It’s clear that social media has changed the way people watch TV—after all, going on Twitter during live shows is now closely connected to the actual watching of the event itself. And we’re seeing more and more of this second screen obsession (viewers) turning to tablets and smartphones to tweet, post, check-in, pin or just read Facebook updates and chat with friends. This type of behavior seems to be taking the attention away from TV and putting it into content from social networks. Are TV stations right in fearing that it’s threatening traditional media consumption? We say not—and our solution is to look closely at the patterns of social media multitasking and turn it into a way of engaging consumers, instead of a distraction.
“Social networking is in its own right a reality show made for the web. It is its own form of entertainment.” Brian Solis
The connected viewer wants to be able check IMDB if she recognizes an actor, or write a quick review of what she likes about her favorite show right when it’s airing. It’s not about shifting interest to another screen, but about enhancing TV’s capability of interacting with viewers. So the issue changes from whether social media will steal mass media’s spotlight as an option for marketing communication, to finding a way to interpret these channels like a companion of classic media and boost their impact while doing so. Marketers can use the experience traditional media has given them to improve customers’ experience and to understand how viewership numbers and social buzz influence each other. And they can do this in a smart way by using social intelligence tools.
How TV Networks Can Benefit from Social Media Analytics
1. Encourage Interaction
Popular events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars are lived at full speed both offline and online—you’re very unlikely to retweet an important that happened during the Super Bowl (like, say, the Oreo real-time ad) three days after the event, because it’s hard to replicate the shared joy of experiencing an exciting meme that long after it already happened.
So to make sure people are interacting with your brand right when the cool things are happening, try on-air integration of Twitter hashtags. For example, the TV series Suits always displays storyline-based hashtags like #wwhd (what would Harvey do?), #savedonna, #pearson or #hardman to highlight the important conflicts in an episode and get people to tweet their opinion. People want to feel included in the experiences of their favorite characters and to take part in their stories, so give them the tools to express their thoughts.
Also, don’t let them vent their frustrations or express excitement without showing that their opinions matter. Maybe you won’t be able to reply to each mention if you get thousands and thousands of them, but at least try to highlight the funniest/most memorable messages to show appreciation.
Go even further and promote hashtags and other content aggregation methods (Instagram, Shazam) even when the show is not airing. You can create a dedicated app that gives fans extra material to be used during the show (like the Game of Thrones app that acts as a personal guide in the convoluted world of the Westeros characters), or push the use of GetGlue (a platform that allows fans to check-in when they watch shows live) to reward loyalty.
2. Correlate Social Buzz with Viewing Numbers
With “second screen” experiences, the conversation that surrounds televised shows and events can say a lot about what consumers like. The fact that you can measure every social water cooler conversation transforms people’s casual tweets and updates into actual market insights. Social media analytics can help you understand your fans’ preferences and visualize changes in their interest towards your program. Once you have these insights, it’s much easier to translate them to marketing tactics.
The recent viewership battle between Game of Thrones and Walking Dead shows a correlation between ratings figures and social talk—Walking Dead won on both levels. The interesting part is that online, the battle was carried out almost exclusively on Twitter for both shows—no other social network gathered that high of a percentage in mentions (more than 95%).
Different conversation patterns can often help you identify the missing link between social media and viewership numbers. Spikes in the number of tweets at the culminating moment of an episode, correlated with an increase in negative sentiment don’t necessarily mean that people don’t like the show, they might just be dissatisfied with the evolution of their favorite character. Even when there’s no direct connection between social buzz and official TV ratings, intelligent insights gleaned from social media analytics can help bridge the gap between traditional and new media.
3. Compare Social Metrics for Audience Insights
By simply monitoring social media, you might get conflicting information: negative sentiment correlated with soaring ratings, or getting a lot of views for a negative post. Sometimes, social metrics may not correlate directly with viewing figures. You have to connect the dots to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of panicking and desperately trying to recapture the lost attention of your viewers.
If you look at the overall coverage numbers in this comparison of popular TV shows, you’ll notice that while The Big Bang Theory gets the largest share of social media mentions (and the difference between this show and the runner-up is pretty big), the series that in fact captured most views is Mad Men. This goes to show that having more followers doesn’t mean you’ll get more people to mention your name. It may also mean that messages from the TBBT fans and/or social media team were not correctly matched to the times of maximum attention, and therefore didn’t get enough shares.
When developing tactics to attract people’s attention, ask yourself what action you want them to take. You might want people to do more than tweet while watching your show, and you can achieve this by giving them access to standalone apps that allow them to watch episodes online, or creating social games that engage them even when the show is not airing. Whatever the future holds, the success of a movie or TV series is no longer based on how many people sit in front of their TV sets—how much social exposure it receives might just as well be the metric that makes it number one.
Photo by Eric Fleischauer