Jan 03

Social TV: Trends and opportunities for 2013


Of all the buzzed-about marketing trends of this past year – from big data to native ads and gamification – I thought I’d start the new year with some thoughts on social TV, which isn’t entirely new, but had a huge impact on our culture and politics in 2012.


What is social TV? It encompasses a range of things, but generally speaking (or according to Wikipedia) it refers to “technology that supports communication and social interaction in either the context of watching television, or related to TV content.”

Last year more than any other, people looked to social media to find out what was going on at that very moment in time, including during major TV events. They also looked for immediate opinions from their friends and influencers as they tuned into the boob tube. If you watched the Olympics, any one of the presidential debates, or are a fan of reality shows like So You Think You Can Dance (as I am), you’ll have seen just how integral social media was to the viewing experience. According to a recent Nielsen study, 85% of mobile owners use their tablet or smartphone while watching TV at least once per month. Whether TV producers planned it or not, what people were saying on Twitter and other social networks affects how people watched their shows and what they take away from them.


In fact, studies have shown that social media is actually prompting people to watch TV in real time again. Last week, my Twitter feed lit up about Dwayne Wade kicking Ramon Sessions in the groin, so rather than happily scanning my pre-recorded TV shows and bypassing all commercials, I tuned into the game to see what was going on.

Not only does social media encourage people to check out what’s happening on TV, it actually triggers more sustained engagement during viewing. Networks and marketers have discovered this by including hashtags on just about every TV show so people can follow along with the conversation or vote for their favorite contestant. Many people no longer want to passively watch TV – they want to interact with their friends and acquaintances about what’s going on or debate aspects of what they’re viewing.

While a few TV-centric social networks, such as GetGlue, have emerged in the past few years, Facebook and Twitter still reign as the place where most TV-focused social sharing occurs. Twitter recognizes this, and nothing can spell that out more clearly than the recent announcement of Twitter’s partnership with Nielsen to create a standard for measuring the conversation a TV show spurs on Twitter. It will be interesting to see what effect this has on TV programming and marketing in 2013, no doubt helping ad buyers justify additional spending on customized Twitter integrations and paid products.


So as we head into 2013, perhaps there are a few takeaways from this for all of us opportunistic marketers:

  • If you’re spending a lot of money sponsoring a TV show, find a unique way to engage with social channels during that show. If your product is featured in the show, make it available to purchase via social. Ask people interesting trivia in your social channels, provide them with exclusive content about the show, host chats on Twitter with people from the show.
  • If you’re on a smaller budget, find a way to insert yourself into the conversation – without being creepy or infringing on copyrights of course. Is there a big TV event coming up? Pay for some promoted tweets around keywords related to the event and create relevant content about your brand.


Will social TV be a $25 billion industry by 2017 as some are predicting? And what will that look like? We shall see.

- Madelyn Dow is an account director at Zócalo Group. Follow Madelyn on Twitter at @madelyndow.