Why Social Media Marketers Need to Get on Board with Online TV

Television viewing is not the boring, couch-potato activity it used to be. With the advent of social media, viewing has become increasingly participatory and it’s time for marketers to take notice – and take advantage of this hot new trend.

Another clear trend in interactive TV is choice of delivery. While older adults continue to buy a programming package from an established provider like DirecTV or Bright House, young people are opting for more creative – and cheaper – avenues. Devices that pick up Web programming for Internet-ready TVs are cheap and readily available, making it easy to watch free video and TV programming on demand. Sites like Hulu.com cost nothing, and even their premium service is a pittance compared to the cost of a cable or satellite service. By subscribing to a TV provider, a movie provider like Netflix, and a sports provider like ESPN, viewers can get a higher level of service offered by traditional services for less than half the cost of a basic package. This could significantly impact the bottom line for traditional services as attitude shifts and access competition expands.

US Adult Online TV Viewers

In addition to the changing face of delivery, crossover TV/Web programming is rapidly becoming the norm, and new networks and online venues are often far ahead of the stodgier traditional studios. People who log into Hulu to watch their favorite shows can invite friends, join a group chat, tweet, post to Facebook, and otherwise share the experience. Some show producers have stepped up the game by adding online enhancements to the show itself. ABC’s wildly successful series LOST was one of the first series to use Web involvement, creating a site replete with hidden information, clues, character development, games, quizzes, forums, and other interactive Easter eggs for the faithful. (I confess to being a complete LOST fanatic, eating these alternate reality games up as they were revealed.)  Some shows, like Fox’s Bones have arranged live tweet sessions where show regulars interact with fans, answering questions and chatting during the show.

Ajira Airways microsite for LOST

AjiraAirways.com was one of many microsites created to leak clues and teasers for the TV show LOST, this one for its final season.

How do marketers capitalize on social interaction trends?

One clear benefit is in a direct connection to the most loyal viewership. By monitoring Twitter hashtags, show pages, and Facebook, marketers can gather a wealth of information about fan’s viewing habits, preferences, how they respond to commercials, what they find delightful, offensive, or titillating, and what they consider valuable enough to share with friends.

Social Media Activity while Watching TV

For the first time in history, marketers have an inside track to not only what viewers watch, but what they think. Finding a target audience and tailoring advertising to fit a very specific demographic has never been easier. Social marketing and some online video providers are already on it. Facebook shows targeted advertisements based on individual interests, age, and gender. Hulu has a feedback bar that asks viewers, “Is this ad relevant to you?” to show only ads that the viewer shows interest in. Other ad options allow the viewer to choose one long ad – like an extended movie trailer and no commercial breaks during the show, or commercials throughout.

Hulu Is this ad relevant to you

TV access is evolving and expanding in scope. The industry has moved far beyond the limited one-way programming offered in the heyday of The Lawrence Welk Show. (Bet you had to Google that.) The enthusiastic response of the fans cannot be overlooked…especially by a savvy marketer.

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