Live from OMMA Social: The Socialization of CNN

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Jun 23, 2009
More Articles by Janet


Cnn.Image via Wikipedia

Today I’m at OMMA Social in NYC, and I’ll be live blogging the presentations all day. The first presentation today was “The Socialization of CNN: The Presidential Election from YouTube to Facebook Connect”, presented by Andy Mitchell, VP of Digital and Developmental Marketing at CNN Worldwide.

Andy started by covering the trend of using social media to cover breaking news, focusing some discussion on the latest coverage and use of social media in Iran. He explained that CNN has changed its motto to “inform, involve, empower” — and it is being embraced by all of CNN. It’s not just about news and being the best in news anymore — it’s also about involving and empowering.

During the 2008 presidential elections, CNN partnered with YouTube. Some at CNN, traditional media foks, weren’t always excited about using “regular folks” asking questions via the YouTube debate. He gave a few examples — they were pretty funny — of questions submitted via YouTube:

Mitt Romney felt it was demeaning to “take questions from a snowman”, but many candidates enjoyed the new format.

CNN then partnered with Facebook using Facebook Connect to allow greater interaction for the Vice Presidential debates. It was technologically challenging and they ran out of time, so they were not able to use the technology for the debates. A developer at Facebook had then been watching the debates live on Hulu and configured a way to watch the video and update status on Facebook at one time. Facebook came back to CNN and they hammered out a way to create the Inauguraton interface. Everyone at CNN really embraced this format, so there was great internal support for the idea. CNN literally bought up all of the available extra Internet bandwidth during the inauguration to ensure a good user experience.

The result? There were 1.2M RSVPs to the online event. The goal was to break the record of 700,000 attendees to an online streamed live event. In the end, about 1.3M live streams were going on during the inauguration via CNN.

Additionally, Starbucks ran a “Join In” ad on CNN.com during the event which received acclaim from many for its tie in to the event (on theme, etc.). They did a good job tailoring creative to the audience.

After this experience, CNN and Facebook are continuing to work together as partners for events to come.

Andy also mentioned that the video views on CNN has grown substantially over the past two years, from 610M in 2006 to 1.2B last year. He said that sampling content is very effective — so they give a sample of the content to bring visitors in further. So they created a campaign, “I just saw this on CNN.com:” to be used on CNN.com and Facebook. What they realized was that customizable content was really attractive to online users. So they set up a way to allow users to create a custom t-shirt with the headline from CNN you want! It became very viral.

Andy shared his lessons learned on social media:

  • Be genuine for the medium
  • Continue to challege yourself
  • You are going to make mistakes — learn from them
  • Set an ambitious gal and rally your organization to achieve it
  • Develop creative considering the audience’s mindset
  • Have a creative test plan and evolve within your media flight
  • Have a Plan B – more likely Plan A will work
  • Give up some control (but not so much that you risk your brand)

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