With over 270 million active users, Twitter is the perfect accompaniment to an audience’s viewing pleasure. Rather than distracting viewers, research has consistently demonstrated that viewers using a second screen become more engaged in TV.
Nielsen’s Twitter TV rating is the go to source when it comes to understanding the kind of impact social media can have on a show. Their research suggests there’s a two-way causation between TV and Twitter. In nearly a third of cases the more tweets there were about a show, the more people tuned in.
Viewers don’t have to wait until the next day to talk about their favorite programs. Twitter provides a forum for discussion as the drama unfolds. It’s all about tuning in to your audience via Twitter and making them a conduit for your success.
Twitter is also a unique way for content makers to see what viewers like and hate. These peaks in interest can be seen on Twitter as mentions, retweets and favorites spike as the program airs. These ‘Tweet Spots’ are crucial indicators of a show’s success and they help producers plan future programming.
“Twitter is at its best when there’s a large group of people enjoying a shared experience, whether it’s a major news story or an episode of The X Factor” says Sunday People ‘live tweeter’, Andy Dawson.
“The X Factor was probably the one show that created the concept of ‘hate-watching’ – people tweeting about a show that annoys them, but they feel compelled to watch. That’s where the funniest tweets come from and you can find yourself watching the show just so you can be entertained by the comments of the people you follow on Twitter.”
The idea of ‘hate-watching’ suggested by Andy is interesting. Are broadcasters bothered if their audience has a love or hate relationship with a show? When it comes to social media, in most cases, probably not.
Twitter has created opportunities for broadcasters, viewers and journalists to dovetail. The advent of live tweeting means that users can interact with a tweeter independent from the show itself, like Andy, acting as a sounding board.
So could finding that ‘Tweet Spot’ be the key to growing ratings and could somebody like Dawson act as a social media ‘honey pot’?
“I suppose that could potentially happen,” says Dawson. “Although I’ve got 16,000 followers, I’m not sure that I have enough influence to bump viewing figures of a TV show as its happening. It’s probably easier to spark and generate interest in an online article, site or game as people can access it at any time and for a short period of time as opposed to being ‘live’ or in the moment to get involved.”
In spite of what Andy says, that’s not to say that broadcasters aren’t aware of the potential in driving traffic towards a show via social media. But is there a danger of dumbing down?
“It’s more of a way for lazy broadcasters to easily generate content,” believes Dawson.
“Whether it’s the presenters of This Morning reading out tweets or news organisations reporting on things that have gone viral, such as the recent blue and black/gold and white dress.”
“You can definitely see more examples of TV that is designed to create an online buzz, televisual click bait, if you like.”
Andy believes that content is king, and it’s difficult to disagree with him.
“It smacks of desperation if you ask me – they should concentrate more on making a quality program rather than trying to second-guess how the audience might react to it.”
“Broadcasters have tried to piggyback, putting their own hashtags on screen during a show, but you can’t artificially generate interest in something.”
“The way that people consume their TV is definitely changing and social media is a vital part of it now. The trick is to either create social media content that will bring the audience to the show or make better programming in the first place.”
As Andy stated, Twitter is at its best when there’s a large group of people enjoying a shared experience. It’s up to the broadcaster to tune into that idea, understand it and produce engaging content.
Doing so could give broadcasters the best chance of hitting the perfect ‘Tweet Spot’.