Hashtags at the bottom of your favorite TV program, contest tie-ins with Facebook and Twitter, enhanced commercials…only a few of the ways TV has evolved into social TV. What are its benefits? Does it work? What’s next for social TV? All that and more after this commercial break……just kidding. Seriously though, before getting into the spirit of things it’s important to know what it’s all about and where it’s headed before you can decide if it’s right for you.
What is social TV? Social TV, also referred to as the “dual-screen” experience is a movement that engages TV viewers beyond the direct TV to viewer link. This involves adding in other elements, such as prompts to follow real-time conversations on Twitter and Facebook, take polls, answer trivia questions, access behind-the scenes experiences and check-in to the experience via location apps like Foursquare. While people are watching shows on TV they are interacting with the shows, and other people watching them, on their mobile phones, iPads or computers.
What are the benefits? According to Simon Dumenco, four benefits of social TV are that it can increase ratings, make TV more interesting, get consumers to engage with shows and brands beyond the broadcast and provide new hooks for marketers http://bit.ly/Ivj9QF. First, Dumenco cites Nielson’s analysis that a 9% to 14% rise in buzz volume correlates with a 1% increase in ratings among the 18-34 age group. Ratings are especially subject to social influence around season premieres and finales. His second point, that it can make TV more interesting, is based on a personal experience. While on the road for a conference Demunco engaged with the Oscars via Viggle, an app that rewards loyalty and engagement of TV viewers. Using the Viggle iPhone app he checked into the Oscars and began answering trivia questions asking viewers to guess who wins each award as it’s presented live. Point being? It kept him from turning the channel. Demunco notes it also gets consumers to engage beyond the broadcast, citing Burn Notice’s tablet comic book with Facebook and Twitter connections built into the storyline. Then there’s hooks for marketers, such as Watchwith’s data bubbles that display what the database knows about any given scene (such as a backpack brand from Big Bang Theory).
Who is it reaching? According to a Business Wire press release, an Accenture study found nearly 64% of US consumers surveyed recalled seeing social media symbols on their TVs and 33% have interacted with social media after seeing them on their TV http://on.mktw.net/K3B7YO. Frederic Lardinois states the most common action for those who did was liking its Facebook page (20%), searching for a show’s hashtag on Twitter (7%), using Shazam (5%) and scanning a QR code (11%) http://tcrn.ch/ImpL5Q. He also notes the reasons why consumers interact are to get coupons (32%) and enter sweepstakes (26%).
Where is it headed? Obviously social TV will experience audience growth up to a certain saturation point, which is yet to be determined. Along the way it may even have to reinvent itself and get clever about disguising itself as something else. Both of these issues are what commercials faced as DVR grew in popularity. In fact, adding social media elements to TV has helped keep people tuned into commercials. As for its potential? I picture something along the lines of some kind of pay scale for placement of social media ads that differs from the media placement of traditional ads. This could help social media companies find another way to source their income from advertisers, adding to their bottom line.
Before social TV even begins to approach either of these routes, or a different route entirely, it is up to you to decide whether it is right for your brand and your company. Heidi Cohen’s article about the future of social media marketing and criteria for where to focus efforts in 2012, is very applicable here http://bit.ly/K3BD97. According to her you need to assess your business objectives, determine your target audience, integrate branding, create content that reflects that branding, and measure results. Essentially, like any other social media venture, social TV should be entered into only after you’ve determined your strategy calls for that kind of content. Social TV poses lots of interesting questions and opportunities for our time. Which of them will be answered by you? The future is yours to decide.