Social Media Software

December 1, 2012


I've heard people say that radio broadcast was perhaps the first form of social networking. While that was probably true 30 years ago. Those of us who have been around long enough to remember the days (pre SS7 switching centers) of figuring out how to access the telephone company conference bridges typically used to establish communications between multiple telco linemen, were usually busy after school with other kids from the area. This was probably the real first instance of social networking in the mid 1960s.

Radio is a medium trying to find its way in the rapidly shifting world of cyber space. Terrestrial radio has been slow to keep up with the offerings of social media-centric Internet radio platforms such as Pandora.

In his blog from a couple of years ago, consultant Mark Ramsey of Ramsey Media summed it up perfectly:

"Your radio station is to a radio network as any one of your listeners is to her network of friends, her 'social network.' And 'social media' describes the content and the pipeline for that content people choose to share with their friends. Where there's no sharing, there are no 'social' and no 'media.' Social media is not a promotional vehicle per se for your station. It is a network of relationships that live outside you-it is a set of connections you can be part of only if the participants in those relationships want you there. It is not 'you push, they consume. It's more 'you join in, and they share.'

"Do these broadcasters realize that Pandora (as only one example) knows infinitely more about each one of its 60 million consumers than the average radio station knows about any of theirs?"

I think we have made some progress with combining terrestrial radio and social media, largely with the help of a variety of social media software offerings. These systems are no longer just front ends to feed popular social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. They need to integrate seamlessly with not only desktop PCs, but especially smartphones and even be capable of SMS texting to mobile phones. The capability to work with smartphones is essential going forward, as it is believed that these will ultimately replace the in-dash radio. Some stats as evidence:

■ IDC says 153.9 million smartphones sold worldwide in 2Q2012. Total 2011 sales were 491.4 million units.

■ Gartner estimate sales of smart phones in the same period at some 153.8 million. Estimated total sales across 2011 were 472 million or 31 percent of mobile communication device sales. This compares with figures for 2010 from the same company of 297 million smartphones or 19 percent of the 1.6 billion mobile phones sold that year. So year-on-year Smartphone sales rose 58 percent.

According to a recent PEW research study titled "State of the News Media 2012": "The vast majority of Americans still report listening to AM/FM radio weekly. But, as many as 40 percent of Americans now listen to audio on digital devices, and that is projected to double by 2015, while interest in traditional radio-even the HD [Radio] option - is on the decline. One of the prime arenas for digital listening was the car, once the domain of AM/FM radio."

The software should also have the ability to allow the station to monetize or develop a revenue stream through the use of specific listener habits, buying patterns, etc. and finally it should allow the station to maintain its branding across all the platforms.

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Put to use

Broadcast Electronics Commotion Wall is a system that was developed just for a radio station environment. According to its product description, "The Commotion Wall is the central control center for the Commotion platform. It's what connects you to your listeners whether they are on Facebook, Twitter, SMS, IM, the request line, your website or even your mobile app.

Commotion software

"The concept behind Commotion Wall is to make the communication source transparent to the station. Whether listeners are engaging the station through Facebook, Twitter, IM or SMS, it all comes into a single interface. And when the station DJ replies, the message is routed back automatically to the originating social media channel. A key difference between Commotion Wall and other social networking aggregators, is that Commotion is also aggregating the other side of the conversations taking place on the station website and mobile app in the Activity Stream on the Commotion Bar.

"In addition, Commotion Wall supports voice mail as well as photos, which can be helpful for contests and other listener interactions."

In addition, BE is offers a tool to mange SMS messaging (SMS Campaign Manager) and a tool to allow listener interaction with music choices (Crowd Control).

There are a lot of choices out there at different price points, but how about some open-source solutions? These are free, but if you have some programming skills one of them could be an effective solution to creating your own social media platform. Here are a few.

Elgg is an award-winning open-source social networking engine that provides a robust framework on which to build all kinds of social environments, from a campus wide social network for your university, school or college or an internal collaborative platform for your organization through to a brand-building communications tool for your company and its clients. Elgg was voted best open source social networking platform in 2008.

Elgg requires an Apache-based server environment and uses the PHP scripting language. The open source database language My SQL is used to store data.

Lovd by Less is among the first and only few open-source social networking platforms built on Ruby on Rails. Some features of Lovd by Less include blogs, photo gallery with captions, site search for friends, activity update and user-to-user messaging. Other things that are built into the software include Flickr and YouTube integration.

One thing good about Lovd by Less is that it is easy to use and contains most of the applications that you need. For those who prefer Ruby on Rail rather than php, this would be a good alternative. It features the ability to follow a user (mutual following is friending), user-to-user messaging, profile comments, user blogs with comments, a photo gallery with captions, site search for friends, profile bio and information, a user dashboard (recent activity of friends), emailed activity, Flickr integration and YouTube integration.

XOOPS is a Web application platform written in PHP for the MySQL database. Its object orientation makes it an ideal tool for developing small or large community websites, intracompany and corporate portals, weblogs and much more. Using the YOGURT extension the pair forms a powerful social network platform.

AROUNDMe also uses the PHP script language and operates atop of the Apache based servers. Using AROUNDMe collaboration server you can create multiple collaborative group, webspace, community or social networking websites. Each group can create a multiple page collaborative website. They get social tools such as a guestbook (a wall), a group blog, a forum and a wiki they can drop into Web pages. Each group is fully customizable using xHTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP. Groups can be private or public.


McNamara is president of McNamara Associates, Cape Coral, FL.



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