American Idol was a show ahead of its time. It had the audience call in on a weekly basis to vote for their favourite contestants, and allowed them to engage with their favourite contestants through fan mails.
Such an experience was merely a precursor to what is happening now.
Today, social media intersects with TV. The TV experience is more social and interactive, with audiences moving away from passive consumption, and into involvement and engagement with what’s happening on-screen, live from millions of miles away. Instead of chats at the water cooler, the same discussions on TV programming now take place on the social media platforms. It lets TV audiences go beyond the goggle box, and immerse themselves in content from their favorite shows, as well as interact with a community of like-minded fans all in real-time.
However, building engagement with your TV audience is not just about getting them to put out a post on social media about your show and cast after the latest episode has aired. Maximising engagement with your TV audience can be done at all stages of the viewing experience; covering pre, during and post-show periods.
Here are some strategies that broadcasters can adopt in harnessing the power of social media.
Before the show
Social media platforms are the perfect place to observe crowd and fan sentiment before the show. Producers can create polls around specific show hashtags or emojis for instantaneous feedback. This data can then be leveraged for potential story lines that may work to their shows’ advantage.
This is common practice in many Korean productions, where dramas with good ratings have extensions that are written in mere days before airing. In the Korean reality TV show Infinite Challenge, the producers reached out to their fans in order to search of a new cast member, “The Sixth Man”, via polls on social media, enabling fans and viewers to feel like they had a say in its pursuit.
More obviously, social media is also an excellent vehicle for creating hype around movies or television shows.
During the show
According to Accenture, 87% of consumers use their mobiles while watching television. During the show, there is no better way to increase engagement with viewers than through social media. The conversational nature of social media platforms makes them perfect for active debates between viewers, especially for live shows.
A recent study found that more than 92% of Twitter users exposed to TV or brand mentions in Tweets have taken action: driving TV tune-in, generating website visits, and increasing brand consideration.
Furthermore, broadcasters can layer on additional audience targeting and maximise revenues. Broadcasters can make use of the different social media platforms to monetise their videos without having an existing publisher-advertiser deal in place.
Publishers simply upload their videos to start monetising their content, and are then paid the majority of the ad revenue through automated rev-share payments. Such an arrangement was what motivated ABS-CBN, a broadcaster in Philippines, to partner McDonald’s in supporting UAAP Cheerdance Championship last year.
During the viewing of a show episode, TV networks can also leverage on owned hashtags for them to overlay on the episodes. This lets broadcasters and producers group and track the resulting chatter as events unfold on-screen.
After the show
Post an exciting episode, fans are likely to search for more related content. Content producers should take the opportunity to encourage fans to talk about the latest episode with friends and followers on social media. This could be as simple as introducing show highlights or sneak peeks for upcoming episodes.
For example, HBO’s Game Of Thrones would often talk online about the crazy plot twists, how they felt about the characters’ latest shocking actions, to share their own memes and more. Each #GameOfThrones season inspires millions of social media posts. Leveraging post-episode conversations to drive new viewers to the show which in turn grows audience numbers is a cost effective way to extend interest in the TV program.
Another opportunity for broadcasters to leverage is the star power of celebrities featured in existing production assets, by sustaining audience engagement through social media outreach. Fans of the show often enjoy having behind-the-scenes photos and clips with and of celebrities, as the experience lets them connect with their idols on a deeper level.
In Singapore, to celebrate the season four premiere of Orange Is The New Black, the cast took part in an extensive conversation on Twitter with their fans on the #AskOrange segment, which intensified the hype for the new season.
Social platforms clearly have a lot to offer primetime TV, and more so if broadcasters and producers consider the opportunities presented at the different stages of production of a TV show. Ultimately, advertising and brand engagement on TV has evolved into a multi-channel beast, empowered by social media that’s worth taking a second look at.
The writer is Maya Hari, director for product strategy and sales, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Emerging Markets at Twitter.