Social Media and Television – Engaged to Marry

The biggest trend to watch this year will be the convergence of entertainment and digital platforms, given the attention that both Internet-connected televisions and companion devices received at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. What is it about this year in particular that has everyone focused on the new evolution of digital/social media and television? The answer to that question is built upon a few key trends that are tied to the changing behavior of the television consumer, combined with the rapid adoption of both smartphones and tablets in the marketplace.

tablets shipped worldwideThe proliferation of both smartphone and tablet device ownership (pictured) has led to an interesting change in consumer behavior. Approximately 86% of consumers access an Internet-connected device while they are watching television. Two of the most popular behaviors performed on those devices are communicating via social networks and seeking information on the Web around content seen while watching television. Many of these social conversations are taking place on Twitter and it is estimated that over 40% of the tweets sent during prime time hours are related to television programming. Not only are people talking more on social networks about what they see on television, they are also changing when and how they consume entertainment media. Tivo reports that only 38% of viewership happens when a show is originally broadcast, with 50% of the time-shifted DVR programming being consumed the same day. Networks also have to contend with another growing trend of consumers who view television programming via the Internet. 143 million consumers are now viewing television content via digital distribution methods, and the percentage of “cord cutters” skews even higher in younger demographics.

us smartphone users penetrationNetworks are faced with several new challenges and opportunities to drive and enhance programming viewership. They must now focus on using social media and companion devices to build awareness before the airdate, encourage non-time-shifted viewing and stimulate conversation during the program, while also providing enhanced value during time-shifted viewing. Creating social chatter around programming before the airdate and throughout the season is becoming increasingly important. A recent Nielsen study found a statistically significant relationship between online buzz and TV ratings. Networks are leveraging multiple tactics to drive this social chatter around programming. Many are creating interactive games, like The Maester’s Path for The Game of Thrones and Spy School for FX’s Archer, to help build hype and awareness before the season begins. During the season, networks are trying to simultaneously prevent time-shifting and create social chatter by leveraging TV check-in networks like Get Glue, Miso, and Into Now, as well as harnessing the power of show talent to live chat with fans during the broadcast on Twitter or Facebook. To engage consumers who do not view programming during the initial broadcast, networks are relying heavily on bringing companion content into the experience through their own companion environments or through third party apps like Sideshows on the Miso platform.

Advertisers must also learn to adapt and evolve in order to capitalize on this new trend in social and connected television viewing. Ads themselves are rapidly moving into serving as bridges to transport viewers into a digital experience for deeper engagement with the brand and carry them directly into a shopping experience. One of the most effective ways to do this is to leverage mobile audio sync services like Shazam, and both Old Navy and Progressive Insurance have “Shazamed” their commercials. Many advertisers are following the trend started by television programming by adding Twitter hashtags to their ads in order to harness social chatter around their brand. Others are looking at network-owned and third party companion viewing platforms as a way to get in front of consumers to highlight products within shows and enable instant purchasing of those items. The availability of data in social networks and these second screen devices has opened up a wealth of opportunities for brands to intelligently spend their paid media dollars and establish a direct connection with their target audiences. Advertisers are starting to look to analytics from companies like Bluefin Labs and Trendrr to help them move beyond the demographic of consumers who watch a show and focus on the demographic of those who watch the show AND talk about it in the social space. For some advertisers, they may find more value in forgoing television broadcast ads on a particular show to reach their ideal consumer by opting to purchase ads within the online distribution instead.

As television viewing habits change, the broadcast and advertising industries must continue to evolve in order to survive. While these shifting trends may seem disruptive to traditional models, they offer a tremendous opportunity to engage and interact with audiences. These new connections can build stronger loyalty to shows, provide a deeper engagement with brands, and allow for intelligent spending of advertising dollars.

This originally appeared on the Engauge Blog February 1, 2012