Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Twitter and Social TV

  Several recent management moves suggests that Twitter's trying to be the social complement to TV - becoming the playground for fans to comment, providing instant feedback to networks and program producers, and (finally) providing an opportunity to engage audiences and make TV viewing both a lean-back and lean-forward activity.

  The roots of Social TV arguably lie elsewhere in the dim pre-History of the online world.  Certain programs have always had a strong fan base, and the rise of email listserves, Usenet newsgroups, and BBSs (computer bulletin board systems) offered the more tech-savvy of those an outlet for connecting and sharing thoughts and comments with one another.  With the rise of the Web, many of these sites and efforts migrated to fan websites, and some program producers were savvy enough to start their own official fan sites.  Among the range of available sites, fans could find chatrooms for realtime interactions, archives of program info and materials, and opportunities to share their own fan fiction and fan art with others.  And when their favs were threatened with cancellation, a platform to energize and motivate the fan base to offer their support.

  The rise of social media provided an alternative mechanism for fan interaction - and opened the way for less tech-savvy fans to join in.
  Rather than just passively absorbing TV fandom, Twitter seems to have recognized the potential of marrying their system to fan interest and activity.  They also saw an opportunity to monetize that by working with media and program creators to package fan comments and interactions into useful feedback, and providing the program/media side with the opportunity to add value to their content by engaging audiences and fans. Several years ago, Twitter started hiring people to help foster media partnerships (Chloe Sadden as director of media partnerships, Fred Graver as head of TV partnerships (US), and Dan Biddle as head of broadcast partnerships (UK)). 
“Twitter had tremendous foresight in the very early days to start working with TV networks, to get them to care about using Twitter hashtags and the Twitter social platform to engage their fans. We’re seeing the fruits of that labour right now. When TV networks do call-outs, it’s almost always about Twitter. That didn’t happen by accident,” says Tom Thai, marketing director at Bluefin Labs. 
Last month, former News Corp President and COO Peter Chernin joined Twitter's Board of Directors.  A recent feature article on C21Media commented on the move:
What he brings to Twitter is undoubtedly what the tech company so desperately craves – ever closer relations with the worlds of traditional media and advertising...
  The article stresses the addition of Chernin as the latest in a series of mostly organic evolutionary steps.
 It quotes Tony Wang, head of Twitter UK:
“Social TV is becoming the way people engage with programming anyway, regardless of what the broadcaster is doing,” he says, downplaying the significance of Twitter’s very active scheme of promoting industry ‘best practice.’ Twitter has become the “global water cooler."
Wang noted that studies suggest that as much as 80% of young viewers (under 25) are using a second screen while watching TV, and almost three quarters of those are using social media to comment on the programs they're watching.  A recent TV Guide study suggested that 70% of viewers have seen a social comment about some show, and 17% started to watch the program because of those comments.  Also, 31% indicated that social comments encouraged them to continue watching.
  Twitter's Fred Graver calls Twitter the new TV Guide -
“Our goal is to get people closer to what they care about and the easier it is for people to find programming that they like or the easier it is maybe for them to supplement the programme they’re watching on-air, that’s a great thing.”
Whether organic or directed, the important thing here is that Twitter doesn't see their partnership with TV and media merely in terms of increasing Twitter users and traffic.  To mangle an old phrase, there's gold in them thar hills of Tweets.  Wang emphasized the focus on the value of being able to make use of the information in those tweets and links -
“The more interesting value proposition is not so much recreating what viewers have been able to find on Twitter already, it’s aggregating the data and making interesting visualisations out of it, surfacing patterns or peaks and making that data digestible to both broadcasters and mainstream audiences. We’re seeing a lot more third-party specialists in this space and we think that’s an exciting opportunity....
For more than two years now we’ve been telling developers not to reproduce that consumer experience but rather focus the innovation further up the stack – by thinking about taking that data, making it interesting, visualised and consumable by broadcasters, at least in the broadcast space.”
As the article notes
Twitter’s contribution to the conversation around TV – and indeed the entire spectrum of human chatter – cannot be disputed, but the company, despite its fluffy-feathered image, is a commercial beast like any other. At the end of the day, it comes down to money and making profit for the investors that have supported it to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Partnership with media outlets and content producers looks to be one way that Twitter's generating recoverable value.  Still, for it to be successful, the media side also needs to see the value and benefits of engaging viewers through Twitter.  I've done a couple of posts on the value of Twitter for news (here, or here) and Social TV more generally (here, here, and here), but here's a nice visual from Seth Ghuniem at WiredSet that outlines how networks and program producers can use Twitter to promote viewing and engagement.

Source  -  Sailing on the Social TV River,  C21Media
Social TV: On-Air / Online Best Practices - Twitter,  WiredSet

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