Tweeting About TV: Overrated Or Vital?

You hear people call this the second golden age of television -- but it really might be the first golden age of the viewer. They now have more places to watch content and more ways to do it.

And more devices help viewers stay informed and find new programs.

But a study by Hub Entertainment Research concludes that social media influencers like Facebook and Twitter don’t really do such an awesome job of helping viewers to discover or remain engaged with a show.

Only 24% in Hub’s study say they have discovered a show through something they saw or read on Facebook or Twitter in the last six months.

To me that doesn’t sound so bad, but when Hub asked for specific content they discovered via social media, that figure drops from 24% to just 6%.  

The other, old-fashioned ways of discovering content are much better -- 58% found content via advertising, 41% from word of mouth and 34% through channel surfing.



For people who don’t like their technological beliefs refuted, the fact that Facebook and Twitter would seem just minimally effective is news in itself, especially because social media is so ubiquitous.

But wait -- there’s more. According to Hub: “Most say social media plays little or no role when it comes to finding new shows to watch. On a scale of 0-10, 62% give low ratings (0-5) to social media’s role in discovery. And 27% ranked it at zero -- saying it plays no role whatsoever.”

The whole notion that the Twitterverse moves product by letting the customer do the selling -- in this case, selling content -- is undermined by the fact that most people who visit their Facebook or Twitter accounts are there to be serviced, rather than serve. Or lean back rather than lean in.  

The Hub study is in line with other studies: 75% of Facebook users and 65% of Twitter users say they read far more than they post. Indeed, 53% of Twitter users say they’ve tweeted no more than once or twice during the entire time they’ve had an account.

“It’s not that social media is a waste,” says Jon Giegengack, one of the principals at Hub who with his partner Peter Fondulas authored the Figuring Out Fans study. “It’s just not inherently better than every other way to get people to discover your content. There are some types of consumers that it works really well for. It is better for engaging people with the show than it is good for discovery. Our point isn’t that it should be ignored but to cut to the narrative that Twitter has used sometimes -- that Twitter and TV have this ‘special relationship’ -- well, we don’t necessarily see that.”

Other reports seem to have sniffed out some of the same things.  

A new study from Viacom titled “Getting With the Program: TV’s Funnels, Paths and Hurdles” confirms that “in-person word of mouth is the number one source for show discovery at 90%, closely followed by TV promos at 85% and word-of-mouth online or via social media at 78%.”  

But the Viacom study says social media has a lot to do with helping a viewer “research” a show -- in fact, research is the second step of a five-step process on Viacom's “Funnel to Fandom.”

In that step, nearly 25% use social media -- or is that "only" 25%? -- to discuss the show.  

In the Viacom model, 61% recommend a show to another person not via social media, but through in-person conversation, also suggesting that social media is possibly better for stroking a fan than finding new ones.  

One conclusion that can be drawn from that study -- also suggested in the Hub study -- is that social media might be the way cable can keep its customers in the fold.

According to the study, 79% say having more ways to watch helps viewers seek out more content.

But maybe because they’re now discussing it online so much more, 47% of those who are multiscreen users nonetheless say it’s important for them to watch favorite shows live.  

So viewer choice also ends up creating viewing imperatives for fans who need to stay current for the sake of social media. Funny.

A third study also more or less concludes that social media is overrated as a device to woo viewers. Only 18% with Internet access follow shows on Twitter while they watch them, says the research firm Strategy Analytics -- a stat that a Hollywood Reporter story casts as a negative. That seems great to me.

But it goes on to point out that a lot of ad strategies are based on hitting the social media crowd while they’re buzzing about a show online, when in fact, 80% wouldn’t be caught dead there.

Strategy Analytics pays its respects to  the old couch potato, which represents 33% of TV viewers, even now.

“Very focused on TV when watching it, they never phone or text people about what they’re watching and hardly ever use social media,” the report describes them, according to THR. “None of this group uses Twitter trending topics or hashtags on a weekly basis to follow a show they’re watching.”
2 comments about "Tweeting About TV: Overrated Or Vital?".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, September 16, 2014 at 12:13 p.m.

    Nice discussion PJ. In my sense of media, Twitter doesn't communicate with mass market. Rather, it's a bit like a press wire - watched by industry watchers, media, and extreme enthusiasts. So it's no surprise that it doesn't influence much. I would expect its influence is with industry watchers. That CAN affect things - but indirectly. And it means that trying to convince consumer to Tweet about your show is a silly waste of time valuable in air seconds (besides leading many viewers to make fun of your show).

  2. James Bishop from B-to-B Digital Media LLC, September 16, 2014 at 2:18 p.m.

    You bring up an interesting perspective of the SM ethos.... Interestingly enough... big business decisions are made on trends and the virality of hot-topics.

    Good share...

    My two cents...


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