Home » NEWS » Q&A: Thomas Broadus, director of interactive & news media, The Focus Group

Q&A: Thomas Broadus, director of interactive & news media, The Focus Group

Thomas Broadus enjoys educating Mississippi’s business community on social and media and trends in communication technology. He is the director of interactive and new media for The Focus Group in Gulfport. Broadus earned a bachelor’s degree in management information systems and a master’s in communication from the University of Southern Mississippi. For several years he served as the web administrator for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and hosted a weekly radio show called ‘Everyday Technology.’ He and wife Sharon have four children.

Q —  How did you become a tech speaker?
A —  I was interested in computers and technology (then eventually) ended up going to Southern to study computer science and found management information systems … Before I graduated in 2003, I was co-oping for the state with Information Technology Services. … When I graduated, I worked for a software firm, BBI. I wrote really boring but important software for things like water billing, budgeting and payroll for cities. Through that opportunity, I started helping manage some websites for some cities, and that really clicked well for me. Another contact I made through my co-oping time at ITS said there was an opportunity at Mississippi Public Broadcasting. …
The radio show came much later. First, we had a members magazine called “Fine Tuning,” and I would write an article for that called “Tech with Tbro.” … Speaking opportunities opened up when I went back to Southern to work on my master’s in mass communications. … It really kind of pinnacled when I got asked to be on a panel (facilitated by the public broadcasting community) at SXSW (the Austin, Texas music and interactive festival).

Q —  What is one of your favorite smart phone apps for business?
A —  One that I use for business is Drop Box, and you’re seeing that become more popular. If you and I need to share files, and they’re really big and maybe we don’t want to e-mail large visual media files — or if we want to share some pages and edit a project together – Drop Box is an app you can access through any smart phone, tablet or PC to share files. Let’s say we’re working on a photography project and we have 100 gigs of photos, we can upload all those to Drop Box. It’s free.

Q —  Explain the “second screen” concept.
A —  There is an app that Yahoo has made for the iPad that (should allow users to interact with TV). You can hold your phone up to the television and then immediately be immersed in a chat or a conversation in what we call “the second screen” around what other people are saying about the program. We’re learning that people aren’t just watching television. They’re on their phone, or they’re playing with their laptop, or their back is completely turned to the TV, but it’s on for comfort. Media companies are figuring out that they need to grab these people’s attention.
MPB does that with Quorum, the political show on Wednesdays (through the legislative session) that features House and Senate members … They host a Twitter chat along with the show using the hash tag Quorum. People can send questions … The next day the whole show will be on the MPB YouTube channel.

Q —  Explain hash tags.
A —  When we say hash tag, we’re talking about Twitter. A hash tag is nothing more than the pound sign, or the number sign. We’re talking about using that symbol and then a (word or) phrase. Twitter makes it really easy for people to search for these hash tags. … If you want to be able to track a conversation or follow a word, you can go back and search that hash tag and find out what everybody is saying about it.

Q —  What is a good social media service that allows people to schedule posts to Facebook, Twitter and other platforms in advance?
A —  Hootsuit is one of the more popular ones. It’s free for most businesses. It allows you to follow a lot of different networks and (publish to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, MySpace, and WordPress). We know that … Sunday nights are a really popular time to get things on people’s feeds (so you can schedule tweets to appear at times that aren’t regular business hours).
There are a lot of tools out there. You have to figure out as a business: What do I want my focus to be? What do I want the purpose of this conversation to be?

Q —  How much do app’s cost to get made?
A —  It’s like going to a Realtor and asking, “How much does a home cost?” Well, do you want a four-bedroom with an in-ground pool and a gym? Or do you want maybe a two-bedroom, one-bath out in the country? You have to figure out what is your goal for the app and how much you want to spend. You can find almost any kind of app for any budget. …
The Focus Group has an app builder. Also, you can go online (to sites like AppMakr) and find some app builders where you pay a monthly fee and then just pick a template that you want. If you’re going to stream radio or do podcasting for a really information-based app, and then you’re spending $200 or $300 a month for the upkeep. If you want something that is completely your own and original … it’s going to cost a little bit more. If you want to look local, put an RFP out (in the newspaper), and you’ll get tons of responses.

More on Broadus:

Favorite movie: “Dolphin Tale”
Favorite food: Chicken
Recently read book: “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin


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