Must-Tweet TV: How The Pioneers Of Social Television Turn Viewers Into VIPs

Jimmy Fallon, The X Factor, and UFC all know that social media is a reminder to viewers that they are part of a much larger community--maybe even a party.

Throughout the succinct two-year history of social television, successes and failures have taught practitioners three valuable lessons. In fact, these lessons apply to practitioners in any major medium (radio, film, television, journalism).

Keep It Organic
As you know by now, the golden rule of social media is to deliver value when, where, and how your audience wants to receive it. These words were first shared at a sports conference in 2010 by Bryan Johnston, chief marketing officer at the Ultimate Fighting Championship and former senior vice president at Burton Snowboards. The beauty of social TV is that the audience is providing value right back. Naturally viewers are talking about their favorite (or least favorite) TV shows and sporting events. So let them talk back when, where, and how they want to. It not only provides a temperature on opinions and sentiment; it also extends content into a perpetual conversation kept alive even after the show is over.

For example, The X Factor realized that its highly enthusiastic following on Twitter had strong opinions about the show’s contestants. The show’s executives got in touch with Digital Royalty, and we helped them see that their viewers didn’t necessarily care if the TV show itself was listening to their opinion; they were naturally sharing their thoughts, feelings, likes, and dislikes with their peers in the interest of a more personal viewing experience. That didn’t mean it was okay to not engage them. We saw it as a huge opportunity to be immediately pursued.

We monitored their followers’ social media behavior and listened to their viewers. Then we helped The X Factor become the first show to ever harness social media’s inherent power and let viewers vote via Twitter direct message. This provided a convenient and direct means for loyal viewers to voice their opinions in a meaningful and yet official way. It also ushered them to a deeper level of engagement. Of course they’d want to see whether the one they voted for did--or didn’t--survive.

Offer Low-Barrier Engagement
It’s not a new concept for television shows to host contests highlighting viewer submissions to engage and create loyalty with viewers. However, with the evolution of social TV, the entry process has become more accessible. Instead of submitting something on a form, e-mail, phone call, or regular mail, viewers can almost instantaneously contribute to their favorite show using social media.
Jimmy Fallon is one of the pioneers of this concept. In the prehistoric age of social TV (a little more than two years ago), Fallon trailblazed by inviting fans to be part of the show by providing Twitter hashtag prompts to viewers and airing the most creative and hilarious responses on the air.

Why was this so innovative? It kept the viewers in their own space. Fallon’s calls to action require little effort. A simple, witty one-liner in a tweet you were already going to send could be your chance at late-night stardom.

What was the benefit for the TV show? Viewers were now entertained at an incremental level. They were participating with the show and invested in the next evening’s show to see if their tweet was highlighted within the broadcast. Simply said, they were elevated one notch up on the loyalty ladder. Many of the hashtags even became trending topics, which garnered accelerated awareness for the innovative hashtag game and, even more important, the show itself.

The show’s new return on investment could be determined by hashtag counts, trending topics, increases in followers, and engagement levels. With more conversation around the show, more eyes are on the show’s other tweets, which may include money-making advertisement-laden links, promotions, or other show initiatives. Heightened awareness means a greater reach and, in the end, a more profitable show.

Measure and Share Real-Time Results With Viewers
TV networks and shows can put their finger on the pulse of viewer engagement before, during, and after a show airs.
Historically, it was enough to say, “Most-watched show on Wednesday night.” But that has little meaning for viewers. For them it just means they watch a popular show. In the end, it’s vague and static.

Companies like Mass Relevance, Simply Measured, and Trendrr have developed tool sets that networks, shows, and advertisers can use to measure the impact their TV presence has on their audience. This type of instant feedback based on data has never been attainable prior until now.

With social media engagement, networks can also give viewers this intriguing information at any time during the show. This is an offering fans find meaning in, even if only for entertainment value. It’s also a reminder for each viewer that he or she is part of a much larger community--maybe even a party. And it’s just intriguing for viewers to see the rate of communication spike up and down based on different points in the show. They ask themselves, Are others talking about what I'm talking about? Or, Am I out on a limb with this thought? Now the network and the viewer can know what matters most and least to everyone involved.

It’s traditionally believed that word-of-mouth is the most influential form of marketing. Accordingly, TV viewers and consumers have an interest and trust in each other’s opinions. Consensus matters because it saves time and provides clarity. In the same way we look for book or music recommendations from friends, we can now turn to social media to hear about the next big thing or track what the majority considers the highest quality or best value or greatest experience. With this in mind, renegade media outlets are becoming valuable editors of the social media space, using their expertise to tell their viewers what they should be consuming according to general consensus. This strategy also proves valuable to advertisers who can make more informed decisions about when, where, and how they want to advertise on TV.

What is most amazing about all this? The jury is still out on social media in most corporate minds. Most are dipping a foot in. Few are diving in head first.

Reprinted by permission the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from Renegades Write the Rules, by Amy Jo Martin Copyright (c) 2012 by Amy Jo Martin.

Amy Jo Martin is the founder & CEO of Digital Royalty, which opened in 2009 to help companies, celebrities, professional sports leagues, teams, and athletes build, measure, and monetize their digital universe. She tweets at @AmyJoMartin.

[Image: Flickr user Guillaume Paumier]

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