The Rise of Social TV

Social TV – Enhancing the Experience

This year will see a lot of experimentation with bridging the television and social experience.  With more people actively watching while Tweeting, posting and checking in, the dual-screen environment offers greater connection for fans beyond the one-dimensional experience of traditional viewing. 

And, with the reported declines in monthly TV viewing, getting the people who are watching to pay more attention won’t hurt TV’s chances of weathering the increased pull of online video and other distractions.

The Evolution of a Medium

Networks and cable television have been the target of speculation for the past several years as an area where innovation would be the only way to sustain their relevance.  With the help of social media, these channels are finding that they’re becoming more relevant than ever as a platform for brands to find a deeper connection with consumers.

As brands adjust to the connected online discussion, they’re finding new ways to connect.  As consumer attention habits evolve to fit the new channels available to them, they’re finding more ways to tune in and discuss their favorite shows with friends online – and interact with brands.

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From: Social TV Applications Matrix 2012 Written by Mark Ghuneim on WiredSet.com

Current State of Social TV

Currently, broadcasters like Bravo, Oxygen, CNN, Fox and others are leading the way in social TV.  Social opens up new revenue streams for broadcasters giving brands additional avenues for sponsorship and advertising.  And, broadcasters are finding clever ways to maximize fan engagement during live broadcasts.  Sports programming like that of ESPN greatly benefits from live event programming, while MTV matches online content to fulfill the needs of their fan base.

And where broadcasters are treating their shows as brands themselves, they’re winning – reaping the benefits financially, and creating fan advocacy/loyalty too. Take, for example, Bravo TV and their impressive stats surrounding “Last Chance Kitchen” (the online competition allowed fans to vote back eliminated contestants).

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According to Bravo, 26% of the audience who watched “Top Chef: Texas” were actively involved in “Last Chance Kitchen,” and the reveal episode (where Bev won) was the season’s highest rated episode. Further, the social engagement around the program shattered all kinds of records for NBC Universal.

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MCN Buzzmeter by Trendrr

Brands Warm Up to Social TV

While broadcasters have begun to set the tone for social TV in its latest evolution, brands have been experimenting and looking for new ways to connect through social integration.  In fact, one brand that’s clearly risen to this challenge is Red Bull, as illustrated by a recent Fast Company article. They’ve completely immersed themselves in content its customers crave – and they’re reaping the benefits, financially.

Through advanced analytics, brands have more insightful knowledge about their customers than ever before, but even better – direct access to their fans is only a few keystrokes away.

Social TV – Beyond Twitter and Facebook

While hashtags during network broadcasts are becoming commonplace and Facebook integrations give fans a way to connect outside of regular programming, other tools are beginning to find their way into the social TV integration set.

GetGlue, the social TV check-in app continues to grow in popularity among television watchers.  In April, the social platform outpaced Facebook as the second-most-popular social engagement platform behind Twitter.

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Social music app Shazam has also been raising its profile among consumers of connected entertainment.  During shows like “The Voice,” fans can scan audio and download the songs sung by participants.  And “The Glee Project,” where fans could enter contests and further engage with the show.  Bringing music and other elements into the experience helps to extend the value beyond a discrete discussion fans are having with other fans and friends.

Social TV Guardrails

As brands push deeper into the opportunities to connect through this integrated medium, a few guideposts will help align the purpose with the experience.

1)     Convene to Create Value: With the television program the domain of the network, the brand can still have a relevant and effective presence in social TV.  Being the convener of the discussion or enabler of the social interaction can be just as compelling as being an advertising sponsor of the program.

2)     Enhance, Don’t Duplicate: Merely offering a duplicate experience through an alternate channel misses the point of the social TV viewing experience.  Bring viewers into a closer connection, broaden their understanding, get more detail, etc.  And, don’t limit this ability to merely the first run of the program.  Give consumers a reason to revisit the content and interact with the brand.

3)     Create Relevance: Being relevant will never go out of style.  It’s particularly important to bring something of value in the limited attention span of social TV.

4)     Create a Compelling Experience: Compelling content and experiences can come in any number of forms.  An integration doesn’t have to be overly complex to be compelling.  In fact, often it’s those integrations that disrupt the least that are most useful to the viewer.  Keep the viewer engaged in the experience they’re interested in, while giving them extensions that create value in that experience, rather than detracting from it.

5)     Not Marketing as Usual: Intruding on the viewer’s experience can be annoying at best.  Understand that the role of the brand is to bring something of value to the experience. Driving home a logo or brand value proposition should be in support of the overall experience, not the purpose for it.

So while it may be true that broadcasters are leading the charge right now, it’s only a matter of time before brands rise up and move from looking at social as another sponsorship/integration opportunity and shift their attention to creating or co-creating transmedia content that builds real advocacy and brand loyalty which will turn into real commerce.

The activities of the connected consumer will continue to evolve. Take this time to understand consumer attention patterns and how they consume information across channels.  Brands can engage in the precursors to social TV activities, like Twitter chats and social advertising to understand how consumers interact with content and the brand. Now is the time to test and learn with discretionary ad budget to discover what’s possible for the brand and its consumers.

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Thanks to Craig Alperowitz for contributing to this post. Television header photo courtesy of ccharmon on Flickr.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/bradmays // @bradmays // @socialisms

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Television – The Reports of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated


Talk of television’s demise has circled since the Internet gained prominence in the late 90s.  The truth is, there will always be an appetite for good storytelling, and the television will remain a compelling medium for immersing ourselves in those stories.  But, as we’re all aware, it will not be the only medium where we can be entertained, informed and immersed in an experience.  

As the ubiquity of the mobile experience evolves, the opportunity to bring more immersive experiences to more places and mediums becomes more viable.  You can argue that watching a full-length movie created for the big screen on the small screen of a mobile device isn’t ideal, and most would agree.  But, the point here is less about the ability of content to transition from one medium to the next than it is in the expansion of opportunities to extend experiences and adapt a story line that can connect in context beyond the single platform, single format approach of old models.  This opens up the possibility to rethink production, creative and story development in a way that can transcend intended context and create a more cohesive experience.

Brands will soon look for ways to extend the experience beyond the flatscreen and onto the mobile screen.  The consumable, short format of the mobile device and brief attention of the mobile context offer opportunities for brands to extend an experience and connect with consumers.  This trend will continue as the intersection of social TV gets more defined.

Brand Opportunity
There are several opportunities for brands to get involved in this highly consumable story telling.  At the center of a brand’s approach must be an understanding of the passion areas that drive its consumers and where the brand intersects or enhances those passions.  

  • Create a mini-episode for FB, bringing fans into an extension of the brand’s passion areas (Camping with a S’more – “Ghost Stories”)
  • Extend the story from advertising within television shows to the web/mobile (A Day in the Digital Life of a Reese’s Cup – Commercial Shoot Behind the Scenes)
  • Crowdsource and select clips offerd by those passionate about the brand (Pedal Passions – Driving a Camero)
  • Create a reality-based series based on recurring events the brand supports (The Cullinary Cozumel – Recipes from Starwood Resorts; Storm Front – Weather-related Documentary from State Farm)

Creative Context
Understanding how content is discovered, consumed and shared in the connected context offers guidposts to making the experience engaging. 

  • Content Quality – a qualitative measure that’s less about the quality of production and more about the ability to capture and retain attention through good storytelling
  • Duration – the amount of time it takes to capture and retain attention, directly related to the places online and off the story will be told 
  • Connectivity – difficult to assess, but an understanding of the connection speeds and coverage areas for where the content will be consumed is fundamental to creating a positive experience for the consumer
  • Context – where, when and how the content might be consumed determined by the pathway the audience will find and experience the story 
  • Planning – often these can be extensions of an existing program with the right planning; build in as an extension of the creative brief, plan for capturing experiences around existing events, etc.

Australian producer Russell Boyd recently launched his take on the evolution of the short-form series designed specifically for the iPad, showing how new distribution models will impact the content industry.

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Mobile Evolution – From Noun to Verb

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The Mobile Imperative

iPhones, iPad, tablets and readers – it’s easy to define mobile by the devices we use in the places we go.  But, the real revolution in mobile is happening semantically.  For a culture on the go, mobile is silently moving from noun to verb.  From what we use to how, where, when and why we use it.  Fueled by expanding mobile networks, carrier hand-offs, faster processors and more features and form factors, we’re no longer confined by the wall sockets that tether us, but are unbound to move around our world and through the lives we live – mobily.  It’s because of the places we go, the people we see and the lives that we live wherever we live them that defining a long-term mobile strategy must first acknowledge the semantic shift from noun to verb. Having a dedicated roadmap to reach mobile consumers is no longer a feature or addendum to an effective program, but central to it and integrated within it.

An Integration Approach

Watch behavior of people in public, and you’ll see a common thread – the dim glow of a blue light on their face posting to Facebook, sending or receiving a text  or checking email.  Ninety-one percent of American cell phone customers have their phones within arm’s reach 24 hours a day.  During that day, depending on their age group, they check email between six and 20 times.  They text between 5 and 110 times.  Understanding how people navigate their lives through their phone provides insight to a sustainable mobile strategy. For any brand, this considers how a Facebook post can be received on a desktop computer, commented on with a mobile phone and shared through a tablet or within an offline conversation. With consumption and behavior habits blurring across platforms, mobile features and devices, it’s important to find integration points that connect or at least span technologies, geographies and programs.  Organizations that can find a cohesive way to align purpose, platform and audience while delivering the experiences that enhance consumers’ daily travels.

Context is King

When assessing the mobile opportunities for your organization, it’s important to understand the mobile context of your customers, constituent, users.

1)     Behaviors: Create an archetype for the personalities of your customer base.  Where does this person go during the day – the dry cleaner, school, drive-in, restaurant, hiking?  Think about how the use of devices (noun) impacts the use habits (verb) of the demographics that make up your customer base.  And, don’t fall into the traps of assumption of stereotypes.  Seek out knowledge – both anecdotal and concrete – about how your target moves around, through and into the experiences that connect their world.

2)     Content: It’s important to assess not only what type of content is most compelling and consumed within the context of the customer’s daily excursion. It’s equally important to understand how your specific content/experience will be accessed and consumed. Assume much of your content will increasingly be consumed on a mobile device of some kind – whether on a cell phone or a tablet.  This impacts form, format and other characteristics of your content.  Make content consumable for mobile devices to maximize the experience for the consumer.  Shorter videos, visually compelling photos, succinct audio clips.

3)     Experiences: Understanding the pathways your consumer follows throughout the day can provide insight into how to enhance their experience.  Much like how marketers need to understand that it’s not about them in social channels, this concept becomes more relevant when connecting in a mobile context.  Are you just repurposing content to be available on mobile devices, or are you looking for ways to enhance the mobile experience?  I receive brief text messages from Redbox for a free rental each month.  It’s short, plain text and in a format that makes it easy for me to take action at the kiosk.  No need for html codes or flash widgets.  Just me, my phone and my Redbox text.

4)     Measurement: Do you know how often your site, channel, content is accessed through a mobile device?  What is the termination rate?  Bounce rate? Can you tell which information is accessed the longest through mobile?  All of these are indications of when, how and why your information is accessed.  And, it’s valuable to know these baseline metrics to understand what content and experiences are more compelling.  It also reveals some of the situational context (time of day, length of time on content, etc) that can be used to dial up or modify content pathways.

5)     Evolution: There are any number of reports that show estimates on mobile penetration and adoption – from operating systems to devices to downloads.  Some marketers make decisions based on those metrics, which are sometimes months old.  One of my favorite stories is from a time I was working with a major mobile chip manufacturer.  I was in a room with smart marketers and engineers who had helped revolutionize the mobile technology of the time.  They were debating whether or not to account for a new feature that some consumers were starting to ask for on their mobile phone.  The new feature was music.  All of the data pointed to the fact that consumers would never really want to do anything more than talk on their phones. If they wanted music, they could use their Walkman for that.  We know how the rest of the story end.  With few exceptions, most would agree that this mobile thing is going to be big.  Basing program decisions and mobile investments on the degree of adoption today doesn’t account for the speed of overall adoption.  Chances are it takes longer for your company to agree on and launch programs than it does for mobile use patterns to evolve.  Look at where your audience will be in six to twelve months, rather than were they’ve been for the previous six or are today.  This will help ensure you’re meeting the evolutionary needs of your constituents and customers.

 

The mobile revolution began years ago.  The evolution will continue as networks expand, the tools and toys we use get smarter and there’s more of us connecting in more ways in more places.  Viewing mobile as a verb, instead of noun puts our head in a place that our actions can follow.

Photo: ACL Fest Bike Rack Photo by AdamJ1555

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http://www.linkedin.com/in/bradmays // @bradmays // @socialisms