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Social Television Will Become the Norm

by Stephanie Shkolnik, Digitaria / November 6, 2012

Note: This blog entry is available in English only.

Decades ago, television was a delicate, communally appreciated experience predominantly used to broadcast mass market entertainment and important messages about current events. Families in the 50’s would be found sitting around a small grey box watching black and white coverage of the war, presidential election and Milton Berle. People were used to receiving one-way messages that painted a one-way point of view.

Fast forward. It’s 2012 and social media has influenced the way people communicate and even consume television content.

According to EMarketer, 1.43 billion people will use social media in 2012, while 38.4% of the world’s population will purchase smartphones. The tandem growth of the two communication channels will be the springboard for social television, where people can literally use their networks to engage in like-minded interactions. Discussion will spring up outside of the plot, diving into character traits, on-screen chemistry and feelings, shared in real time by the masses as if millions are people are in the same living room.

And that’s just the beginning of social television. Broadcasting can be extended on mobile devices, tablets and computers, as networks look to meet the ever-evolving SoLoMo consumer (social, local and mobile) at every touch point.

Networks are in the game

Networks that understand the value of real-time interaction are using the social graph to gauge effectiveness of their marketing dollars and understand audience behavior and interests. Shows such as American Idol have integrated pre-defined hashtags on television sets in the form of light watermarks, serving as call-to-actions for viewers to become a part of the discussion. The Voice features celebrity social content during elimination rounds to show fans that celebrities are emotionally vested in the contestants and care about their departure. These types of communications are enabled for fans to develop more personal relationships with on screen characters –and drive loyalty and viewership long-term.

These hashtags not only generate discussions among those already watching TV, they also drive new viewers to tune in based on information they learned while using social. Hashtags have also started to drive urgency for people who record shows, as they are not able to engage as deeply as they would have with people tuned in real-time.

TV personalities are leveraging social to generate compelling user generated content. Jimmy Fallon features a “Late Night Hashtags” segment related to current events to garner viewer participation – bringing ordinary people the opportunity to be mentioned on television. Fallon’s summer hashtag #WorstFamilyTrip resonated so well it trended worldwide in just 10 minutes.

Similarly, Jimmy Kimmel uses social to gauge audience interest in creating user generated content, by asking parents to prank their children, videotape their reaction and submit to the show. Clips including “I Told My Kids I Ate All Their Halloween Candy” (30+ million views) and “I Gave My Kids a Terrible Present (18 million+), have been leveraged for broadcast segments, instilling emotional value among audiences and driving social buzz and viewership.

Advertisers have also leveraged commercials to drive viewers to their social presence for awareness and promotional activities – often to publish user-generated content or participate in social experiences. According to Nielsen’s State of the Media in Sports (2011), brand recall was 33% higher for Super Bowl ads with a social media tag directing viewers to social channels.

TV specific social networks are on the rise

GetGlue allows people to check-in to television shows, movies, books and music to see what friends are watching and doing. Participants are rewarded in the form of both virtual and physical stickers, a gamificiation element that is integrated across screens, providing users with recommendations based on their interests to create the most relevant compelling experiences.

Leading up to the U.S. Game of Thrones premiere, 90,000 people checked into GetGlue, while 50,000 checked in during the actual premiere. As check-ins cross-populated to Twitter, social TV analytics provider BlueFins reported 60,000 comments were generated during the premier alone – signifying a direct correlation between viewership and social media engagement.

It doesn’t stop at the TV screen

To maintain high levels of engagement when primetime television seasons conclude, networks are developing new ways to retain fan relationships through extensions of television. Gamificaiton is driving fan loyalty by rewarding social media interaction, as brands like CBS launch Fan Award programs online. Social enables viewer voting for their favorite categories such as “Best Use of Corpse,” where fans can simply participate through Facebook or Twitter hashtags to simplify the entry process.

Social television buzz is trackable

Alexander Daas, a luxury eyewear brand, went to market in Q4 of 2011, launching in conjunction with the American Music Awards. TV personality Jenny McCarthy wore the brand’s eyeglasses on stage and within minutes sparked hundreds of conversations about her eyewear. By monitoring these discussions, the Alexander Daas team answered consumer and media questions leading to the introduction of the brand through social, generating nationwide awareness, sales and stronger partner relationships all tracked through traffic, sentiment and discussions.

Similar to the way general social media conversations are evaluated – where success can be tracked through engagement and various other key performance indicators – television is getting its own fair share of analytics specific platforms. Specialized services such as Social Guide provide comprehensive analysis of social television activity to extract insights and make them actionable – creating truly data driven opportunities based on fan interests.

The future has legs

Social television is increasingly becoming the norm. Networks and TV personalities continuously look to audiences to participate in conversations, streaming real-time content and feedback.

As television holds multiplayer games and chatting as the next phenomenon, shows, networks and advertisers will be pushed to innovate and use insights from real viewers to enhance television experiences and the ways people communicate.

Stephanie Shkolnik is the Social Media Director at Digitaria. Reach her @Stephanie00.

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