Thursday, August 22, 2013

Social Media and Television — How Do They Relate?

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Thanks to social media and its influence on television, viewers can use forums like Facebook and Twitter to share their thoughts about the programs they watch even as they’re watching them. What’s more, viewers can use social media to connect with other fans around the country and the world, to enter contests, play games, take quizzes or ask questions about their favorite shows, and to find new shows that they might enjoy.

Television producers and writers are catching on. They now use social media integration to increase their viewership and get an idea of how many viewers are tuning in. In this age of free streaming TV services online, the Nielsen ratings have become obsolete.

Television producers now use Twitter hashtags and Facebook “likes” to encourage viewers to take to social media, and to keep track of posts about a series, an episode or a television special. TV shows have their own social media accounts to interact with viewers.

How Do TV Viewers Use Social Media?

There are three main reasons television viewers log onto social media:

·         To find information about shows they watch or might want to watch
·         To talk to their friends and followers about the shows they watch
·         To play games, take quizzes or enter contests related to TV shows

A recent survey by Viacom showed that 46 percent of those surveyed use social media to keep up with their favorite TV programs; 43 percent use it look for schedules and broadcast information on programs’ Facebook pages or Twitter feeds; and 33 percent log onto social media to watch special content available nowhere else.

The same survey showed that 36 percent of respondents recommend their favorite programs to their friends via social media; 35 percent of respondents talk to their friends about the shows they’re watching via social media; and 24 percent of respondents make new connections with other fans of their favorite TV shows via social media.

Fewer people use social media to play games and enter contests relating to their favorite TV programs, but the percentages are still significant. 24 percent of those surveyed enter TV contests using social media; 23 percent log onto social media to play games that relate to their favorite programs; and 22 percent take social media quizzes about their favorite TV shows.

How Do TV Producers Use Social Media?

Television producers and personalities take advantage of social media trends to draw in more viewers, as well as to try to keep track of their ratings. Since so many people now are using second screens to watch TV shows online, the old Nielsen rating system is no longer accurate. Nielsen ratings for a particular show might be incredibly low, but that doesn’t mean the same show doesn’t have a massive audience — watching online.

Producers are now using Twitter to attempt to calculate television ratings. The system isn’t perfect — Twitter wasn’t designed as a television ratings system. However, television studios can get a fair idea of whom and how many people are watching their programs by keeping track of the posts made during the program’s broadcast. Whether fans love or loathe a program, social media feedback will tell.

One of the ways in which TV programs do this is by using Twitter hashtags. Each television program — and, in some cases, individual episodes of a series — has its own hashtag, which appears at the bottom of the screen during broadcast. Viewers who tweet about the show are encouraged to use the hashtag; this serves the purpose of organizing all the tweets related to that program and distinguishing them from unrelated tweets.

The use of hashtags on Twitter also serves to draw in new viewers:Online friends see the tweets, get curious, and initiate conversations about the show and maybe they tune in for themselves. Twitter activity during the 2010 Grammy Awards is believed to have led to a 35 percent increase in viewership of the event, for example.

Television programs, and especially talk show hosts, open their own Twitter and Facebook accounts. Twitter accounts for television programs and personalities are seen to be especially effective in generating buzz surrounding a show. Programs and even individual characters use Twitter feeds to answer questions, tweet program updates and even share musical tracks played during a show.

Thanks to social media, we’re now watching television differently. We can tell the world just what we think of the programs we’re watching in real time. We can recommend our favorite shows to online friends — and warn them away about the ones we don’t like. Television producers have taken notice and are now using social media to boost ratings and foster a more interactive relationship with viewers.

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