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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What we’ve got here is … failure to communicate

I recently spoke at the Location-based Marketing Summit.  If there’s one area where everyone is polishing their crystal balls, it’s in the future of location.  And, inevitably, the discussion turned to monetization.  As you can imagine, the first source for monetization that began to echo through the conference was advertising.  As I pointed out when I spoke, I like a paycheck as much as the next guy, but I wish there was a little more delay before we start to see an advertising discussion start around new platforms.  A little more time to let the concept breathe, and more thought put into how to use the platform for true, rather than artificial engagement. What I’m seeing, whether it’s at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, or at the Location-based Marketing Summit is a conversation that is starting to be dominated with an advertising voice – whether that’s from ad networks, technology providers or agencies and brands themselves.  It’s becoming predictable that, before the conversation begins about how people will actually use the new medium, how the platform will grow a community and what role the technology means in the greater context, someone in the back of the room stands up  and asks about the ad creative dimensions. I was reminded of this by the news/rumor that Twitter will begin to push ads into a users Twitter stream.  Twitter has a couple of years on the location platforms, but it’s still at a critical point in its evolution.  Is it that pushing ads into the experience is the only way to help get to its monetization goals, or is it a lack of creativity – on Twitter’s part or the part of the brand and their agencies – that other alternatives haven’t been explored?  Like anything, if you try to force it into the experience, the community will react negatively.  But, the last two offerings I’ve seen from Twitter that point to a monetization effort have been (paid) promoted Tweets and now potentially ads in the Twitter stream.  I think there needs to be more innovation on the part of the platform to find new and interesting ways to build an experience, rather than defaulting to advertising as a go-to strategy.  Admittedly, it’s difficult for me to give Twitter too much of a hard time for this.  I’m not the one sitting across the table having to justify my existence with investors, and they now face a similar challenge as Facebook with a platform that’s interwoven into the fabric of the social media experience.  I just hope that more opportunities for innovation and experimentation can lead the conversation and be given as much credence as monetization through advertising.

(There are any number of holes in this, so if you feel like weighing in, make sure to let me have it in the comments.)

UPDATE: In the spirit of fairness, here is an account from AdAge of Twitter in-stream ads as told by a user who has them.