David Beck fires off statistics about a range of subjects including Hispanics in the US, television, and social media. "The Hispanic population in the US is like a country within a country," Beck quips. "If you separated it out, it would be the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world and the 15th largest consumer economy."
Beck is the senior vice president and general manager of Social Media at Univision Communications Inc., which with about 73% of the market, is the leading media company serving Hispanic America. If you're not a Spanish-speaker, you might only know Univision as one of the channels you flip past. If you're in the broadcast media business, however, you'd know that Univision has, for time periods, outpaced Fox, NBC, and CBS in the 18-49 age demographic.
The social media team at Univision has been a hotbed of experimentation with using social media in conjunction with television. Beck says, "We're leveraging social to become part of the content experience. We're essentially starting to co-create content with our audience."
One of the ways that Univision has been co-creating content with its viewers is by inviting fans to participate in the big awards shows. Fans are asked to submit questions for their favorite celebrities, which are then posed to the stars right on the red carpet. At other times, fans are asked to vote on various categories; the winners of which become part of the overall awards. The solicitation of fans is integrated with television programming leading up to and during the awards.
The response has been astounding. On average, each unique individual tweeting about the show or using the hashtags, tweets about six times per show (tweets-per-unique). As Beck says, "Those that choose to be socially active are highly active."
Beck continues, "We consistently find our awards shows are among the top few from an engagement standpoint - tweets per unique - that tells us that the audience and what we're doing is engaging."
Beck describes the primary driver of the company's success is their focus on audience desires. He says, "we know they want us to actually connect them with their favorite stars; they want to be rewarded. So, we do a lot of messaging out to them. We're giving them opportunities to be a part of the show. We do that by saying 'tweet us your questions for the star on the red carpet; do an Instagram video of a truth-or-dare for a celebrity that we'll ask backstage. We want you to vote for the best dress; a live hashtag vote for best dress on the carpet."
Another tactic that has had helped the audience participate is in Univision's use of the Vine 360-Degree booth. While Vine 360 has been used in many shows such as the Golden Globes and the Country Music Awards, Univision moved their booth backstage so that fans could see award recipients right after receiving their awards.
Beck shares, " let's get it backstage right next to the stage so when the artists come out throughout the night, they're holding their awards. Whether it's Marc Anthony, or Jlo; they come over; they're sitting there with a big smile on their face, they're thanking their family; and it all happens in this stop motion-like sequence."
The mindset here is different. It's obvious that Beck and his team think through the audience's needs. He says, "We're really giving the fans the opportunity to participate in the experience; not just consume great content."
It could be that Univision has a unique opportunity to experiment with the nexus of social media and television, and a highly engaged audience. Beck describes his vision, "Television is still the big screen; it is still the broadest reach. It really has the most eyeballs. We use social to seed and get people to tune in. When they're tuned in, we reward the fans by bringing them into that actual first screen by showing their handle; their video question, on the screen. We use content from social to get them integrated into the screen."
Beck continues, "We do a lot of social TV integrations, because you can do social in the background. But once you see it happening on the big screen, it's done in a way that's organic; not forced. It's adding to the content experience, it's a special sauce."
The underlying principals of Univision's social media work can be relevant to the work of everyone in the industry. It's not limited to the Hispanic market, to the television industry, nor to award shows. It's about using the media to enrich the experience, and to allow people to participate.