How Search and Social Platforms Will Influence TV

If you think you’re just a search marketer, think again. Don’t pigeonhole yourself with narrow definitions. You’re not just a search marketer, nor isolated to a social marketer – you’re an interactive marketer. If you think you’re confined to the Web, you’re wrong. This is important because pretty soon you will become a TV marketer, too. That old frontier TV is hatching itself into the new frontier.

Behold its amazingness. Television still surpasses the Web in consumption. The stats are a little rusty – all the way from Q1 2010 – but hear them out. According to The Nielsen Company, the average consumer spends 158 minutes per month watching TV, compared to 25 minutes using the Web on a PC. I laughed when I saw these stats. Are you kidding me? I watch TV and use the Internet way more than that. So, agreeing that these numbers are laughably low for galactic media users like us, instead of raw numbers, let’s consider the universe in terms of ratios. Ratio-wise, TV has the Internet beat six to one.

Connected devices make TV even more interesting: set-top boxes (e.g., DVRs with 40 percent household penetration, according to Leichtman Research Group), game consoles, app developers, and Wi-Fi-enabled LEDs. You can control video, search video, and get it from your high-speed provider either through TV channels or the Web (e.g., Netflix). Television is the portal that connects your video life to your Internet life.

Imagine what this means in terms of new ways to advertise, market, and sell. Connectivity is happening in mobile devices, social media, and search. Every click of the remote, every programming choice gives marketers insight into demographics and interests. Viewers are captivated audiences who spend six times more of their lives in front of a television than in front of a PC. Even more intriguing is that consumers who use DVRs are actually more likely to watch ads. According to Deloitte, 42 percent of all ad dollars will be spent on TV in 2011 to the tune of $200 billion dollars. I think we’re talking about nine to ten times the size of search and social ad spends combined.

Now what if we could marry search, social, and TV? What would that look like? Here are some ideas and some apps that are making this a reality:

  • Cable TV to go. Why can’t you watch your subscribed TV on the road? Comcast Xfinity says you can with an iPad app that gives you Wi-Fi access to 3,000 hours of TV programming and soon live TV through 3G networks.
  • Rate shows and view ratings from friends. I’d like to see consumer reviews and ratings along with movie and TV listings on the DVR. At a minimum, net-based reviews sites like Rotten Tomatoes reviews should be pulled in. Even more effective is what your network of friends thinks about a show or movie, and getting it on Facebook or Twitter would be convenient. Some of these features are already offered by GetGlue, a social network for entertainment where you can tweet or post your likes and dislikes on movies, shows, and books. GetGlue boasts 900,000 users and 12 million ratings.
  • Push a show to friends. What if you’re watching something that you think your friend would like – shouldn’t you be able to interrupt their TV viewing with an IM on the screen that says “Hey, check out this funny show on channel XYZ”? Microsoft got a patent on IM to the TV back in 2007…maybe it will be in our near future?
  • Insert user commentary during TV viewing. I’m tired of yelling at my TV. It’s not fair to you that my hilarious commentary is isolated to the walls of my house. Show me the tweets at the bottom of the screen while I’m watching live TV. That would be entertaining and satisfying.
  • Searchable TV. Beyond searching by show title, can we also search for content within the video stream? This could be quite useful for shopping applications like searching for newsworthy reviews on cars, electronics, and other items for potential purchase.

While TV is in the early stages of getting a boost from search and social media, as these new concepts take hold, they will bring new ways for search and social marketers to advertise. My predictions:

  1. Twitter on the TV becomes a reality. Tweets will flow across a portion of the TV screen relevant to the show at hand. Ad insertions, with demographic and interest-level targeting, are therefore inserted into the stream in a texty way.
  2. Searchable TV leads to e-commerce push. Search technology that enables consumers to search through how-to videos and product reviews will enable a new place for e-tailers to advertise. These can be text ads near the video results linking directly to relevant products on Web pages, accessible through Wi-Fi-enabled TV devices.
  3. Facebook tells us what to watch. Our friends post their likes and dislikes of television and movies through Facebook, influencing our decisions on what to watch. Networks and studios can use this opportunity to push sponsored pilots and previews of similar shows and movies to audiences through Facebook. For example, TV networks could sample pilot shows through Facebook, pushed to the proper audiences, before ever launching them on TV.
  4. TV ad auctions become more widespread and more useful. You will be able to use the Web to buy media on the TV and push it to local markets. Google is already trying this concept using the AdWords interface.

Perhaps, we’re still a bit away from the predicted convergence of PC and TV. We aren’t quite there with true shopping from the TV, that’s for sure. We do know this: TV is about watching TV. Search and social media fit quite nicely into the “watching” mode of TV. Search helps us find what we want, when we want it, and social gives us insights from friends, fans, and the world. I hope that we can add TV marketer to our list of SEM, SEO, and social monikers soon!

This column was originally published in SES Magazine, March 2011.

Related reading

Website landing page vector graphic