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USA Turns Social Streams Into Character Collage

USA Network is turning to a Mouse to unite its characters—at least as far as social media is concerned.

The network is working with new technology company RebelMouse, which has come up with the tools to make it easier for a company to curate all of its social media activity on a single central Web page.

USA’s new page, Character Collage, should also make it easier for viewers to find content the network creates for social media. And USA should be able to gather its social media followers more quickly, creating an attractive venue for advertisers.

Networks have been using social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to engage fans with original content. “With RebelMouse, we’re able to aggregate all of that social content back together into a very sticky environment,” says Jesse Redniss, USA senior VP, digital. “When you think about what RebelMouse is doing here, it’s really putting together the entire choir of all the different voices of what USA’s social concert is all about.”

At the same time, RebelMouse is assembling social graphics that put together insights about who is on the various pages, what pieces of content people are engaging with and who their followers are. “We can tap into that to look out into the influencers and the popular zeitgeist to make this platform into a richer and more targeted environment,” Redniss says.

In addition to “amplifying and centralizing” all of a company’s social efforts, RebelMouse CEO Paul Berry says his company has created an algorithm that keeps the content most important to the network at the top of the page. “The ordering of stories is essential, and reverse [chronology], which is the default for blogs, is not right. And ‘most popular’ is also not right,” Berry says. The algorithm helps the site reflect the company’s voice. “You may know the most important thing right now is that there’s a premiere tonight and that’s the big story, and you make that the top spot.”

Berry says RebelMouse plans to keep its pricing low so that many sites will choose the new publishing platform. USA is the first TV entertainment company to tap into RebelMouse, but it has about 200,000 sites online, getting more than 1 million page views. Berry says big companies such as IBM and GE are among those that have signed up. “People are seeing immediately the amount of work they don’t have to do anymore to be able to launch really awesome sites that are social by their foundation,” he says.

USA expects to integrate advertisers into the site rather than selling banners or other traditional ad units.

Redniss says USA doesn’t want the Characters Collage site to get cluttered with ads. “The ads become part of the content flow,” he says. “We’ve seen it resonate in the marketplace. When you do that with your brand partners, it has a lot more impact and engagement with users rather than slapping a banner in certain areas. It’s providing them a way to become part of the dialogue.”

USA has begun to generate significant amounts of revenue by integrating sponsors including Lexus, Ford and Capital One into digital and social extensions of its programming. “When you can attract 3-4 million people to an experience that keeps them engaged for two or three hours at a time, I think a ton of brand sponsors are very interested in becoming associated with that,” Redniss says.

USA is part of NBCUniversal, whose other cable networks have been increasingly working with Zeebox, a second-screen application company partly owned by NBCU parent Comcast. Redniss says that while USA is free to work with other social and second-screen platforms, “we do want to build up the community around Zeebox.”

Redniss adds that what RebelMouse and Zeebox do are very different, but “eventually what we’re doing with RebelMouse we will seamlessly integrate into executions on Zeebox.”

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