—most notably Facebook—are pushing live streaming. Why? Panelist Gabriella Mirabelli, CEO of Anatomy, says it's in large part about authenticity. Of course, it's not quite that simple.

Brian Ring, principal analyst at Ring Digital and panelist, referred to what he calls "the genrefication of media." Each content type has its own audience and model—what works for news may not work for sports, and those models definitely don't transfer to serialized, binge-worthy content. Ring says when he talks to sports fans they tell him that even when they have a game they are recording, they are in a hurry to catch up to the live feed.

Blake Stutchin, VP of digital media business development at the NFL, knows better than anyone how important "live" is to sports fans. Which is why the NFL's partnership with Twitter, made so much sense. Stutchin said on the panel, "To me the essence of Twitter has always been about live."

But not every show—or other piece of streaming content—is concerned with being "live." For many, social video is still about driving engagement and awareness. Panelist Britta Von Schoeler is president of Broadway Video Enterprises, which is the company behind juggernauts like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. But Broadway Video also has newer, less established projects like Mas Mejor, a comedy studio powered by Latino voices. Looking at the metrics around these very different properties brings up different issues. For instance, engagement is always important, but these days (i.e. this political climate) much of the engagement around SNL tends to be negative. That doesn't concern Von Schoeler very much. "When we're looking at Mas Mejor, engagement rates tend to be extremely high," she says. "When an audience is small we do take to heart a little bit more when we get negative feedback." Ultimately, that feedback and engagement is much more useful for something like Mas Mejor, she says, as her team uses it to "bring it into focus" and "help build creative later."

While a lot of the NFL's streaming video does rely on live audiences, Stutchin says the company's overall strategy hasn't changed much in its 98-year history. "We want to build mass audiences," he said, pointing out that traditionally that meant television and radio. "Our strategy hasn't changed, it's just gotten much more complicated."

He adds, "Where our audience grows, there's opportunity to generate revenue for us and strategic partners."

For her part, Mirabelli echoed the importance of engagement to social video success. She pointed to Anatomy research that suggests the ability of young millennials to connect programs with their network is, well, "not great." So, she says, if you want to discourage piracy and draw people in to watch your content on your platforms, you have to establish engagement and brand awareness. In other words, whether you're streaming live or simply providing traditional content on new platforms, the path to success is paved with fan comments, and likes.