Social media has all but infiltrated television, flipping how we watch TV on its head. As life continues to move faster and our attention spans become shorter, we’re increasingly multitasking while watching our favorite TV shows. Whether we’re on our smartphone, tablet, or laptop, TV producers and media gurus are dubbing the trend as the “second screen experience”.
A 2012 Nielsen study found that 80% of viewers were using smartphones and tablet devices while watching TV with 32 million of us tweeting about it. And in a 2013 follow-up study, tweets influenced TV ratings in 29% of episodes aired. Likewise, TV ratings impacted related tweets in 48 percent of the TV shows. As Twitter activity increases TV tune-in, so too does TV tune-in increase Twitter activity. Twitter has become the new watercooler for fans to share our thoughts, ideas, and exasperations about our favorite shows and characters.
TV networks are expanding their audience reach through an increased social media presence. Facebook and Twitter are easy and clever ways for networks to use their existing fan base to spread the good word though content creation, hashtags, favorites, and retweets. Dramas, sitcoms, and reality TV shows are all plugging in to the second screen, creating a space where viewers can connect with their favorite shows in real time.
ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” has mastered the second screen experience to become cable TV’s most-tweeted show. Their success can be attributed to their influential online presence. The network reigns supreme at keeping #PLL fans involved with the show between each episode and season. The show keeps their 10+ million Facebook fans engaged by posting exclusive content and photo albums. Their fun “Suspect Tracker” Twitter campaign and exciting hashtags (and fan-powered trending topics) during dramatic scenes brought in 1.4 million tweets during their January 2013 season premiere. Additionally, the cast regularly interacts with fans during episodes. Star Shay Mitchell has her own hashtag, #PLLayWithShay, where fans can send questions about the episode directly to her as it airs. And during the show’s hiatus, ABC Family fills the gap with their “Pretty Dirty Secrets” webseries that garners over 3 million views.
Another show absolutely killing the social media game is NBC’s “The Voice.” A social media team of 10 manages their dynamic strategy to engage fans with every element of the show. With the presence of a perpetual hashtag, #TheVoice, in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, Twitter users get an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the show. From the comfort of their couches, fans can tweet at contestants and coaches and respond to requests from contestants seeking fashion advice and rib each other over who’s Team Adam or Team Xtina. And producers are smart to read tweets searching for fan feedback about production decisions and ways to improve the show. An episode of “The Voice” can bring in 200,000 related tweets.
One of the biggest draws of Twitter has always been the accessibility to our favorite celebrities, and when it comes to Twitter and TV, networks use their stars to promote their shows and potentially increase their viewership. Twitter is the perfect channel for reaching out to a new audience. Retta from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” is one of the most prolific and satisfying celebrity tweeters, renowned for her sidesplitting tweet recaps of other popular shows including “The Vampire Diaries”, “Glee”, and “Breaking Bad”. Her witticisms have wooed me into watching shows I wouldn’t have checked out otherwise.
Streaming television from a second screen compresses the distance between fans across time zones, bridging a gap for dialogue about these shows to take place. Twitter enhances our primetime viewing by creating an atmosphere where we can share our emotions, disappointments, and surprises at a show’s plot and characters with instantaneous reaction. It’s a community that allows for us to be a part of a larger conversation in an age where television has become an interactive experience.