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Rob Gould

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002). Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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Social Social with Rob Gould
Posted: April 13, 2014

Social TV Update | Hit or hype? | Hint: YAWN

I’ve written about the phenomenon of social TV several times in the past. It fascinates me. No, I’m not joking. And, no, I’m not drunk. It’s Monday morning! Jeez. Anyway, when the Council for Research Excellence (CRE) released the results of a major study of social TV last week, it caught my attention. The study was conducted for the CRE by a team from Keller Fay Group with field work conducted by Nielsen. The findings were gleaned from more than 78,000 mobile-app diary entries submitted by nearly 1,700 study participants representative of the online population ages 15-54, permitting case studies on some 1,600 shows. Fieldwork for the study was conducted from September 16 to October 6, 2013, dates selected to coincide with the launch of the fall TV season. Sounds pretty thorough to me, don’t you think? Big yawn and stretch … here we go!

Now, are you ready for some numbers? It’s Monday, so you should all be well-rested from the weekend and ready to take on some heavy reading, right? If not, I’m warning you now, you may find this post to be a crashing bore. My apologies in advance. I’m writing this on Sunday night and I just spent the afternoon preparing to file my taxes after having brunch with three of the most tedious people you could ever imagine. Anyway, it’s been a long day. You’ve been warned.

Moving right along, the CRE study found that nearly one in five people use social media daily in relation to TV viewing. Also notable was the fact that viewers are most engaged with shows via social media when viewing on a tablet or smartphone, and via app or website. Not exactly shocking news, but certainly worth paying attention to. Maybe. Now, while CRE tries to make their headline findings sound encouraging for social TV, the survey results certainly had some critics. Vindu Goel, The New York Times, had this to say:

The reality is that most of us don’t tweet or post at all while we’re plopped in front of the tube. When we do, half the time we’re talking about something other than TV. And social media conversation is far weaker than traditional factors, like TV commercials for new shows or our sheer laziness in changing channels, in prompting us to tune into each season’s new offerings.

The CRE survey itself found that 16 percent of primetime TV viewing occasions involve some interaction with social media. During nearly half of these occasions (7.3% of primetime TV viewing instances), the viewer is engaging with social media specifically about the show being viewed. These viewing occasions constitute the study’s definition of “socially connected viewing” – occasions when people engage in social media about a TV show while watching that show. The survey also found that socially connected TV viewing is most evident with new TV shows and sports programming.

Seth Fiegerman at Mashable was also underwhelmed by the survey results, with his headline loudly stating, “The Social TV Revolution Isn’t Here Yet”. According to Fiegerman:

Twitter mentioned the word “television” more than 40 times in the paperwork it filed to go public last year, and for good reason. The social network has doubled down on product updates and acquisitions to ensure that it becomes the second screen for TV viewers.

Likewise, Facebook has tried to take a page from Twitter’s playbook and partnered with a social TV analytics group — one that Twitter later acquired — to show off how its massive user base engages with and discusses television shows.

Both social networks are vying for a piece of the lucrative TV ad budgets, but as one new survey (CRE) shows, Twitter and Facebook still have a long way to go to become part of the mainstream TV consumption experience.

According to the survey, Facebook fared better than Twitter when it came to social TV. On 11.4% of primetime TV viewing occasions, viewers are using Facebook; on 3.3% of viewing occasions, they’re using Twitter. On 3.8% of primetime viewing occasions, viewers are using Facebook regarding the show they are watching – making them socially connected viewers. This compares to 1.8% for Twitter. Therefore, Facebook’s socially connected viewing occasions were 33% of its total TV viewing occasions (3.8%/11.4%) while Twitter’s were 55% (1.8%/3.3%). BOO TWITTER! Turns out you’re all talk and no action. Get busy. You’re embarrassing me.

As Beth Rockwood, SVP of market resources at Discovery Communications and chair of the CRE’s Social Media Committee, told The New York Times: “Social media did have an impact on viewing choice, but it was still relatively small compared to traditional promotion.”

In summary, it seems that social TV is a bit of a yawn. So far anyway. However, I’m the one who just wasted five minutes of your Monday morning telling you about it. Who am I to judge?

If you’re not asleep yet and you happen to be interested in delving into what I had to say in the past about social TV, you can find a couple of my posts on the topic here and here. They’re actually not nearly as boring as what you just experienced. Promise.

Can I go back to bed now?


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