Where Twitter Meets TV: Social Media and the Small Screen

Occasionally, in between a lot of editing and social media, I get to actually write something of my own for work. This time, I wrote about two of my favorite things: TV and Twitter. The following was originally posted on SEOSavvy.com


When it comes to entertainment, people are talking as much about TV as they are movies these days. Between smaller networks like AMC and TBS producing original content, and online services like Hulu Plus, Netflix, and soon Amazon doing the same, the landscape of the small screen is rapidly changing. Another notable change of last decade has been the rise of social networks, and, due to the rapid-fire nature of communication, TV has become an actively discussed topic online.

So where is the connection here? It’s pretty simple: New programming airs at a set time every week, across the country. With streaming capabilities both legal and otherwise, we’re all looking to ingest our entertainment the way we do our news; as it is occurring. And what social networking site stands out as a real time news source? Twitter, without a doubt.

You can’t exactly live-tweet a movie, but TV brings about a conversation. Just as TV was once marketed as the way to bring your family together each night for quality bonding time, it has now become the way you connect with friends and others with a shared interest across the globe (or at least, in your own time zone). Once upon a time, we were limited to sharing our thoughts in person, then on the phone, through text, and for some, via blogs or other online forums. Now, we have the ability to reach fans we didn’t even know existed – and the networks have taken notice. So naturally, both they and Twitter have begun to make use of this connection.


Amp It Up

The primary catalyst of all of this is Twitter Amplify. Along with their ad-targeting initiative, Amplify works to bring together the networks, advertisers, and the users of Twitter, showing you exactly what it is you want to see, based on your viewing habits. They push out clips, behind-the-scenes images, etc., and gather your information based on what you retweet, hashtag, and reply to.

They’ve begun by targeting the largest events, in order to reach the most viewers; Capturing moments that everyone will be talking about – like Ellen’s now infamous group selfie at the 2014 Academy Awards – and adding in product placement. Another way in which Amplify has utilized the power of social sharing is by coupling advertisements with short clips (in the vein of Instagram and Vine), allowing them to package the little moments you want and share them easily without having to do any of the legwork yourself. And they receive revenue from the advertisers as a reward.

Not surprisingly, this social video integration comes from a former YouTube executive, where short online videos first became part of the social space. Partnering with Viacom, a global media corporation that owns networks such as BET, MTV, and Comedy Central, Amplify was a natural way for Twitter and TV to bundle their monetary goals. Twitter needs the money in order to maintain its profitability, and television is also suffering from a cash flow problem.


How We Talk

Working to interpret Twitter “conversations” is key to marketing on the platform. Initially, hashtags (in addition to the 140 character limit) were what made Twitter stand out, and have proven to be influential in the television game. Shows have begun to include unique hashtags on the screen during broadcast, encouraging users to chat about the show, a specific episode, or even a particular moment in an episode that may cause a reaction. Fans will tweet using the hashtag, and be able to connect with one another to discuss and share ideas and opinions.

The accounts for each show or network will also tweet using these specific hashtags, giving them a perfect way to measure how many people are watching, and determine who is their target audience. Programs like ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars, which has a predominately teen female fan base, has capitalized on this extensively. The show received a number of Shorty Awards (which honors the most influential social media accounts and content creators across the web) due to its revolutionary practice of actively engaging members of the fan base across the web through contests, polls, and more.

Twitter now even supplies data to Nielsen, whose previous methods had become an increasingly unreliable way of determining who watches what, especially with Hulu, Netflix and Amazon taking the lead on how we view our shows. Nielsen has been breaking down the audience by gender and age, and helping to determine in which demographics programs are failing or succeeding. At this point, you can determine which shows are being watched right now without even needing to turn on your TV, simply by accessing the Discover tab on your Twitter app, where you’ll see live reactions whilst a show is airing.


It’s Not Just Twitter

Tumblr is also important in the TV game. As previously stated, in the days before social networking, we didn’t have many ways to discover others who were interested in the same shows as us. Events such as Comic Con – which have been held since the 1970s but only became more popular in the last 20 years – are one way to meet up with fellow fans, but a yearly event was hardly enough in our increasingly fast-paced world.

So out of the LiveJournal and Xanga communities came Tumblr. Members from almost every fandom – which is the name for the subsets of fans that have grown from each TV show or franchise – has made a home here, utilizing Tumblr as a hub for fan fiction, fan art, and much more for programs of every variety, from BBC’s Sherlock to Fox’s Sleepy Hollow.  There may actually be more TV buzz on Tumblr than Twitter: A study reported by AdAge showed that while Twitter received the bulk of the real-time traffic, viewers took to Tumblr to re-blog GIF sets and express long-form reactions for days after an episode aired.

When it comes to advertisements, however, Tumblr doesn’t currently have the same methods of targeting demographics as Twitter. But this may be changing – after Tumblr was bought by Yahoo last year, they also partnered up with Viacom. MTV’s 2014 Movie Awards last month was the perfect event to launch their promotion across the community blogging platform. Nevertheless, the landscape is still shaky, and Tumblr will have to carve out their niche in order to play at Twitter’s level.


Future Developments

But the Twitter-TV partnership isn’t without its faults. It’s not surprising that with the success of mini hyper-relevant ads on social media, TV would start to try and break off a piece on their own small screen. Execs at MTV, The Weather Channel, and Turner are working on ways to bring what’s trending right now in your area to your commercial breaks, via their sponsors. We have all kinds of integrated advertising on TV already, but this attempt at up-to-the-minute ads could change where the money is going, especially during popular events. But while their viewer’s eyes may be on the screen while the action is on, their fingers will still be at full attention on their tablets and smartphones.


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