The term ‘social TV’ has sparked the imagination of advertisers, especially over the last year. What could be better? It’s TV with social media.
Still, marketers have struggled to figure out what social TV means for their businesses. Right now, the answer is not too much.
At a high level social TV has been defined as viewers interacting with a second screen (e.g., tablet, mobile phone, etc.) to discuss what they’re watching with other viewers online.
Today, marketers are asking why they should care about social TV.
Social TV’s problem is that the benefit hasn’t been defined. Different advertisers have different ideas of what social TV means for their businesses. Marketers need to refocus on how social TV, as a behavior, has the potential to be leveraged for business objectives and consumer understanding.
The Social TV Challenge
Social TV has several hurdles it needs to confront before it can move from buzzword to something valuable to marketers.
Right now, social TV is a behavior that exists in a very fragmented landscape. People discuss TV shows on Twitter, but they’re more likely to watch a show after viewing a recommendation from a friend on Facebook. There are also several platforms focused specifically on social TV from Zeebox and GetGlue to Miso and Viggle. The behavior exists across multiple platforms. Nielsen has partnered with Twitter to create a social TV metric, but with such fragmentation, marketers should be wondering how valuable the metric will truly be.
Once we are able to effectively put a value on social TV, the question of who benefits remains. People are discussing TV shows, not necessarily the advertisers, so the true beneficiaries are the networks who have the potential to build the viewership of their TV shows.
Finally, networks are about increasing the size of their audiences, and social TV is about engagement. Those are two very divergent goals, which is why for the most part; social TV efforts have been limited to putting a hashtag on the screen. In other words, the networks are saying, “Talk about this!” Until networks align on what they want from viewers, social TV will continue to be half-hearted executions to increase a show’s social share of voice. Once again, the networks benefit, not the advertisers.
The Conversation’s Shifting
Marketers are starting to call social TV’s bluff. AdWeek wrote about a growing skepticism among Super Bowl advertisers around the value of social TV. Marketers looked at social TV initially as a way to generate additional ‘buzz,’ but they’re now looking for more. The article points to brands, including GoDaddy, Century 21 and Chrysler, reevaluating their Super Bowl marketing efforts to do more than generate buzz but to, instead, deliver business results.
Pursuing Business Goals, Not Buzzwords
Social TV is still evolving and maturing. It’s a notable consumer behavior that is impacting one of marketers’ biggest channels—television, but it may not end up being a big deal. We have to pay attention, but until it’s more defined, the question is not whether or not brand should be pursuing ‘social TV.’ The question is about what a brand wants to achieve as far as business goals. Increasing engagement with a television show may be one step in the right direction to pursue a business goal, but it may also be just another buzzword that distracts marketers from pursuing programs that really matter.
The social media space is cluttered with hype, most of which is unjustified. Marketers should view all opportunities with enthusiasm and curiosity balanced with a requirement for those opportunities prove themselves. Social TV has yet to do that.