Reality Digital, User Generated Content, SaaS DAM solutions, social media marketing Organizations today understand that a key focus of their marketing activities must be in the social media arena. If they are really smart, they also recognize that user participation is key to successful social media marketing. And what do users like to contribute? Text, video, audio and all the rating, tagging and commenting that goes along with it. Who better to help these organizations support their social media marketing activities than SaaS User Participation Platform provider Reality Digital? This is a company that not only has the technical experience to create a social media platform with a strong Digital Asset Management backbone, but also has the marketing savvy to understand the key to social media marketing is a combination of user generated and professionally published content. CMSWire had an opportunity to talk with Reality Digital CEO Cynthia Francis about her company and the service they offer, and about social media marketing in general.

Reality Digital’s Story

Reality Digital was founded in 2003 by several people, including Cynthia Francis, who have over 15 years experience in consulting, media creation applications and building Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions. The other two co-founders Randy St. Jean and Ed Klein and new member Mitchell Linden, make up the management team of this 15 employee company based in San Francisco. The goal in creating Reality Digital was to take their DAM experience and offer a lightweight workgroup solution via SaaS. What they built was a white label social media platform that organizations can use to store, manage and monetize rich media content that is a combination of user generated and professional produced material. They call the hosted platform “Opus”. With over 75 customer sites, the likes of which include CBS, itv.com, MLB, Hook.Tv, Travel Channel and MTV, Reality Digital has the capability to extend and enrich websites via rich media.

Reality Digital Opus

Opus is a white label social media platform offered as a service to organizations. There are two ways it can be used. The first is by building the site and having the organization’s website point to it on the Reality Digital hosted environment and the second is to pull the content into the organization’s website directly via an API. Hook.tv is an example of a site that pulls their content from Reality Digital directly into their own site: hooktv.jpg
Hook.tv
And here’s an example where Reality Digital did all the development and the organization just points to Reality Digital. yourtrip_rd.jpg
Yourtrip.travelchannel.com
Consumer Features One of the most basic premises of the Opus platform is that consumers can create and upload their own content to a site and have it sit alongside professionally developed material. This is a social media service, so the features include the ability to: * Create a personal profile and subscribe to feeds on favorite content * Upload video, audio or pictures from just about any device (DV camera, camera, mobile device, web cam or computer). * Review and publish any of the above and games, documents and Flash animations * Tag content, create topics and set permissions on who can view their media * View content on a branded Flash player * Share content via email or by sharing their personal URL * Rate content, write blogs, hang out in forums * Embed the player into a web page that can then be used in other websites or blogs Business Functionality So maybe you are wondering why an organization wouldn’t just use one of those free sites out there instead of spending the money on Reality Digital’s solution. Part of the answer is found within the functionality provided to the business to monitor and manage the activities on their community. * You can brand your site to match your brand and “look and feel”. When you look at a site that leverages this solution, you can’t tell it’s a separate site * Real time capture of site activity and critical metrics using the Opus Dashboard * Define and enforce quality and content standards for media, comments and communities. * Secure media and manage access permissions * Integrate with backend systems like CMS, DRM and payment and accounting * Monetize your site through the use of ads via ad network partners – Reality Digital does not have its own ad engine Technical Platform Opus is a Microsoft based platform. It’s a combination of ASP.Net/C# and SOAP-based Web Services.

Partners for Success

Reality Digital has a couple of key partnerships, one of which is very fun. Microsoft: They support the Silverlight Player and media strategy in addition to Flash Media and Real Networks Players. A key differentiator for Reality Digital is their ability to take any media in and put it out as any media in the format you want it. Limelight Networks: They resell Limelight’s Content Delivery Network – CDN – services and in turn Limelight refers video and social media clients back to them. Adobe: This is the fun one. Reality Digital has a strategic partnership with Adobe to sell a joint product called Adobe Premiere Express Service. This is a video editing and remixing service. One site that uses it is MTV’s remix site remix.mtv.com. This site lets you create your own videos using Adobe’s service and enter them in contests. The remix part of the site is the Adobe Premiere Express Service, everything else you see is Reality Digital. remix_RD.jpg
Remix.mtv.com
The Competition Cynthia Francis says their biggest competition is really market confusion. Reality Digital is part of an ecosystem of companies that delivers this solution. They sometimes are confused with CDNs like Limelight. In other cases, they have recommended other vendors when the need doesn’t fit their solution. But if she had to mention specific vendors offering solutions in a similar market, then names like Kickapps, Ning, VSocial and VMix came to mind.

Why SaaS

As is our usual manner, we were curious as to why Reality Digital chose to go SaaS and not develop and market an on premise solution. Cynthia Francis’s immediate response was cost to the customer. To buy a DAM solution you are looking in the range of US$ 200-500k. Put that dollar amount alongside the time to implement and the learning curve just for the DAM solution itself – forget about the social media aspect of it - and it’s likely a tough sell to organizations today. Francis said they looked at the salesforce.com model and determined that if salesforce could get sales people to use that solution, then Reality Digital could translate that model into a marketing solution for social media marketers. The Opus SaaS solution is simple and easy to use. You can get a basic site up and running in about two weeks. And if you don’t like what you are getting, you can very easily shut it off without having purchased an expensive product. It’s also simple to monitor and easy for the customer to learn to use.

A Little Advice on UGC

Cynthia understands a lot about User Generated Content and how important it’s become. She believes the extremes are unrealistic: a site that’s purely UGC won’t work, but it’s definitely not a passing fad. Organizations are starting to understand that they need to be part of the exchange – consumers have a voice and expect to be invited to the party. The best sites are those that have brand perspective mixed with the users perspective. Organizations will have to participate in the exchange daily and they will have to place rules around the content users contribute. Her biggest piece of advice? Do anything you want with your site and the user generated content. But be clear about what you are doing and how the content is monitored – outline the rules of the game. If you do, users can chose to participate and follow those rules. If you don’t, well the chances of seeing your brand on some of those free social networking and media sites in a not so positive light is pretty high.

In Conclusion

A company that has the technical prowess to build and support a robust DAM backed social media platform and the marketing instinct to recognize the value of User Generated Content, is a company you should look a bit closer at. Reality Digital does appear to be that company. If you need a little more information other than their website, you can find Cynthia Francis at a couple of conferences this month including: * Digital Asset Management & Marketing Operations Symposium - May 12-13 in New York, NY. Cynthia is moderating a panel on "Inviting the Public to Play with Your Brand: A Panel Discussion" on Tuesday, May 13, at 11 a.m. * Streaming Media East Conference & Exposition - May 20-21 in New York, NY. At this one, Cynthia is participating in a panel discussion on "Evaluating and Choosing the Right Methods of Video Delivery" on Wednesday, May 21, at 3:15 p.m.