In the modern world of buzz word media, things that often start out as very simple core definitions can get muddied up by the linking of other related items in order to create excitement and draw attention. Social TV is not the same thing as Second Screen viewing behavior even though most Social TV activity takes place on a companion viewing device – you can dive deeper into that distinction on this post by Alan Wolk. That differentiation is easy to understand and keep separated, but a newer problem has started to rise with use of the buzz words “Social TV” and “Second Screen” that does not involve intermingling the two. What people are claiming under these terms has broadened to the point where they no longer hold the same meaning.
The 2nd Screen Society has a lexicon of common terms and does a good job of explaining the core elements of both Social TV and Second Screen (as well as other entertainment and digital related terms). Unfortunately, many people at conferences, on Twitter, and in the media, have started referring to any social media activity that involves TV as an example of Social TV and anything TV related on a device that is not a traditional television as Second Screen.
Social TV: Social media campaigns involving TV are not Social TV, even though Social TV behavior can be a component of the social marketing campaign.
Second Screen: Just because something is on a smartphone/PC/tablet that is related to TV does not make it a Second Screen companion viewing execution.
TV shows and movies are a product. They are a product that those in the entertainment business are trying to “sell” you. Rather than an actual physical item, the exchange in that transaction is a viewing experience. If Social TV at its core is conversation while watching a program, every other social marketing initiative outside of that is not Social TV, it is social marketing. For example, TNT used the Facebook timeline feature to populate the entire storyline history of the show Dallas from when it originally aired in the 70s and 80s up through the date when the new TNT Dallas show started in 2012. Since the new version of the show picked up with those characters many years later, this was a terrific way to let fans know what transpired in the lives of those characters after the original show finale and before the new show premiered. To get fans excited for ‘Game of Thrones’ S3, HBO let fans customize their own house family crest designs and share them on their social networks. Were either of these Social TV executions? No, because neither were designed to generate conversation while fans were watching the episodes. They were social marketing campaigns to create awareness where the product being sold was the upcoming season of a television show. Syfy encourages fans to chat while watching their show ‘Defiance‘ by inviting cast members to field questions live on Twitter each week during the broadcast. This would be an example of a Social TV activation, which also happens to make up one piece of their overall social media strategy. There is a distinct difference here, but quite often whenever TV campaigns leverage social media, people love to group it incorrectly under the Social TV buzz word umbrella.
The same can be said about the use of Second Screen. According to the S3 lexicon, it is a “companion experience in which a consumer engages in relevant content on a second device, such as a smart phone, tablet or laptop while watching something on the first screen”. Simply put, it is designed to enhance the viewing experience with related content. While this can be Social TV related, it is often other interaction types and supplemental information. TNT’s ‘Falling Skies’ has a dedicated app where users receive additional information about the cast, storyline, behind the scenes info, and more, delivered in real-time at precise moments when it is relevant while a user watches the show. Viggle, with their Viggle Live product, provides users with trivia questions throughout certain programs and rewards those interactions with bonus points that are accumulated for prizes. In both of these examples, the content is related to the program, but more importantly it is designed for use while watching the same program.
Showtime recently partnered with the New York Times to create an interactive advertising product on the NYT site to promote their new show ‘Ray Donovan’. The ad was a beautiful rich media creation that lets fans explore the characters and even download the premiere episode. This ad experience on the NYT site was not designed to be used during the show, it was a promotion to create awareness about the new series. Is this an example of Second Screen? No. Now, if the interactive additional content features to learn more about the characters in the premiere episode was only available during the broadcast of the show and fans needed to visit the NYT partner site to explore them while they watched, well that would fall under the term’s core definition. Just because the ad is a promotion of a TV show (the product) that took place on the New York Times tablet experience (tablet being commonly used as a Second Screen device) does not make the Showtime execution a Second Screen example.
Companies like Warner Bros. regularly launch promotional and game apps for their films in advance of the theater release, like the Man of Steel Experience. I’ve even seen people refer to these as Second Screen apps, even though they serve no purpose to the user while watching the films. This is a stark contrast to actual Second Screen apps from studios like the Disney collection or films like Prometheus.
Let’s look at this from the aspect of a completely unrelated product: airline travel. The installation of wifi routers on planes spawned a new social trend, the ability for passengers to share photos and post to social networks while in the air – riding inside a plane of course. We’ve all seen the Instagram photos of sunsets over plane wings and enjoyed our friends complain about someone taking the armrest or bringing stinky food on board. The term “social flying” or abundant use of #SocialFlying as a hashtag has yet to ever take off (pun intended) in the media. Airlines have advertised on mobile devices and tablets since those products were created as well. Now let’s say Delta opens up a new line of direct flights from Atlanta to the Bahamas. To promote the expanded routes, the company runs interactive booking and video content ads showing the beautiful Bahamian beaches on a popular news site like CNN – ok I live in Atlanta so stick with me on the two Atlanta based company examples. Delta also runs a Facebook promotion where they are giving away flights and fans can create fake postcards to share with friends. If the buzz term “social flying” had taken off in the media, then those social marketing Facebook executions in this example would all be dubbed as a Social Flying initiative. Those booking interactive advertisements are obviously designed for use before you get on the flight, yet those would likely be lumped into a Second Screen campaign umbrella – again if it followed the same path as television has taken today. Is the FB contest and postcard campaign Social Flying? No, it’s social marketing. But live chatting your flying experience while in the air would be #SocialFlying. Sure this is a silly example using the airline industry compared to the television space, but it does prove the point. Maybe this will spark a new #SocialFlying hashtag movement. Let’s hope not.
At the end of the day, does it really matter under what paradigm people think Social TV and Second Screen behavior is or isn’t? No, they’re just theoretical definitions over intangible user behaviors. That said, I do think it is important for consistency with terminology in the marketing and technology space. At some point, what is Social TV and Second Screen today will become so ubiquitous with the television viewing experience that it will simply be “TV”. Until such time, we should all try to keep some cohesiveness as to what it is we are talking about in the media and at industry conferences.
Social marketing of TV is not Social TV, nor is every TV promotion on a smart phone or tablet a Second Screen experience.
And before anyone mentions it, yes I am well aware that I am complaining about the overly used and often misused buzz word of Second Screen on a website that uses the exact same buzz word in its name. It’s almost as if this website is the temporal junction point for the entire space-time continuum. Now where did I put that Grays Sports Almanac…
Images Courtesy of: Natpe