Social Media + Broadcast TV = Killer App

A study found that more viewers chatted and tweeted while watching live TV during the past season and the top 10 most popular "social shows" are all aired on broadcast networks. Such social viewing is giving rise to a new metric, social impressions, that bolsters the gross ratings points. Stations are also discovering the value of tying local programming in with the Facebook and Twitter.

Have you heard about social media’s latest killer app?  It’s called television.

According to a study, social media discussions about television shows drove more live viewing and second-screen engagement during the 2010-11 television season and, interestingly, the top 10 “social shows” all aired on broadcast networks. 

They are:

  1. NCIS
  2. American Idol
  3. Criminal Minds
  4. Glee
  5. House
  6. Fringe
  7. Bones
  8. Castle
  9. Smallville
  10. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

What’s interesting is that Idol is the only non-scripted program to appear on the list. The rest are broadcast network dramas, ranging from the general appeal (Criminal Minds) to the niche audience (Fringe). 

These programs all share a similar trait: they all represent “appointment viewing” for their fans. And more and more, those fans prefer to watch their favorite shows live rather than time-shifted. That way, they are able to participate in the social world of the program instantly — where they can go online and passionately discuss the program they’ve just watched without fear of “spoilers.” 

Not only do these highly-rated shows deliver committed audiences, but overwhelmingly, these viewers go online and act as social ambassadors for a program. Seventy-seven percent report that they use social media to share their love of a show; 65% use it as a platform to help save their favorite shows; and 35% use it to try to introduce new shows to their friends.


But don’t look for them to be Tweeting or chatting on Facebook during a program. Only 24% of the respondents who use Facebook to talk about these shows do so during a broadcast — while 68% of them go to Facebook to discuss it afterwards. (Twitter has a slightly more active in-program commentary, with 47% tweeting during a broadcast.)

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The phenomenon of social media/television interaction has not gone unnoticed by advertisers. Along with the usual statistics, a new metric — social impression — is beginning to play a role in deciding where ad dollars go. 

Social impressions are more than just the number of posts on Facebook and Twitter, according to Networked Insights. The company has developed a formula that includes conversation volume, page views, frequent visitors and the traits of the posters and forums where the discussions are happening. Media buyers can use such formulas to expand schedules by purchasing multiple shows with lower gross ratings points (GRPs), but with higher social impressions.  

The more dedicated the fans of a show are, the more impact their social media presence has. Maureen Bosetti, EVP of broadcast and buying for Optimedia US, recently told Media Daily News that social media considerations allow “us to tap into sponsorship opportunities across multiple platforms and amplify our client’s message where consumers are most engaged.”

The social media effect is also showing up in the strategies of television stations. Gannett Broadcasting has done a number of marketing promotions on its NBC affiliates built around late-season entry, The Voice. The result? Most of those six Gannett stations in the top 25 markets are ranked either first or second in the time period during which the show airs. And latenight local programming, for virtually all of Gannett’s 11 NBC affiliates, has seen noticeable bumps in the ratings.

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Can local television broadcasters take advantage of the social media/television interaction to directly benefit one of our greatest assets: local news? 

Last year, Hearst Television commissioned a local TV news study from Frank N. Magid Associates. The study revealed that local television ranked highest among all news programming in driving purchases of products and services; furthermore, the study showed that viewers were far more engaged with advertisements on local television news than with ads in newspapers or on radio.

Imagine the possibilities of marrying those already high levels of engagement for local television news with the power of social media tools.

Jen Lee Reeves, new media director, KOMU Columbia-Jefferson, Mo, did just that when the devastating tornado hit nearby Joplin. As she reported on’s Mediashift: “When the tornado hit, our Facebook fans knew they could trust us to coordinate and share important information…. Some of the conversations I had with our Facebook audience led to our morning show coverage…. It’s an example of how a commitment to social media can help encourage ongoing conversations between a newsroom and its community.”

Broadcast TV + local news + hyper-local social media — now there’s a killer app.

Abby Auerbach is EVP and CMO of TVB. Sales Office appears once a month in TVNewsCheck through the cooperation of the TVB, which solicits the columns from its staff and members. To see all the columns in the series, click here.

Comments (2)

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Bruce Dorminey says:

June 30, 2011 at 10:06 am

This is great…a way for “legacy media” to understand how they might use social media to advance their core business without losing track of that core business. It will be especially interesting to see if local TV stations can take advantage of this as well as some of the network shows have. From the results of that Magid study, it sounds like the answer might be YES!

Will Givens says:

October 1, 2014 at 5:48 am

This overtakes other prominent apps, because this one seems to be bundle, and perfect to use by many businesses if they acquired the idea.

Phil of Digitek
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