As Facebook and Twitter fight to dominate conversation going on in social TV, Mass Relevance has established itself as the platform to facilitate the social battle.
I caught up with Mass Relevance CEO Sam Decker about starting up, the difference between Facebook and Twitter, and the future of social TV.
How did Mass Relevance start out?
I was having dinner with Ze Frank, a viral video guru from Buzzfeed, and we spoke about how all this social content out there was being created.
Ze was saying there is no good purveyor of user generated content and I was like ‘purveyor’? Who uses that word? But that stuck in my head and I started thinking how can all that content be used by marketers and plugged into other marketing activity?
I started exploring this and I met some programmers in Austin and we formed Mass Relevance in December 2010.
The idea is if we can capture, collect and curate the best social content and bring it into other marketing and digital landing points in a meaningful way to create participation, then it will be more engaging for consumers, but also marketers will benefit from a new way of marketing.
Did you have any idea of where Twitter was going or its influence on television?
No, I wish I could say I had seen the future! It’s got a lot to do with good timing. The second screen phenomenon was taking off, the TV broadcasting side was talking more with the digital and app side of things and the conversation on Twitter was really being recognised by the TV shows. So for all of that to come together and for us to launch was very fortunate.
Twitter started helping broadcasters put tweets on TV, but they didn’t have the tools or the service to help the broadcasters do more, filter real time content, put it on TV in an easy way.
So we worked on a partnership to be the first re-syndicator of tweets. Then we scaled up our platform, so we could handle the volume of content.
Facebook and Twitter are two very different platforms. Do any of those differences help Facebook enter the social TV race?
I think it’s too early to say what the behavioural differences are. People are going to use the platforms they want to use, irrespective of what is being shown on TV.
But for the broadcaster, they want as much ubiquity as possible, they want to open the funnel and listen to as much as possible, surface the content and show the posts on TV.
When we started with Facebook, we did ‘Dancing with the Star’s in the US and we could show the demographic breakdown of people talking about particular couples and they were able to create stories around that.
When we think of social TV, we think of the social platform and the actual show itself. What influence does the broadcaster have in this process?
Sometimes we work with the producer of the show and sometimes we work with the broadcaster. When we did The Voice USA, we worked with the producer and then NBC caught wind of it and started plugging it into their website, apps and then other shows.
The broadcaster gets involved from a technical and logistical standpoint, but it’s really the producers and show runners who make the creative decisions. But for broadcasters, once we start working across multiple shows, we end up doing a deal with the broadcaster.
Then they can have the technology available for other shows and the sharing of best practice.
Could broadcasters use this sort of technology as a competitive advantage to bring in the best shows like Breaking Bad or Scandal?
I think so. There is this sort of momentum effort that once you start to implement it into a show, you get more people talking about it on social, which builds on itself. The sooner you start, the more momentum you build and the bigger your mountain of social content will be.
We worked with MTV UK over the summer, and its ‘Hottest Summer Superstar’ social campaign attracted 166m tweets and boosted viewership by 22%.
New people will discover the show along the way and due to this phenomenon of binge watching, people can start watching at any time. So you may have discovered the series at show six but then you can catch up.
Do you see any differences between the UK market and the US market?
It’s early to say, but my thinking is there is a higher level of participation per capita. Looking at MTV UK getting 166m tweets is phenomenal, yet the audience is not as large.
Because the UK is more advanced in mobile phone usage, the likeliness that someone is going to post might be higher. But we haven’t proven that yet, we are going to start benchmarking participation rates between TV and digital to try and prove that.
How will you be changing social experiences over the next two years?
We are always working on covering all touch points, the website, app and the experience, whether it’s a show, live event or some kind of campaign. We are finding ways of pulling in all the interactions that happens outside of the experience and bringing it into every platform, so the audience can see.
This experience will become more personal over time and with more real time discovery. Before, during and after shows, different conversations take off, so the broadcasters and producers will be able to tap into and curate that conversation and encourage their viewers to join the discussion.
Then, because you are from this part of the UK and you see content differently to someone else, or because you care more about certain characters, you will be able to slice and dice the data yourself as a consumer.
Although there will be more social content on TV, with Facebook and Twitter accelerating their TV exposure, five years from now we’ll be talking about the conversation inside digital video. The time lapsing of tweets and posts is something we expect to see. When you play digital video, we will be able to pull the tweets from the time of the original broadcast, so you can see the original tweets from the show.
Now that will be a creative decision, do you want the real time content and what people are saying right now, or do you want the historic content from when it first aired?