SES New York opened on Tuesday with Mike Proulx speaking on “Social TV: How Marketers Can Reach & Engage Audiences by Connecting Television to the Web, Social Media, & Mobile,” expressing the irony of kicking off a conference whose roots are in search, talking about television.
Proulx shed light on the seemingly strange bedfellows of search and television with Google’s phrase, “TV is a major catalyst for search.” This is a testament to what’s happening in the media landscape. The two media are intertwined and everything is matched up.
What’s the reason for this marriage between TV and search? Proulx shows that we are doing online searches while watching TV. Google Trends often spike for TV-related search terms at the specific times television shows air. Google says, “TV prompts 22% of mobile searches.” TV seems to be a powerful medium to drive our search behavior.
Marketers can leverage this connection between TV and search, because searches are not only prompted by television programs, but “the majority of searches are prompted from TV commercials,” Proulx adds. Clearly, the television landscape has evolved from a media that we just watch to one that we interact with across different screens – web, social media, and mobile.
In social media, Twitter has become an important part in our overall search experience. TV now has an instant feedback loop through the use of social polls and Twitter feeds, which TV programs such as “American Idol” incorporate into each episode.
Proulx gave a personal experience of his social media interaction with TV during the Republican National Convention last August. During Clint Eastwood’s infamous “invisible Obama” speech where he spoke to an empty chair, Proulx was on his iPad with Twitter open. His Twitter stream was filled with witty one-liners, which created an interesting second screen experience for him that augmented Eastwood’s speech. He was not only reading the stream, but also shared that content with friends who weren’t on Twitter at the time. The best part of that second screen experience, Proulx said, was “when Obama himself joined the conversation and tweeted ‘This seat is taken.'”
The question that we need to consider is “What is TV in 2013?” Proulx outlined three ways that television is different now than it has ever been:
- Landscape of TV. TV has transcended the actual television set and channels. We can watch television programs on our laptops, iPads, iPhones, and other web-enabled devices. Is that not TV? Many streaming network companies like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and even Microsoft have aggressive plans to create original content, bypassing the television networks, and bring it into our homes via Internet connectivity. These streaming networks are producing Hollywood-quality content that is not available through traditional television networks, yet it looks, feels, and acts like TV. Original content, available through the Internet, is starting to challenge what we originally knew as television. Smart TVs are also getting into the mix. These connected TV devices make it easy to watch the set in our homes with big screens and surround sound, while at the same time, most homes have second or third screens on simultaneously. We are interacting across screens while we watch the set. Nielsen tells us that “40% of smartphone owners are using the devices daily while they watch television.” This has led to the explosion of app developers creating second screen apps to capitalize on this social TV market. A caveat for marketers is that using social TV apps is not a silver bullet – what we love is immersive stories. Great stories, not gimmicks work.
- Beliefs vs. behaviors.
Belief No. 1: TV is a dying breed.
Behavior: We watch more TV today than ever – a daily average of four hours, 46 minutes. Ratings have increased to 40 million viewers (for the Oscars).
Belief No. 2: People don’t watch TV live.
Behavior: 87 percent watch broadcast TV live, 93 percent watch cable programs live. Motorola just released a statistic stating that 41 percent of recorded programs are never watched.
Belief No. 3: We use other devices while watching TV.
Behavior: 78 percent of second screen device activity is unrelated to the show being watched. Only 23 percent of smartphone users engage in TV programs – the first places users turn to are texting, talking on the phone, and online forums.
Belief No. 4: Social media helps ratings.
Behavior: Nielsen just announced that it has found a correlation between ratings and Twitter activity during a television program. This is one of the reasons television programs use hashtags on almost every show we watch. They want to remind us that there is a conversation happening around the content and we can add our voice. However, during very engaging television moments where viewers lose themselves in the story, the Twitter activity goes down.
Belief No. 5: TV is traditional media.
Behavior: TV in 2013 has become new media because of the changes in our behavior. We watch television programs on various Internet-enabled devices anytime, anywhere.
- Brands. How are brands dealing with this rapid change in television? Proulx shared a few examples: NCAA and TNT’s March Madness Twitter account – from there you can view short clips of instant replays that the television broadcast isn’t going to show more than one or two times. AT&T doing relevant sponsorships. For the Super Bowl, Lincoln partnered with Jimmy Fallon’s #steerthescript on Twitter for road trip stories, then made a commercial about the winners – about 2,000 people used this hashtag. Verizon FiOS used real customers @name on Twitter for prospects to ask customers questions about the service and made a commercial about it. USA Network’s “Psych” 100th episode allows people to vote in real time for the ending of the murder mystery. Viewers vote at psych.usanetwork.com or tweet their vote to @psychwhodunnit – a good cross-media experience. Oreo used its Twitter profile linked to its Instagram customer photo showcase. During the unexpected blackout at the Super Bowl game, Oreo and other brands used this situation to promote their products via social networks.
Enrich vs. Hijack
These are all great examples of how brands are learning to connect and engage with customers via multiple screens, but Proulx explains that one thing none of us want is to have our social streams hijacked by brands trying too hard to be witty, especially when that content is not relevant to us. That line is still fuzzy, and over time it will become clear.
Finally, Proulx quoted Dick Costolo who said, “We’re moving from a world where we plan campaigns for the future, to one where we adapt campaigns to the moment.” This human connection is really the essence of social TV. Brands must approach TV today with a new set of eyes and internally eliminate the TV and digital organizational silos and work together to effectively engage the connected consumer.
TV image on home page via Shutterstock.