by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack

It’s 2012, so college basketball fans—or just March Madness bandwagoners—no longer have to worry about following the tournament strictly by TV or radio. They have phone and tablets, which provide a means of downloading the March Madness Live app.

Developed by Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA, this year’s March Madness Live app costs $3.99 and is available for online, iPad, iPhone, iPad touch and select Android smartphones over Wi-fi and 3G/4G.

Live streaming video of every game in the tournament is the app’s highlight, although its features run deeper than that. Game video highlights, live game alerts, radio feeds and tourney brackets are there for anyone interested. So is the social media experience.

Fan can share content through Twitter and Facebook on dedicated team feeds within each game’s page. They can follow @MarchMadnessTV and @MarchMadness, or they can ‘like’ the NCAA Men’s Basketball March Madness Facebook page.

Trivia questions will pop up on Twitter feeds on each game page; fans can answer using the #MMLivetrivia hashtag to drop knowledge on those unfamiliar with a particular school or its tradition.

Michael Adamson, the vice president of new products for Turner Sports, told SLAMonline about the enhanced social media options for this year’s March Madness Live app.

SLAM: What’s your philosophy with how to integrate different platforms?

Michael Adamson: For us, it’s been important, and this has been a multi-year progression for us, but it was important that we have social content and social participation built into the product. Not just there but built into the product; part of the experience.

This year, we’ve enhanced the social media. Regardless of the game that I [view], I’m instantly seeing social media relevant to the two teams in that particular matchup. It makes a lot of sense. I can pull it up here and literally see my [Twitter] feeds. It’s live right now, so it’s whatever people are talking about in regards to Kansas and BU [Baylor].

SLAM: Did you or each university develop the hashtags used in each school’s Twitter feed?

MA: The answer is a little bit of all of the above. I would say that the hashtags showing in the feed itself are more for display purposes, so that people know that this is the Kansas feed and that this is the Baylor feed. It depends on the school you go to. We’ve tried the combination of what we’ve seen being used out there, sort of like the hashtag feature or just the name of the school. But in terms of what we’re searching, for the social feeds themselves, for every feed we’re searching on upwards of 25 or so different criteria. We’re using the official school feeds, we’re using the feeds the fans use, we’re using the school names. Anything related to that team – coach, players, conversation, context, team mascot name. Some of the school use the team mascot name a lot.

Jayhawks you saw on Kansas was ‘#Jayhawks’ because they tend to use that a lot. We would obviously do a search on ‘Rock Chalk’ and all that stuff. So, it’s upwards of two dozen filters that we’re applying to the feed that you’re seeing here on the feed itself.

SLAM: Can you describe the actual process of taking all this content and filtering it into one feed?

MA: We’re using a system from a partner of ours, Mass Relevance. We’re using their system to provide all that aggregation and filtering and then we’ve got staff that have been going through, adjusting, tweaking, turning dials. If people are talking about Duke, then make sure they’re not talking about Duke Energy or The Duke or Sir Duke. We’re doing that [for context].

We’re also doing it because leading up to the tournament and during the tournament we’re actively monitoring where the conversations are going. As an example, in the tournament last year, as VCU started to ascend and got into the Sweet 16, we noticed that there fan base started using the hashtag ‘#804′. It’s the area code of the school. Suddenly, we added that into the filter. That’s where the fans are.

We saw different trending topics [on Twitter] last year. We saw Gus Johnson become a trending topic. We added that into the Tournament feed – not the team feeds. The Tournament feed is just people talking about the tournament but not a particular team. We’re stepping side-by-side with the NCAA, so they’ll be more actively involved from their end. The group out of Indianapolis will be tweeting out more behind-the-scenes content and things that are going on at press events.

SLAM: And you’re not concerned with keeping a specific hashtag. You’re willing to integrate different ones.

MA: We don’t want to change consumer behavior. We want to leverage it.

SLAM: Twitter is the number one priority of all social media platforms?

MA: For different reasons. Twitter content is what we’re featuring here on the product because Twitter is live. Facebook, on the other hand, tends to be more for sharing than it is live commenting. Twitter is sort of like crowd noise; it’s the clapping, the cheering, the booing. That’s why we’re leveraging the product this way.

From a sharing standpoint, from taking a picture at the arena and sharing it with your buddies, we’re also doing that here. So, we’re doing some things unique to Facebook. Probably the most dramatic one is they can grab video. This will show only in the Broadband product, just from a technology standpoint. If the game were running right now – we have bandwidth issues in the hotel here – but if the game were running now, I can grab a 15-second clip of the game. I can send that out to Facebook. I can comment on it, whatever I’m doing.

SLAM: If you share on Twitter, then it’s just a link, right? You can’t view the video on your Twitter timeline.

MA: Yeah, the Twitter standards are different than the Facebook standards. Now I can share this out. Any fan can share their moments.

SLAM: Did you look at Google+ or Pinterest as possible platforms to share content for this year’s tournament?

MA: You know, Google+ is going to be in our sights certainly for this next year. As you know, it’s gaining a lot of momentum. When we were developing a lot this over the Fall and Winter, it was just starting to emerge. For us, it’s let this settle in for one more year.

SLAM: Maybe you also find that people on G+ are extremely likely to also be on Facebook or on Twitter. So, you might as well get them there.

MA: Yeah, trust me, if it continues its current path, we’ll try to figure out what makes sense around that. It’s the same reason we moved to Android handsets this year. Even though asked us in the past why we weren’t on Android yet, it’s like, ‘We need to give the platform one more year.’ Sure enough, the platform has come a long way in one year. You have 4G across a lot of handsets; that’s huge for us. Now you can watch the game. I’m glad we waited a year. I think the product is fabulous on Android. Looking to next year, whether it’s Google+ or something else, I think we’ll feel much better about bringing in the phone, as well.

SLAM: Have you found more people taking their tablets into games?

MA: We saw it last year, for sure. Last year’s products didn’t have this robust set of social features in it, outside of Broadband. We started with Broadband with this set; this year we moved it into all the platforms. We’re doing it with video. Because we didn’t have all this social functionality of the products, this year will be the first year we can see it play out.

SLAM: What about geo-location, such as Four Square?

MA: I haven’t spent a lot of time with it, honestly. Until we can tie it to a reason for knowing it, to give you some benefit for knowing it, if you’re at the game or you want to find a restaurant or bar that’s playing it locally, until we can find a reason to have geo-location, [then we'll explore it].

SLAM: Maybe friends from the same school who don’t know each other congregating based off their ability to find each other through a geo-location platform.

MA: Yeah, I think things like that are a cool idea. It’s more about us figuring out if it’s really compelling. I think there are half a dozen things that would be really interesting to do, even beyond what we’re doing now. But the question is whether it’s the right thing to do at this stage. The thing we try to do – obviously improve it – is to try not to overthink it. I don’t want to over-improve it. We don’t want to make it confusing or make it hard or burden the technology with too many technical gymnastics. We still want it to be about the experience.

Images provided courtesy of Turner Sports.