Making Television More Social

By Amy Slife While social media can very well function as a medium of its own, it’s shareable and viral nature greatly encourages its incorporation into the old media realm. More and more we’re seeing the incorporation of new media with old media. From print ads to TV spots, website URLs are frequently being accompanied or even replaced by Facebook page URLs and Twitter handles. While television is a highly passive medium, there are numerous opportunities for viewers to consume it socially. Social media integration provides viewers with a way to interact with show lovers beyond those accompanying them in their living rooms. Below we’ve highlighted three ways TV networks are encouraging interaction beyond the TV set.

Facebook Like Button

A number of networks are going social through one of the simplest methods: adding the Facebook Like button to the different shows on their website and sometimes even the individual episodes in a series. Of course, many of these programs have official Facebook pages and Twitter accounts too. For example, take USA Network’s show White Collar. On the White Collar webpage, you’re invited to become a fan of the show on Facebook and Twitter to get video previews, show information and updates when there is new content to check out on the White Collar website. USA Network also includes a section on their website titled “Fan Favorites on Facebook” that highlights the top Liked items across the website. Similarly, the network utilizes Facebook Connect encouraging viewers to connect with Facebook in order to share their comments with their friends, going beyond the standard website comments section.

Social Media Rewards Programs

In the spring, NBC unveiled a new network loyalty program called Fan It, a social media platform with myNBC which is the network’s online fan community.  Fan It encompasses Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Foursquare integration that rewards users who discuss, promote and interact with NBC shows by watching videos on NBC.com, clicking the Like button for shows and recruiting friends to become a part of Fan It. Points are rewarded for these activities and can be redeemed for fun goodies like special show previews, NBC merchandise, virtual goods items and badges, and sweepstakes entries. In addition, ABC Family and USA Network have incorporated social media rewards programs for their viewers with the shows Pretty Little Liars and Psych respectively. By sharing content on Facebook and Twitter, fans are able to rack up virtual rewards points that allow them to access exclusive content and win show merchandise or gift cards. The larger goal among these social media rewards programs is driving fans to their respective websites and encouraging these fans to share the website, show content and show based chatter through social media.

Live Interaction

Twitter seems to have the power to make watching live events and television series more important or at least more exciting. When it comes to awards shows, viewership for the Golden Globes was up 10%, and Grammy Awards viewership was up 35% from 2009. While these numbers can’t be directly correlated to social media, social media is likely to be playing a role as it provides a medium for viewers to interact with each other, the shows, show hosts and stars of the shows. This year the Emmy’s encouraged viewers to tweet in comments about their favorite stars or shows which had potential for being selected and read aloud during the show by host Jimmy Fallon. Beyond awards shows, you’ll find a number of Twitter handles for individual series, like I mentioned above for USA Network's series White Collar. Beyond the series Twitter handles you often have the cast and writers sharing behind the scenes photos and insight to engage the fans beyond the TV set.

The integration of social media with television not only encourages the virality of a new show, something that all of your online friends might not have heard about, which could ultimately encourage TV ratings and viewership, it also allows fans the opportunity to provide feedback and communicate with a larger population of viewers who watch the show rather than just an immediate group of friends. The joining of social media and television is an area that is taking off and is sure to evolve even further over the coming years.

Have you seen any other interesting integrations of social media and television, or have you used social media to share your opinions and interact with your favorite TV series? Share your thoughts in the comments!