Social Media as Storytelling

by Mark Jafar, Viacom

Kristin Frank

The printing press…the silver screen…the television tube…Twitter?

Indeed, says Kristin Frank, Senior Vice President and General Manager of MTV and VH1 Digital, who believes social media shares the DNA of history’s great leaps forward in communication technology.  In an op-ed in today’s MediaPost, Frank argues that social media, essentially, is yet another in a long line of innovations that advance the fundamental human art of storytelling.

An excerpt from Frank’s piece:

As content creators, storytelling is core to what we do – and we believe that social is just another platform to tell a story.  Despite what you may hear, technology and social can’t make average content good, but it can make good content great.

It is our role to understand how our audience thinks and then apply that knowledge to engage them in more meaningful ways across social platforms.

For MTV, understanding its audience means understanding the Millennials.  At 100 million strong, the Millennials are the largest generational cohort in American history.

So, what key Millennial insights drive MTV’s social TV strategy, and the network’s approach to telling stories without boundaries?  A few findings ring out, which Frank shares:

Connectivity:  Millennials are “perpetually connected to their network,” Frank says.  Whether it’s through social media or TV, mobile devices or laptops, Millennials are constantly plugged into their friends, families and favorite entertainment.  Social TV needs to fit seamlessly and authentically into that framework.

Co-creation:  Millennials are a uniquely empowered generation, and that confidence often takes shape in uninhibited creativity. They want to have a hand in writing the story, creating the experience.  And they expect a direct line into the artists, celebrities and brands they adore.

Gamification: “Gamification” is a buzzword on the tip of the tech industry tongue, and the Millennials are the ones who put it there. Social integrations should enable fans to compete, conquer, and feel a sense of achievement and gratification.

As Frank writes of Millennials:

By the time they are 21, they have spent over 10k hours gaming –  the equivalent of going to school every day from 5th to 12th grade. They’re experts. It’s engrained in how they think.

With that knowledge in tow, Frank and her team are hard at work experimenting around social TV and social media. According to Frank, it’s paying off – MTV has nearly 100 million Facebook “likes,” 5 million Twitter followers, and ranks first among TV brands on Foursquare, Tumblr and Instagram.

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