Social media tools are quickly becoming a hybrid powerhouse for both driving viewership and empowering account reps to offer advertisers the cross-platform marketing promotions that can transport viewers from programming to their digital destinations. When it comes to the consumer, we’ve demonstrated that TV is social media’s killer app. Now is the time for us to demonstrate to advertisers that TV can deliver killer results for their social media ad spending.
Higher ratings and greater ad revenues have always traveled on the same road. The more viewers, the easier it is to attract advertisers and the higher the price for spots. It’s that old law of supply and demand.
Today, social media tools are quickly becoming a hybrid powerhouse for achieving both outcomes. They not only represent a high octane fuel for driving viewership, they can also empower account reps to offer advertisers the cross-platform marketing promotions that can transport viewers from programming to their digital destinations.
Recent research provides some fuel that can help you shift social media trials into high gear to drive 2012 advertising revenues:
An October Nielsen report, entitled Social Media and TV — Who’s Talking, When and What About? recaps the company’s work with NM Incite to analyze how viewers are interacting with television programming using social media tools. The overall use of social media typically skews slightly higher among females (55%). That being said, the report found a reverse split when it analyzed which viewers were using social media sites to talk about TV. That use skews slightly higher among males (55%).
When it comes to interacting with TV programming, the use of social media also steers beyond our stereotype of teens as the heaviest users. “Those under age 18 account for 34% of the overall social media population, yet make up only 12% of the population on social media sites talking about TV,” according to the report. When it analyzed social media use among viewer in the 25-34 year-old demographic, which typical accounts for 17% of the overall social media population, they represent nearly 30% of the of the population talking about TV on social media sites. Significantly, the study also found very little difference when it analyzed the use of social media by ethnicity.
The study went on to analyze when viewers were likeliest to use social media and what they were discussing. It found “TV buzz” closely mimicked traditional ratings patterns and a show’s yearly cycle. The highest uses of social media coincide with the days when many major shows air — Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The highest levels of social media activity occurred in September, right before a show premieres and during its initial month. The study also found increased TV buzz in January, with the introduction of new and returning shows and during April and May “as consumers respond to show finales.”
Prompted by the TV shows that encourage interaction, the study found that consumers use social media to talk about a number of key TV-related topics such as “winning” (14%), “voting” (6%) and “judging” (6%). The genres responsible for fueling the most buzz are “funny” (10%), “romance” (8%) and “drama” (6%), while the most popular topics for discussion centered on “entertaining” (11%), “physical attractiveness” (9%), “fans” (9%) and “writers/creators” (6%).
Findings like these are already getting the industry’s attention. TVNewsCheck’s sister publication, NetNewsCheck, reports that TVB, the Television Advertising Bureau, is encouraging stations to adopt social media as a promotional tool for driving higher levels of viewership and engagement.
NetNewsCheck recently featured a Lost Remote interview with TVB President Steve Lanzano, Social Media’s Killer App: TV, which describes the “simpatico relationship” between social media and TV. Citing TV’s role as “the No. 1 conversation in social media,” Lanzano points out that both platforms have a lot to gain from one another. “TV is providing the ‘water cooler talk’ on social networks and in so doing, creating buzz around the shows which in turn, is driving viewership and ratings for TV programs.”
While much of the market research has focused on the link between popular network shows, Lanzano outlined the ways stations are discovering the value of social media by tying local programming with Facebook and Twitter. Examples include KOMU Columbia-Jefferson, Mo., where the station’s Facebook page was used by its Facebook fans to coordinate and share important information following the tornado that hit Joplin. Some of these online conversations went on to become part of the station’s on-air reporting of the disaster.
Stations affected by Hurricane Irene and the East Coast earthquake reported similar results. Their social media sites augmented on air coverage as well as helped to provide source material for news reports. “Washington TV stations’ websites usage soared to nearly 550,000 in the hours following the East Coast earthquake — almost three times the number of visits from the day before the earthquake,” Lanzano reported.
Newsroom uses of social media to drive ongoing viewership include twitter feeds that scroll during the broadcast as well as using tools such as Facebook and Twitter to make viewers aware of the stories that will be covered upcoming broadcasts. As another example of that simpatico relationship, reporters also scour these sites for potential news stories, Lanzano noted.
In fact, another article appearing in NetNewsCheck earlier this week reinforces this notion. It’s entitled “How Mainstream Media Outlets Use Twitter.” The article begins with this declaration, “For nearly every news organization, Twitter has become a regular part of the daily news outreach.”
These early results haven’t been lost on industry marketers. As Mediaweek recently reported, “While the evidence of the connection between social buzz and ratings continues to pile up, TV networks have already started to take action. Today, every major television network, large and small, cable and broadcast, is participating in social TV. ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC, USA, TNT, Bravo, Discovery, HBO, Showtime and others are tapping into social media, encouraging and rewarding fans for informing friends about what they are watching and sharing their thoughts on the individual shows.”
The next step, at both the network and station level, should also involve integrating these ideas into local advertising sales pitches. The urgency for doing this really hit home when I heard some startling findings on the way account reps are viewed by executives for small and medium-size businesses. It was provided by Peter Conti, EVP at Borrell and Associates, who shared the results of his firms’ study of advertising trends among small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) at MFM’s Media Outlook 2012 seminar.
While these business rely on colleagues for ad strategy advice nearly two thirds of the time, just over half of them reported their local newspapers reps served as a good resource compared to their radio (24%) and TV reps (14%). The TV number is low due to the very small number of local businesses — just 7% — that currently advertise on television. On a more favorable note, more than 70% of local businesses already advertising on TV would seek out digital media advice from their TV reps, according to the research. More details on the Borrell survey may be found in a recent column from the firm’s CEO Gordon Borrell, which was published in TVNewsCheck (“Stations Can Turn Digital Dimes Into Dollars”).
These findings suggest ad sales reps are still perceived as order takers instead of coming to the meeting equipped with knowledge about the marketing solutions that address the customer’s sales goals as well as their own. And what kinds of solutions are they seeking? According to the Borrell research, the number of SMEs that are investing in social media has grown from less than half in 2010 to more than two-thirds in 2011. Imagine how interested these customers would be to hear how TV, social media’s killer app, is using platforms like Facebook ad Twitter to accomplish its marketing objectives.
In case you’re looking for an additional impetus, consider this: According to a recent report from e-Marketer, “Social-Network Marketing Leads to Big Ad Spending,” worldwide social network ad revenues in the U.S. will reach $3.9 billion next year, up from $2.74 billion in 2011. In 2013, U.S. advertisers are expected to spend $4.81 billion on social network advertising, up 23.4% over 2012, according to the report.
The report goes on to say that Facebook will get the vast majority of social network ad revenues. In 2012, Facebook’s tally will amount to $5.78 billion, garnering 72%, $7 out of every $10 spent on social network advertising revenues, and accounting for 7.9% of all online ad spending in the U.S.
With digital ad spending representing such a major area of focus for advertisers, particularly when economic conditions demand even greater accountability for every investment they make in growing their business, these findings are too significant to ignore. When it comes to the consumer, we’ve demonstrated that TV is social media’s killer app. Now is the time for us to demonstrate to advertisers that TV can deliver killer results for their social media ad spending.
The depth and breadth of the opportunity from social media is still largely uncharted; working together we can develop the best practices that will help us leverage it. This is one of the areas in which we at MFM are focusing our member education efforts. I’m looking forward to hearing how you are maximizing this opportunity. What are you doing to help your sales teams incorporate social media into their toolkits so they can become true strategic partners to advertisers and drive your overall revenues? If you email me ([email protected]), I will include your results as case studies in a future column.
Mary M. Collins is president & CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary. Her column appears in TVNewsCheck every other week. You can read her earlier columns here.