Among the most-discussed topics at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference held in Austin, Texas, was the increasing interaction between television and social media.
Jonathan Carson, CEO of Digital for Nielsen, kicked off a panel discussion by sharing the latest insights on how consumers are engaging with television programming via social media. Social buzz about TV content is widespread, evolves over the course of a season, and spikes around premieres and finales, which can result in a rise in ratings, Carson noted. Two weeks prior to a particular finale, for example, a 14 percent increase in buzz volume correlated to a one percent increase in ratings for people 18-34 years old. Carson also said that increased smartphone and tablet penetration will likely boost simultaneous usage between TV and mobile devices through real-time social conversations.
Following Nielsen's insights, the panel, which included media executives from ESPN, Oxygen Media, MTV Networks, and Adweek, discussed ways advertisers should engage in the social TV ecosystem. Several key themes emerged.
Advertisers and networks can work together to reward a program’s most socially engaged fans. MTV's Kristin Frank recommended more incentives for fans to actively express their interest. For example, an advertiser could sponsor a contest among fans to win a trip to see a filming or to interact with a program’s stars. Advertisers can also get involved with programmers during production stages to prepare and create unique social media experiences when content goes live.
Savvy brands must craft their sponsorships for the social ecosystem. Oxygen’s Jennifer Kavanagh detailed a successful case study where a brand sponsored a social prize voted on by fans—a fan favorite. Because the moniker was short and sweet, it didn’t consume too many characters, allowing it the chance to resonate in the social sphere.
While time-shifting is an increasingly popular way to watch TV, certain events and programs are still best viewed live. ESPN’s Michael Cupo said that sports programmers have a slight advantage because sports enthusiasts like to watch in real-time, commenting online along the way. ESPN is launching real-time, interactive social accounts to discuss games with fans and will likely be sponsored. But, this approach isn’t exclusive to sports. Popular reality shows, awards programs, and serial dramas have also inspired notable real-time social buzz.
Clearly, the social TV ecosystem is evolving, and network and brand interaction will likely evolve as well. As Carson pointed out, “TV is still the first screen, by far,” with TV consumption continuing to grow every quarter. “The social component just magnifies the engagement opportunity for advertisers that television has always offered.”