Social TV: The Past, Present, And Future [INFOGRAPHIC]

Patrick Coyne
Patrick Coyne Director of Organic & Local Search

Social Media TV Predictions

What is the Future of Social Media TV?

The passive medium of TV has changed dramatically in the past decades. The old cliché of the couch potato vegging out in front of the boob tube has been replaced by a connected, socially active viewer who is sparking conversations with fellow fans, accessing exclusive show content during commercial breaks, and in a few instances, even influencing the plots of the shows they’re watching!

Of course, the idea of viewers taking an active role in their favorite TV shows isn’t new- Telephone call-in shows have been around since the 50’s- But we’re now at a point where technology (particularly social media) is advanced enough to accommodate the creative whims of marketers and television producers alike.

We’re already aware that the overwhelming majority of TV fans are using their smart phones, tablets, and/or other devices while watching TV, but how are those in the entertainment and marketing industries catering to this emerging audience? While many have attempted to capitalize on social buzz during TV broadcasts (some having more success than others), this new idea of social media TV marketing still requires refinement. The future of social TV will be one in which marketers will be able to find new and unexpected ways to engage their audience, but also one where marketers can more effectively target that audience through more advanced analytics. At the moment, social TV can feel a bit like the Wild West to some marketers. But when you consider the growth of social TV in just the past few years (for instance, the use of social media TV apps tripled in the past three years, reaching 10 million users), this trend simply can’t be ignored.

The fact is, those watching TV will be engaged in social media conversations about their favorite shows regardless. It will ultimately be up to marketers and television producers to devise interesting and effective ways to fuel these conversations and build brand awareness through positive word of mouth. Our latest infographic takes an in-depth look at just how social TV got to where it is. We also share a few relevant stats about the current state of social media and television. And finally, we offer our insight into what direction social TV is headed, sharing our predictions for how TV audiences will be interacting with their favorite shows in the near future.

Update – August 2017

It’s been a while since we explored the topic of “social media TV” – specifically, how users interact with social media while watching their favorite shows. Obviously, things have changed from when this infographic and article were first published back in 2014 (in the world of social media, 3 years is a long time).

Of course, social media TV is more popular now then ever. While Second Screen apps are still flying somewhat under the radar in terms of popularity, TV viewers are taking to social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and websites like Reddit, to have in-depth discussions about their favorite shows. Fans share feedback, reaction videos, fan theories, and just about anything you can imagine! For example, a June 2017 article from Mashable states that the show Pretty Little Liars had 256 million social media engagements in 2016. Walking Dead came in second with 145 million. 

Furthermore, cast and crewmembers are regularly live tweeting during new episodes of shows, and some networks are even training showrunners on how to interact with fans on social media. 25 years ago most of us didn’t even know what a showrunner is, let alone who they are!

According to Nielsen, younger audiences are watching 13% less traditional TV. One interesting example shared by Nielsen is that while ratings for the 2016 Oscars were among the lowest in years, social engagement is strong. This appears to indicate that many users were following along with the Oscars through social media – reading tweets, watching livestreams, and sharing Vines, and not watching it on TV.

More and more, we are seeing “TV” is no longer TV and content that would traditionally find a home on basic cable instead pulling huge audiences on YouTube and Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, the social media juggernaut just recently launched “Facebook Watch” allowing users to watch original, professionally produced content through the social network. Several original shows will be appearing on Facebook shortly. And not too long ago, YouTube launched YouTube Red, which features original content and no ads.   

What do both of these services have that traditional TV doesn’t? Built-in social interaction. We’ve seen for years now that users want to be able to interact with likeminded fans during and after they view their shows.  And YouTube and Facebook has the potential to deliver where TV doesn’t, significantly disrupting traditional TV viewership.

But for these services to actually pull that off, and this is a big but, they first need great shows. And not just pretty good shows with cult followings, but instead megahits like Stranger Things or Orange is the New Black on Netflix. This is certainly easier said than done.

Social media interaction is already a huge part of watching TV. And content producers are still trying to find the best way to marry them together. Only time will tell if Facebook Watch (or something else entirely) is the future of social media TV.