How TED used social media to evolve from a single event into a global media brand

by Nick Cicero on May 07, 2012
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For something to succeed online, it doesn’t need to just be good, someone has to want to share it, according to June Cohen, Executive Producer of TED Media.

June discussed TED’s evolution from a single conference into a global media platform at Mashable Connect this past Friday morning.

And how, along the way, the key has always been inspiring and innovative ideas.

For TED, they discovered early on that the nature of their content created scores of like minded individuals eager to take on the cause of spreading these ideas themselves. Cohen outlined their strategy towards taking these “ideas worth spreading” and inspiring a community of discovery and change.

1. Feed the hunger for participation.

People want to be a part of something bigger. For TED, the desire to scale to a global level was enabled by an empowered community, who were ready and willing to translate talks into different languages.

To date, TED Talks have been translated into 86 languages through all-volunteer efforts.

2. Encourage sharing.

There are 1200 TED Talks now online that have been viewed collectively more than 800,000,000 times.

Cohen explained that the increasing widespread use of social media naturally played a part in this process, but more importantly using the tools of the web in the best possible way to increase the sharability of content.

“Online users are exquisitely vulnerable to distraction” said Cohen.

With a rise in mobile, TED embraced the trends of their community and purposely designed their online talks to be optimized for small screen, cut long intros and started the videos strong.

TED also made sure videos are framed close to the speaker’s face. So on a mobile phone, viewers can see the emotion of what is being communicated.

And TED videos can be watched through many devices, embedded, downloaded as free podcast, etc. By embracing open (free) models they aim to reduce the barriers between the ideas and their intended audience.

3. Listen to your users.

Your users will usually be the ones to give you your best ideas. They’re the ones interacting within the space in ways a brand may not have ever imagined unless they actually listen.

“We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas,” said Cohen; tapping into that empowered community for global research and development.

Many of the best ideas for TED and their expansion has come from how they listen to requests from their community.

Ask yourself, what do you really need for your company? What do your users want?

4. Reach people everywhere (not just online.)

How are you engaging your community beyond a piece of content online?

The success of TED talks fueled a demand by individuals to start having their own TED talks and bring the positive message to their part of the world. Instead of allowing it to happen on its own, TED embraced this desire and created the TEDx platform.

This TEDx umbrella gives individual communities this power to come together and host their own TED-like events. For TED, it’s ability to ensure that their message continued to flourish in the way they intended.

5. Don’t forget to tell a story.

At the heart of great media are great stories.

Compelling and diverse content presented in a variety of interesting ways keeps people engaged. What are you creating for your brand’s audience? Is it providing some value that warrants their time?

Cohen cited presentations from Wael Ghonim and Hans Rosling as a sampling of these truly moving presentations that strike a chord and spark conversations in all parts of the world.

Image source: TED

Post Author

Nick Cicero is the Editor at Social Fresh and a Digital Marketing Consultant. Formerly of Expion and Livefyre, Nick has experience building social campaigns for Sony PlayStation, Winn-Dixie, Eminem, Teen Vogue and more. He’s a fan of playing...

  • “Online users are exquisitely vulnerable to distraction” said Cohen. I agree with this. 

    While I enjoy and appreciate TED, some of the videos are too long; the introductions are too long. I know how that sounds. I often find myself saying, “Please get to the point. Give me the name of your website so I can read your bio.” This is why I like to watch TED videos on the weekend. I’m not rushed and can absorb what the speakers are saying. Plus, I can fast forward through long introductions to get to the ‘heart’ of the presentation. 

    I feel the same way about memberships. Many people are creating informational products that include videos, teleseminars, and webinars. If the videos are too long and not interesting, you risk losing your audience. For example, I signed up for Jon Morrow’s “Guest Blogging” course. This course works for me because the videos aren’t 20 minutes long and Jon gets to the point. You don’t have to wade through hours of information to find the ‘key points.” They’re given to you up front so you can apply what you learn ASAP. And, you can watch the videos over and over again because they get to the point and don’t make your head hurt.

    In general, I think people are hungry for valuable information that can help them with whatever problems they have. But speakers must be able to connect with their target audience, and they must know ‘who’ their target audience is. And, it helps if speakers are wonderful storytellers who paint a picture in the viewer’s “mind’s eye.” Make that connection and you’ll be golden.

  • I love TED! I have the iPad App and watch it all the time.