Ball State Students Drive Social Arena for March Madness Live
By: Brandon Costa, Senior Editor
Friday, March 16, 2012 - 12:15 pm

The first weekend of March Madness is the buzz of the sports world, and in the social-media landscape. Its exciting — and sometimes controversial — moments lend themselves perfectly to the “OMG did you see that?!?” Twitter/Facebook dialogue.

Ball State graduate student Alex Kartman, a member of Sports Link, works on content for March Madness Live.

To capitalize on this, Turner Sports has made social media a major piece of its revamped March Madness Live platform. And the brains and brawn of it all is tucked away in a classroom in Eastern Indiana.

For the second straight year, students at Ball State Sports Link are working with Turner Sports in monitoring and driving the Social Arena feature of MM Live, and, this year, their enhanced role includes video sharing.

“We’re humbled and honored to have the chance to do it again,” says Chris Taylor, director of Sports Link and instructor of telecommunications at Ball State University. “It’s a credit to the people at Turner Sports and the NCAA that they understand the importance of social media in this day and age, especially for the sports fan. It’s the perfect demographic, and the tournament is the perfect arena for it.”

Working alongside graduate assistant Alex Kartman, Taylor oversees a staff of as many as 25 students, who monitor, filter, and drive the interactive features of Social Arena in MM Live.

The most notable new feature of this year’s platform is the addition of video clipping and sharing. Fans have the opportunity to cut and post their own highlight videos from the tournament using the Web tool SnappyTV. Sports Link is using a pro version of the tool to create MM Live’s official highlight clips, which will be shared with the mobile platform and MM Live’s Facebook page.

“The thing that’s going to drive this for us is being in tune with all of the social-media feeds,” says Taylor, whose team will monitor the official Twitter and Facebook feeds of the 68 teams as well as of countless fans. “So we can watch and specifically see what fans are talking about socially and what plays and players they are referencing, and, if we see a trend devolving, we will get those comments and videos into the March Madness Live app.”

Student preparations have also included researching and collecting tournament trivia and creating daily trivia programming for use inside the March Madness Live products and Twitter feeds.

“[Sports Link’s] experience and expertise has made this year’s ramp-up way smoother,” says Michael Adamson, VP of new products and services at Turner Sports. “They are also more heavily involved because we have a more robust toolset. So, as a result of that, there is a higher degree of aggregation and curation that we’re doing on the system side. With them having a year of the tournament under their belts, it helps everything so much.”

Ball State telecommunications instructor Chris Taylor, left, works with junior T-COM major Josh Blessing on March Madness Live.

To contribute to the educational atmosphere, Sports Link has set up a remote social operation identical to the social-monitoring operation in Turner’s digital Event Operations Center in Atlanta. This allows students to use the same workflows and tools for social monitoring and programming as the Turner broadcasting facility uses.

Senior Kyle Binder and junior Josh Blessing serves as the student team’s executive social producers for the event. The pair will have the opportunity to assist social-operations–center staff at the Turner studios in Atlanta this weekend.

“This year, we have a better grasp on the different things we’re doing on the different platforms,” says Binder. “We also have a better idea of what the Turner people want from us. It’s a pretty awesome experience.”

Adds Blessing, “Obviously, we did something right last year. [MM Live] has really upgraded from last year. It’s a lot more interactive than it has ever been.”

NCAA March Madness Live is available at www.NCAA.com/marchmadness, the Apple App store at www.apple.com/itunes, and the Android Market at www.android.com/market.

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