Social TV – what does this mean for advertisers?

Social TV is a rapidly-growing trend in the world of technology and communication.  Termed as the Second Screen phenomenon, it refers to the audience of a television show engaging with others on various social networking platforms, simultaneously  discussing and commenting upon what they see, on a real-time basis. According to a global Nielsen survey, 88 percent of tablet owners and 86 percent of smartphone owners in the U.S. said they used their device while watching TV.

The conversations that a television show produced, when viewers would discuss it the next day with friends and colleagues – the ‘water cooler’ conversations – are now happening instantaneously. The long awaited Satyamev Jayate, dominated Twitter conversations on Sunday, 6 May, and the volume of mentions on it peaked at 12 noon, during the telecast of the show.

A trend that begun with viewers talking about live events such as sports broadcasts and award and reality shows, has now grown and extended to most television programming. Posting comments about TV shows on Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms grew 146% from April 2011 to April 2012, according to Trendrr, which tracks social-media trends in television.

Broadcasters have already realised the value of the second screen in boosting ratings. Victoria Jaye, Head of IPTV and TV Online Content, BBC Vision presents the idea behind creating companion content on the BBC blog.

“The ‘companion experience’ refers to additional content offered on a companion screen (PC, mobile, tablet or even the same TV), related to and synchronized with the programme you’re watching on TV. This could be further information, a play along experience, social or control features – the overall aim being to enhance the audiences’ TV viewing.” – Victoria Jaye

That the industry attaches great importance to this trend is evident in the conferences that are being organised on it – such as the upcoming Connected TV Summit and the Social TV World Summit, in London. There are also several apps that have been built to enhance the fan experience, such as GetGlue, with over 2 million users which encourages fans to ‘check in’ and let friends know what they’re watching, and provides a forum to discuss the shows; Viggle, which offers rewards (movie tickets, music downloads, gift cards) for watching certain shows; Miso, which offers a summary of plot lines for the show you’re watching and provides slide shows, polls and discussions. Most major networks have also launched official apps which provide exclusive content for fans.

This is an opportunity ripe for advertisers and marketers, especially in the segment of media and entertainment,  to cash in on – a show that has a large community of dedicated and engaged viewers who are already involved in conversations online, is one that is ideal for brands to leverage.

“Marketers have already caught on to the importance of ‘viral’ spread of  content.” - Madhavan Narayanan (@madversity on Twitter), Associate Editor, Hindustan Times, in his column.

In October 2011, Pepsi unveiled two new digital platforms, Pepsi Sound Off and Pepsi Pulse to focus on their American show ‘The X Factor‘ and drive social engagement around  it and other Pepsi entertainment properties in the future.

Pepsi Pulse is a real-time digital visualization of the conversations taking place on the social web around key Pepsi entertainment properties. The platform shapes the volume of social data into a visual storyline and gives consumers a forum to follow the ‘pulse’ of a certain topic or individual in real-time. Pepsi Sound Off allows ‘The X Factor’ fans to connect with each other and incorporates gaming mechanics to enhance the social TV experience. It is visualised as an application that allows fans to engage online in an immersive, addictive and social fashion, which not only builds loyalty for the TV show but also deepens Pepsi’s credentials as an active participant in popular culture while dialing-up the entertainment for fans.

In India too, we have several television shows that see widespread second screen usage. Can we shortly expect brands to drive campaigns around shows like MTV Roadies, Coke Studio, Bigg Boss or Dance India Dance? Share your thoughts with us.