Building Great Relationships With Your Social Media Fan Base

This piece from Erik Flannigan is the fifth in a series of 10 posts about the future of the media industry contained in a report titled: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.

Q:  How does the rise of Facebook change the relationship between media and its audience?

Facebook is a platform, not just a Web site, and it has created a public sentiment meter. In fact, sometimes there seems to be wild over-reactions to the sentiment expressed by the “Like” button. And many people might suggest that “Like” has created a currency of some kind. Whether it’s actually worth something or not remains to be seen, however. It may end up being the lowest possible of all audience benchmarks of interest. We don’t know yet. Some of our properties get modest traffic through Facebook; others get 75-80 percent of their traffic through Facebook. From my perspective, though, it offers a measure of sentiment, a measure of what is most socially relevant.


Q: What’s changed fundamentally about media with the rise of the social Web, and what do publishers need to do to adapt?

On some level, the social Web breaks down the walls for those who want to go there. Real people tell us how they feel in an unvarnished way, in an unfiltered way. There is a fan base that’s active on social media platforms that wants more, and that is looking for relationships with shows and personalities. That means we have to create more and more digital content, and it has to be content that can stand alone. If you want to build a fan base, you have to do this with content. And this has probably made us at MTV think more about marketing our shows all year long, not just at premiere.


Q: We’ve gone from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to SMO (Social Media Optimization), so how will search change as the Web becomes more social?

Search is like fixing your tire. There are times when you have to do it. So, it will continue. That said, the idea that search is the end all and be all is definitely changing. We saw this in focus groups we did with young men. They said if something is important enough, it will find me. All I need is Twitter and a newsfeed. Also, I think more and more people understand that search is a game, that the search system is gamed. And so, search has become less satisfying, and consumers are moving away from their reliance on search. Social filters are better and more timely, especially because you can run out of things to search for. We’re moving to a future where we’ll have some version of tracking, managing and increasing prominence of the super-influencers. And I believe that parsing out the most influential of your social followers will become big, and become a business.


Q:  How do you build a brand in publishing when, with greater frequency, media is distributed through social channels?

It’s tough. And it’s easy to disassociate brands and content. That’s why we need to do more when it comes to thinking things through to the end experience. This is important, and you can see that consumers are giving publishers credit when there’s an open dialogue. Instagram is a good example here. They have thought about the end-to-end experience. It’s much more than a name. Its identity is tied to an experience, to sharing. And they didn’t allow themselves to just be a platform. They are aspiring to become a noun, not just a brand.


Q: What are the critical success factors in publishing as we look to 2020; and who will be the winners?

We must fix the issue of monetization in digital space. There is a horrible battle brewing between the growth of the audience and the lack of currency to monetize. And there’s nothing – no real answers – on the horizon. TV has been online for five years, for example, and the problem hasn’t been solved. There’s big growth and big innovation, and yet we haven’t figured this out.


Erik Flannigan joined MTV Networks from AOL, where he was vice president of programming. Before that, he was at Buena Vista Datacasting / The Walt Disney Company as vice president of programming. And prior to that, he served as vice president of music services and programming at RealNetworks. Earlier, Flannigan was senior vice president, Entertainment Verticals, for the Walt Disney Internet Group.

To download the complete report, please click here:  “Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web”

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