Hispanic Media's Social Revolution

Peter Blacker, executive vice president of digital
media and emerging businesses at Telemundo, has a message for his advertisers:
the Spanish-language network -- and sister cable net Mun2 -- is their chance to
finally leverage the power of social media and join the throngs of Hispanics
who are active on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. As Blacker and other
top executives at the NBC-owned network geared up for this year's client-development
meetings, the social media enthusiast gave Hispanic
TV Update
contributor Laura Martinez a sneak preview of how his network
plans to get to the forefront of the "digital water cooler."

MCN: How does social media fit in the whole
digital strategy at Telemundo?

Peter Blacker: The social media strategy that we are pursuing right now is part of a five-year
digital plan that we launched when I first arrived [in 2005] and that centered
around super-serving our audiences. Of course, neither Facebook or Twitter were
around at the time -- we were focusing mostly on our Web site. I am a big
believer in five-year plans, but in this space, five years is an eternity.

MCN: How did Telemundo first go about using
social media?

PB: It was
about a year ago, in March 2009, when we chose the Latin Billboard Music Awards as sort of the first real test of
having an official presence for Telemundo on Twitter. To be honest, a lot of
people thought we were crazy. Even people within the company didn't understand
Twitter ... they knew Facebook was big, but didn't know the corporate position of

MCN: Wasn't [Telemundo president] Don
Browne a big Twitter fan early on?

He was and,
actually, once he summoned me for a meeting to find out what our Twitter fans
were and, well, we weren't on Twitter. At the time I thought it was going to be
a teenage phenomenon. Luckily, we tried it out and started to see that people
wanted to be our friends and learn more about who was going to perform at the
awards. Moreover, [viewers] started asking us questions about our shows. Very
quickly, we noticed a real interest and figured we needed to actively create
social media presence for every single show that we do.

MCN: That was a year ago. What's happening

PB: We have over
180,000 followers across different platforms and on 17 different accounts (on
both FB and Twitter), and that is not counting the "rogue" accounts, those set
up or created spontaneously by Telemundo fans.

MCN: What will you do with all of this?

PB: We have
clients coming up to us and saying: "I need to be there but I'm a little afraid
and don't know how to do it the right way." And that's when I talk to them
about the fourth dimension of storytelling.

MCN: The fourth dimension?

PB: Because we
have a very active audience that is connected to us through Telemundo.com,
Twitter and Facebook, and because Telemundo has its own studios, we are working
with the writers and actors [of our shows] to create an additional storyline.
For example: for [recently launched novela] ¿Dónde
está Elisa?
a new character, Amador, has been created. He is a minor
character in the actual TV series, but he is a major character in the digital
word (Twitter, FB and Telemundo.com). Ultimately, all of this gives sponsors
who want to be associated with social media a chance to sponsor a plotline -- and
character -- that lives on Facebook, Twitter and Telemundo.com.

MCN: Young audiences might be very
engaged, but they are also savvy when it comes to discriminating messages that
just try to sell them something. How do you address this?

It has to
be a very delicate balance and there has to be a payoff or reason for the
activity. For instance, if we're going to insert anything into the social media
experience, it has to be something that really superserves our audience; to
give them something that is really going to make their experience much more
exciting. The beauty of it is that such experience can be brought to them by,
say, an automaker or a cellphone provider. But we are not going to be sending
them a Tweet saying, "Hey, you have to watch this show!" or, "Make sure you
drive this car."

MCN: For a network like yours, what would
you say is the ultimate goal of social media?

The ultimate goal is to keep our audiences
engaged and drive them to our TV shows. Think about it: you're creating a forum
where your viewers can chat and communicate about all the things that are
happening on their TV sets. That's what I call being at the digital water
cooler. And we want to be there. The secondary focus is to drive people to our
Web site.