It really does seem like a match made in heaven, right? Twitter and Television. Are people sitting on their couches, watching their favorite shows, and feeling the urge to discuss it with the online community? The simple answer is yes, but maybe not as much as TV execs would hope.
If you watch a decent amount of Television, you have probably noticed a sharp increase in the mentions of Twitter on some of your favorite shows. Networks, citing the real-time draw of the Twitterverse, have decided to create buzz for their shows by encouraging social participation. And why not? Fans have a lot to say, and Twitter allows them to say it.
The level of Twitter integration into TV can vary, however.
It can be as basic as displaying a particular hashtag at the bottom of the screen (which is oftentimes linked to a promoted trend on Twitter). Some recent examples of this include ABC News' coverage of the royal wedding, where they encouraged users to tweet about the event using the #RoyalWedding hashtag. They even had a "total tweet tracker" graphic displayed at the bottom of the screen during the live coverage.
MTV experimented with unique hashtags during its Video Music Awards. Sporadic graphics would pop up asking questions like "What #ifbiebermetgaga? Tweet Now!"
Comedy Central's first annual Comedy Awards also tried the promoted hashtag deal by displaying #comedyawards at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen during the entire broadcast.
Networks can encourage Twitter use even more with segments devoted to fan tweets. Comedy Central's Tosh.0 deploys this strategy, for example. During almost every episode he not only asks people to follow him on Twitter so that they can live chat the show with him, but many times he will ask a question of his Twitter followers. He'll then choose some of the best responses and present them on the show.
Then you have NBC's The Voice, which is focusing on social media more than any show in recent memory. The Voice has an all inclusive social media strategy that involves Twitter integration during the live performance shows as well as their own social media guru, Alison Haislip, dubbed the "in-show and online correspondent."
The Voice has also stepped up and asked its hosts and judges to actively participate in Twitter discussion with fans. For instance, mentor Christina Aguilera didn't even have a Twitter account before joining the show, but created one specifically at their behest. Other mentors Blake Shelton, Cee-lo Green and Adam Levine are all active on the service.
Not only do they communicate with fans before and after the show airs, but they also have their phones readied during commercial breaks to tweet during the live performance shows. This devotion to social media seems to have worked for The Voice at least, with over 200,000 tweets rolling in about the show just in the hour it was airing a recent episode.
Another example is with the long-running CBS reality show Survivor. In the fall of 2010, people we already tweeting about the show, as about 10,000 related tweets came in during the season premiere and about 15,000 came in during the season finale. But in the spring 2011 season, when host Jeff Probst began live-tweeting the episodes, Twitter activity related to Survivor skyrocketed. The show drew well over 20,000 related tweets for most of the episodes and about 54,000 tweets for its finale. Check out this graph courtesy of eMarketer
As you can see, by having Jeff Probst live-tweet the shows, the buzz on Twitter was substantially increased in every episode of the season.
While there is no doubt that a strong Twitter presence will benefit a show's online buzz, the question, of course, is to what degree? How many of us are actually interacting with TV via social media on a consistent basis? The figures aren't exactly mind-blowing, but they show success in the strategy.
In another data set, provided by eMarketer, it appears that only 43% of American internet users have engaged with Television using social media. That means that over half of the people have never used one of the promoted hashtags or even talked about their favorite shows to their followers.
And out of that 43% who have engaged, only 17% reported doing so while the show was airing. Is it still a little distracting to tweet about the shows you're watching? Possibly.
Of course, there is also the issue of DVR and the downloading of shows. Can networks create enough buzz around social media interaction that they can keep viewers focused on a show at the same time? eMarketer's Debra Williamson had this to say -
Given the amount of activity surrounding social media and TV, some level of convergence is inevitable. But trends like timeshifting pose a potential obstacle—there’s not much pleasure in sharing your thoughts about a show when you’re watching it after it first aired. For the networks, social media may be one of the last best ways to bring viewers back together again.
Twitter and TV has been a successful venture in most cases. Can the networks successfully "bring viewers back together again" with social media? It's possible, but viewers are going to have to start engaging with TV and social media more during the programs rather than before or after.
It's important to note that in this research, young people aged 18-34 were much more likely to engage in social media during their TV watching. Given a little time, it might be hard to find a show on the air without a hashtag gracing the bottom of the screen.[Blake Shelton Photo Courtesy of Mashable]