BTN CONNECT ties Twitter, Stats, to Broadcast

College students, athletic programs, and sports fans are increasingly turning to social media as a means of breaking news and sharing opinions. But curating those comments can be a nightmare for TV networks and Web sites hungry to become the center of a fan’s universe.

That is one of the reasons the Big Ten Network this season has embraced technology from Mass Relevance and launched BTN CONNECT, a single platform for real-time social conversations and statistics that can complement the TV viewing experience. Available on smartphones and tablets, BTN CONNECT has curated and displayed more than 500,000 tweets and the Web page traffic doubled during the month of September alone. It features 13 tabs, one for each of the 12 universities plus a composite landing page. Each tab contains eight interactive pieces of social content, including multi-streams, polls, trends, spotlight tweets, a mad-lib, photo wall, social rankings, and a live game stats module powered by STATS, Inc.

Mike Vest, BTN, director of social media, says the efforts are designed to meet the needs of fans whose use of things like Twitter and Facebook have solidified into solid, consistent habits.

“It’s the ultimate water cooler because it reflects what everyone is talking about,” says Vest. “And we’re excited to have it extend through the basketball season.”

The challenge now is tying the online experience to the TV network experience.

“We want to bring all the activities people engage in through their tablets and computers under one room, whether they want social media or checking scores or stats,” explains Vest. “And what kind of experience can we create around the network and the conference that can generate traffic to sponsorable assets?”

Vest says the most traffic was generated during football game days but they were also solid during the Wednesday football studio show and BTN CONNECT also becomes a relevant 24/7 destination as the world of tweets never sleeps. Users can also ask questions of the on-air talent during the studio show by tweeting in questions. Talent can then take the questions in real time.

“As long as the person at home has a hashtag they have a method to interact,” says Vest.

“The Mass Relevance software is pretty customizable as we can search by hash tag, words, source, or a combination of those things,” he adds. “We can then set up a number of different streams to present it in a number of different ways.”

One important filter? Obscenities, a constant headache for those curating tweets. It can also filter tweets that won’t format well due to links or irrelevant links and spam.

“As long as the tweet presents well it will flow through, whether it is negative, positive, or otherwise,” adds Vest. “And the nice thing about Twitter is it displays handles and avatars so you know where every tweet is coming from.”

BTN CONNECT is still in its early days and Vest expects more teams and fan bases to be added in the future.

So why no Facebook? Vest says the problem with Facebook is the percentage of public profiles is low, making it hard to easily find relevant posts. Instagram photos, however, are able to be easily integrated into the BTN CONNECT page.

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