The Right Time for Mobile and Social Media

Tom Butts,

Most broadcasters who are integrating more social media into their programming—both on-air and online—are doing so in managed and measured ways that emphasize relevancy and effectiveness. In other words, before taking the plunge, TV stations are trying to determine what is “just enough” or “too much,” as well as formulating specific plans when engaging with their audiences through services such as Facebook, Twitter and similar popular networks.

This is the conclusion of last month’s report from the Radio Television Digital News Association, in which the organization partnered with Hofstra University to survey about 150 TV news directors about the growing use of social media in broadcasts. The annual survey showed that stations are developing specific plans for dealing with social media, including setting up schedules for staffers to post (with a de-emphasis on automation and emphasizing more targeted efforts), and hiring new staffers focused solely on social media. A common element however, is that most are moving forward with specific goals in mind. Some stations are more interested in engaging with their audience through online “conversations” while others are using social networks to provide a behind-the-scenes look at their facilities. Twitter seemed to be the most popular social media network, although Facebook also rated high.

TBS staff members work on social media postings.
Sports networks are also measuring the effectiveness of their social media efforts. ESPN is well known for its active engagement with its audience via social networks but regional sports networks are also getting better connected with their viewers as well. As Mark Smith reports on our p. 1 story on social networking in sports programming, network directors are trying to strike a balance between knowing when and where to integrate it into their schedules. Some are incorporating it into all of their programming while others reserve it for special events. “There’s a fine line between using it to enhance your broadcast and overdoing it,” said one RSN producer.

The same RTDNA survey also asked stations about their mobile efforts and found that, unexpectedly, stations have slightly pulled back on their mobile efforts than in the previous annual survey. Last year, more respondents were focused on developing strategies while this year, the emphasis was on execution. Weather and mobile news streaming apps were the most popular services cited in the survey.

As the RTDNA survey illustrateS, broadcasters are not standing still when it comes to using social media and mobile apps. But unlike their online counterparts who often burn out too quickly, they’re planning ahead, and using their expertise in programming and demographics to more fully engage with their viewers.

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.