Social media technologies allow for television to be accessed and shared in a variety of ways. Viewers can actively participate while watching a program and have their interactions viewed and responded to in real time by other viewers. Technologies such as smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers allow for these actions to occur anytime, anywhere, regardless of television air times. Television stations and programs have taken advantage of this new accessibility by incorporating social media aspects into their programming and utilizing viewer comments to improve content.

While television used to be something merely viewed, increasing numbers of people now want to share the experience. Smartphones, tablets and laptops, are more likely to be in the living room and audiences use them to tell the world what we think about what’s on the box.
Three in four of people watch television with a second device at hand and one in three uses tablets, smartphones or laptops to talk about it while watching, according to a Sky survey. ‘We rely on social media to feel part of a bigger online conversation and to gain recommendations about what to watch,’ said Luke Bradley-Jones, of Sky TV Products.

 
‘We’re demonstrating an increasing trend to discover more while we watch and embrace the power of social media as a personal companion to great TV.’
In a YouGov survey (UK), Sky asked more than 4,400 people about their television viewing habits as it joined software expert zeebox to update its Sky+ app for the iPad.

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TV programmes must decide on and promote a single hashtag for their shows which in turn becomes the shows official hashtag when fans post about it. These Hashtags can then be analysed using sentiment analysis software to detect the tone of the tweet with regards to the TV show. The hashtag for Fox’s Glee is #glee is an example of TV shows utilizing twitter, for shows with longer titles such as FX network’s American Horror Story, an abbreviated hashtag is created #AHSFX. Some shows get creative with their hashtags, Showtime’s Shameless uses #TeamGallagher to promote their show, Gallagher being the last name of the family in the show. A show’s hashtag is usually placed on the lower corners of the screen during new airings of the show. The first official integration between Twitter hashtags a television programs was during Comedy Central’s March 15, 2011 roast of Donald Trump. Using the hashtag #TrumpRoast at the bottom of the screen, Twitter called it “the single deepest integration of a Twitter hashtag on air-ever.” The promotion worked as it generated the channel’s most-watched Tuesday in history; the hashtag #trumproast was used over 27,000 times on Twitter during the shows initial broadcast.

 
Through the evolution of Facebook as the premier social networking site, television programs have taken advantage of the enormous amount of users by creating pages for users to “Like”. After clicking “Like” on a page it will then show up under the user’s interests. Television programs take advantage of this by creating exclusive posts that only those who have liked the page can see. The pages post updates that include air-times of new episodes, preview and behind the scenes clips, merchandise and coupon opportunities, and interviews with the show’s actors and directors. Exclusive content is the enticement for Facebook users to “Like” the pages of their favourite shows. As of May 2011, 275 million users have Liked a television show page on Facebook. The average users has Liked at least six shows leading to an average of 1.65 billion Likes of television shows. Seventeen of the top 100 most Liked pages are television programs with Fox’s The Simpsons, Family Guy and Comedy Central’s South Park being the top three most Liked television pages. A show’s Likes on Facebook also trend over time, being the most Liked show on Facebook, The Simpsons (48 million likes) sees an average 1.23% weekly growth and a 0.15% daily growth (as of April 2012).

Vishal Pindoriya

Vishal Pindoriya is a social media enthusiast, strategist and writer. He lives in London, England and is particularly interested in the proliferation of social media around the world.

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