An Introduction to Social TV and Social Media Brand Expansion

SocialTVThis is massive but you have to start somewhere right?

Social media and television integration is such a huge area that broadcasters are, in many ways, still discovering new and innovative ways to spread TV content across various sources of social media.

With such an ‘each to their own’ approach to ‘Social TV’ (the closest anyone has come to naming this new genre) it seems impossible to find a definitive name for the process of spreading TV content across social media, and providing the audience with an enhanced televisual experience.

Many UK broadcasters including BBC and Channel 4 have come to prefer the term “Social Media Brand Expansion”.

It’s All About The Audience…Right?

Regardless of the name, one thing remains a constant, the television producer’s desire to exploit social networks and reach audiences on a global scale (and inevitably drive up ratings on their shows).

Comment is the new king – Television serial dramas are now relying on audience comments (such as Facebook or Tweets) as much as television ratings to understand the strengths and weakness of their shows.

US comedy “Modern Family” has notably monitored the live comment stream during broadcast to record ‘Twitter Laughs”. This provides clear insight into which scenes are resonating most with the viewing audience and which are falling short in their opinion.

This idea of live commenting is a vital step in Brand Expansion and one that has been explored widely during different broadcasts.

Two Examples of Live Comments in Social Media Brand Expansion

1 – Creating a Global Conversation

As with Modern Family, TV dramas often promote the idea of live tweets as a means to expand the social element of TV fandom, often through use of a Hashtag (a vital tool and one to be discussed in depth in a later post).

It has become commonplace for TV actors, writers and even the producers themselves to join in the online discussion and talk to the viewers directly. A great example of this was seen in 2011, when actors from the ground breaking show True Blood, live tweeted from the set, and promoted a live twitter conversation a half hour before the show was due to air.

The result was over 234,000 tweets about the episode (a global record at the time for any broadcasted drama). The conversation was also accompanied with behind the scenes pictures of the set and photos of the actors messing around during the broadcast. This style of social network buzz and audience interaction is perfect for a serial drama, which is otherwise a very passive form of entertainment; and one that has been replicated by many others in the time since.

2 – The Live Event

In addition to live conversations, live events such as sport broadcasts and talent shows have also encouraged mass audience participation through social networks. However, where TV drama has the disadvantage of being a pre-scripted, passive story, live events have the power to bring the audience DIRECTLY into the unfolding action.

SportsCenter for example (ESPN’s Daily Sports Programme) encouraged viewers to send in and vote on their top 10 sports plays. SC staff monitored the entries and the winner was chosen on air, along with a live on-air twitter feed (along the bottom of the screen). Check out this video, for more great information on this example of Twitter-TV brand expansion.

A similar approach is often found in live talent shows, such as the X-factor, which is reported to introduce free voting on twitter this year. Viewers now have the opportunity to vote off their least favourite acts through social media.

Wow… It Really WAS All About The Audience.

The ever-increasing desire to connect to an audience though social media has driven broadcasters and production companies to lean towards social media expansion.

Although these are only broad examples, they serve a taster of things to come. In the following weeks Bellyfeel will be breaking down the key elements in Social TV, along with some great success stories and tips on how YOU can harness social media to grow YOUR audience on your multi-platform narratives.


Starting with… The almighty Hashtag.

Lee Robinson
About the author

23yr old film nerd, comic book and video game geek and all round Transmedia Fanatic…Oh, and I also have a 1st degree in Media, Writing and Production. More here...
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