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Social Media’s Increasing Role in the Content Experience

· August 25, 2014

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A DisCo post last week described how Taylor Swift was using social media to promote her latest album, 1989. And previous DisCo posts have discussed the phenomenon of innovative artists embracing Internet platforms to reach new markets. Social media, however, has become far more than an alternative means for promoting and distributing entertainment content; often it is integral to the content itself.

Social media is a central theme of this summer’s sleeper hit, Chef. Chef Carl Casper, played by Jon Favreau, finds his career in trouble after engaging in a public dispute via Twitter with a food blogger, which he didn’t realize was public because he didn’t understand how Twitter operated. (His young son established the Twitter account for him.) Twitter also plays a critical role in the resurrection of his career, as his son tweets about his new food truck as they drive across the country. Further, Twitter helps reconnect the chef with his son. (Favreau insists that Twitter didn’t pay for the product placement.) Twitter is to Chef what AOL was to the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan 1998 rom-com You’ve Got Mail.

Social media can also be more than a plot device; it can serve a central role in the entertainment experience. For the past two years, social media has been part the judging of the Tyra Banks vehicle America’s Next Top Model, one of the top shows on the CW network. During the judging session, a fashion blogger, Bryanboy, articulated the views expressed by fans on the show’s website. Moreover, a social media score reflecting fans’ votes on the show’s website was weighed along with the judges’ scores to determine which contestant was eliminated. Additionally, social media scores determined which eliminated contestant could return at a later stage of the competition.

In the current season, social media plays an even greater role. In last week’s episode, the models were evaluated on the basis of their ability to use social media. They had to take a “selfie” which they then manipulated using the mobile app Line.

Social media obviously is a disruptive technology that empowers new entrants. But like any disruptive technology, it can be successfully adopted by incumbents willing to take risks and experiment. Taylor Swift, Jon Favreau, and Tyra Banks are all well-established performers. By adopting social media, whether as a means of promoting a new product, of advancing a plot, or of interacting with an audience, these performers have managed to remain current and thereby to advance their careers.

Competition

Some, if not all of society’s most useful innovations are the byproduct of competition. In fact, although it may sound counterintuitive, innovation often flourishes when an incumbent is threatened by a new entrant because the threat of losing users to the competition drives product improvement. The Internet and the products and companies it has enabled are no exception; companies need to constantly stay on their toes, as the next startup is ready to knock them down with a better product.

Innovation

New technologies are constantly emerging that promise to change our lives for the better. These disruptive technologies give us an increase in choice, make technologies more accessible, make things more affordable, and give consumers a voice. And the pace of innovation has only quickened in recent years, as the Internet has enabled a wave of new, inter-connected devices that have benefited consumers around the world, seemingly in all aspects of their lives. Preserving an innovation-friendly market is, therefore, tantamount not only to businesses but society at large.