By: Zachary Weiner
Director of Global Marketing, Never.no
Co-founder, Connected TV Marketing Association
Understanding the true nature of Social TV and Participatory television is a lot less about technology and a lot more about psychology and sociology than most folks tend to realize or evangelize upon. Reading the media lately, we hear a lot about differing Social TV trends that whilst all true are lacking a very crucial understanding of the behavioral background needed to capitalize upon these trends, which we’ll touch upon here (You lucky devils).
At never.no (www.never.no) we’re looking into the emerging TV landscape holistically with respect to technology, media and psychology. It’s been brought to the TV industry’s attention that social media coupled with television watching increases viewer attention and engagement. Understanding why this is however, can allow those in the TV business to greatly take further advantage of these consumer behaviors. In what could be hundreds of psychological correlations explored, I will simply highlight two I’d love to focus on, in order to further define and expand upon the notion that social interaction coupled with Television creates immensely enhanced audience engagement and retention.
Focused yet divided Attention: One reason multi-screen attention can create engagement:
In a study conducted by Muller in 2003, findings proved that individuals can divide their attention between two compelling sources of visual focus. Attention will shift between these two sources within half a second and the brain is still allowed enough time to be cognizant and involved with both. When this attention is divided by these two however, many other elements and stimuli that one might typically focus upon, no longer become relevant or even brought into consciousness. The person in the other room, that meatball sandwich in the fridge, the birds chirping outside, whatever it might be is easily ignored.
So when we engage television watchers, with not just programming on one screen, but also a correlated visual task on another, whether it’s a synchronized companion application or a social call to action, we allow those viewers to have their attention span divided into the same core focus. This forced selective attention on two different yet correlated items creates a far greater level of engagement without distraction. Everything else without an incredibly compelling call to action. I.E. The pizza guy ringing the doorbell, or a significant other yelling to clean the dishes gets totally tuned out. (See, psychology can be fun.)
Lesson learned: By activating a synchronized companion to TV whether it’s participatory or social, we allow viewers to tune out many other potentially distracting elements around them. We create engagement sans distraction. The permutations of what we can do with this knowledge to further activate participation and interaction are nearly endless.
Group TV engagement begets larger groups and furthers audience retention and interaction
How we act as a group and how we act as individuals are two very separate items that have been the focus of copious behavioral research. One basic component of Social Identity Theory tells us that when we we are in group setting, we often follow, copy or mimic the behaviors of other group members. In the twitter/social media/TV sphere, this means that people who watch what we are watching may become part of our perceived group, and as such, we often follow their lead on interaction and behavior. We may even mimic their thoughts and actions.
This concept is greatly tied in to the concept social proof, which for all terms and purposes, means that when making decisions, whether it’s what to watch, or how engaged we become, we rely on our social circles. We do this in order to resolve personal insecurities. The point here is that by creating large group behaviors, by creating social groups offline or online, we further the potential for new watchers to come onboard or old watchers to become more engaged. When we create groups around TV programming, we create followers and participators, who beget more followers and participators. Something all in the TV biz should be striving for. A domino effect of active watchers.
Perhaps you may be thinking that a few tweets for instance are too small an event to influence social behavior. A study by Taifel (Tajfel et al., 1971) proved that people standing together at a painting for 30 seconds could spark group trends and behaviors. Reading a variety of tweets can certainly cause a lot longer and more intensive interaction than a simple .30 seconds.
Lesson learned: There are some incredibly robust ways to create groups of watchers around each other. When we give them compelling tasks to participate or interact further with, more people will go ahead, watch and interact as well. The greater we can solidify this group presence the greater potential. More viewers who are engaged= greater revenue possibilities and increased loyalty.
How we capitalize on these most basic psychological factors are nearly endless when we start to consider the multitude of further implications. The moral of the story is that when we can create social behaviors that tie in multiple screens, we can create further engagement and retention. When we engage participatory actions that can be followed by a group we enhance the content experience and spread it. There is much more to discuss here, but I will leave that for another Never.no post on the subject!
Follow more of Zach’s posts on the Never.no blog.
Photo credit: by DigitalBob8 on Flickr; used under Creative Commons.