Social Media

Q&A with Univision’s David Beck: Harnessing the Power of Social TV

April 26, 2013

David Beck is SVP and General Manager of Social Media for Univision Communications Inc. He was recently named the Latin Social TV Marketer of the Year by the Social TV Awards. We interviewed David to learn more about Univision’s approach to social TV and how the network is innovating the viewing experience for its audience. Univision is a 360i client.


What is Univision’s philosophy when it comes to Social TV?

Univision’s philosophy on social TV is really an extension of our overarching social media strategy: staying connected to our fans wherever they are, giving them the opportunity to directly access and discover our content, connect with their favorite stars and share these experiences with their friends. In doing so, we hope to increase tune-in for our linear and digital properties, strengthen our connections with the audience and, most importantly, keep and attract new audiences.

More specifically, our philosophy is to respect the audience and integrate social as organically as possible. We always ask ourselves, “Is this relevant and will it resonate?”  Is the social integration “relevant” to the content experience, and is it likely to “resonate” with the audience?  Does it feel like a natural, organic extension of the linear experience, or is it distracting instead?  If it’s not authentic, and if the integration is not organic, we risk losing viewers’ trust.

How is Univision giving viewers more opportunities to let their voices be heard before, during and after programming?

Creating the robust experience pre, during and post-programming is critical to social TV success. During the 2012 presidential election, for example, Univision held unprecedented “Meet the Candidate” events with both Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. Both candidates participated in separate one-on-one interviews with a live audience, which were streamed via Facebook and later televised on the Univision Network.

Prior to the program, we collected and curated viewer questions via Twitter and a dedicated Facebook app. Select questions were then fielded live by each presidential candidate. Fan responses were also featured on-air, in real-time, throughout the programming. After the one-on-ones aired on linear TV, Univision continued to collect fan responses of each discussion and featured them during late evening programming and newscasts.

On the entertainment side, for Nuestra Belleza Latina (a Latin beauty reality competition show), fans were able to submit questions that put contestants at risk of elimination on the spot — on national TV in front of their fellow contestants and judges. With questions like: “If you could replace a judge, who would it be?” to “How many times have you secretly insulted a judge, who and why?” fans became part of a critical moment of the show, putting stars in the hot seat. This effort made the audience part of the content and gave fans a chance to influence the judges’ decisions on who to protect in the competition.

How are you incorporating social within the live viewing experience?

There are three things we’ve heard very clearly from the Univision audience: “Connect us with our favorite stars,” “Let our voices be heard,” and “Let us decide.” We deliver these opportunities to viewers in a manner that represents an organic, natural extension of the show.

During red carpet events, our hosts ask questions to the stars that have been curated from our fans on Facebook and Twitter. The interviews are accompanied by a lower-third graphic displaying the actual fan question—in effect connecting fans directly with their favorite stars. During award presentations, we give fans the opportunity to show their support for their favorite stars by highlighting congratulatory tweets and Facebook comments on a screen after an award is given.

We’ve even given fans the opportunity to send pictures to support their favorite artists—something that is also integrated into the broadcast itself. We also give fans the opportunity to influence the outcome of the show in real-time. For example, we’ve held a live hashtag-based vote for best dressed male and female, which begins on the red carpet, continues during the main show with updates from backstage and culminates in an award presented on stage.

During Univision’s most recent awards show, thousands of fans were able to take part in a one-of-a-kind tribute paying homage to an artist who had unexpectedly passed away. Fans from around the world joined a virtual moment of social applause via a Thunderclap which simultaneously released messages through Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, fans’ social comments were featured on the show’s massive backstage Social Media Wall as part of the dedication.

How are you using social to build loyalty and encourage tune-in for scheduled programming?

One example is Univision’s five-nights-a-week novela social strategy, designed to both encourage tune-in, and build and reward fan loyalty. For one of our most popular primetime novelas, Amores Verdaderos, we leveraged two of our own top noveleras, Lourdes Stephen and Ana Patricia Gonzalez, to live tweet with fans as the episodes aired. Ana Patricia was named the Latin Social TV Entertainer of the Year at the 2013 Latin Social TV Summit.

We leverage our talent and all of our screens to engage with our audience in a comprehensive effort:

  • Ana Patricia encourages viewers on-air to tweet with her about the novela and answer a question regarding the episode using a dedicated hashtag.
  • Later in the week during the novela, a question with the hashtag is featured on-screen for fans to respond to via social media for a chance to have Lourdes present their tweets and Facebook answers on-air during primetime, and to also be featured on
  • Additional calls to action are made during the week, and ultimately on Friday, Lourdes names one lucky viewer as “Fan of the Week” on-air and on, based on their consistent participation in social throughout the week.

This strategy has really connected us with our fans on and off screen.

What surprises you most about Univision’s fans in social?

During Univision’s Premios Juventud (our youth/teen choice awards) show last year, we asked fans to send us photos of their viewing parties via social media. What we found during real-time monitoring was that fans began sending us photos that showed support for their favorite celebrities appearing on the show. We made the decision during the live program to switch the call to action to align with what our audience was doing. Our fans are vocal and quick to respond to calls to action, so we ensure our social strategy aligns with the immediacy of our audience – which requires more real-time listening.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for social marketers at a television network?

There are three challenges I think most marketers at TV networks face. The first is your organizational structure and how social is viewed from the inside. It’s very important to ensure that your social team is structured in a way that makes them a part of the programming/content, marketing and even monetization conversations at the onset versus at the end. This is critical for developing a strong pre, during and post-strategy, and for identifying tactics and integrations that will be organic, relevant and resonate with the audience.

Second, networks that want to lead have to ensure they are leaning in with respect to social—the space is evolving so rapidly that they have to be willing to test, fail and refine. If you’re working in an environment of “analysis paralysis,” you’ll always be behind. Lastly, metrics for social TV are still very much in flux, which at times is uncomfortable for those used to relying on consistent benchmarks, industry “standards” and clean methodologies for projecting results. My advice: Get comfortable being uncomfortable; it’s going to take some time for this all to be sorted out.

How is Univision evolving its strategy in 2013?

We’ve committed to becoming smarter and more creative about how we bring social content to life on-screen. Going back to our underlying question – “Is it relevant and will it resonate?” – I think we’re very clear on what’s relevant to our audience, but what will resonate is a more dynamic question, and the bar is constantly rising, especially as more publishers and vendors bring social to screen.

We are constantly looking for innovative ways to give life to social on TV so that it doesn’t become background noise. Visually, we want to make sure that we are presenting content in an appealing way– including trending topics, tweet velocity, audience pictures or video, etc. Figuring out the best way to break through the clutter, while still doing so in an organic way, is one of the main things we will be working on this year.

Cover photo via Media Moves