Will Twitter Drive Social TV?

Real-time shared experiences may hold the secret to bringing back the 'must see TV' audiences the networks have lost over the last 15 years. Social viewing is the new campfire experience.
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As of January 1, 2011, Twitter had reached nearly 200 million registered users who post an eye-popping 110 million tweets per day. And it turns out that a large portion of these tweets are about TV as it happens. Not bad for a 5-year-old.

In fact, Twitter has gone from goat to hero in a few short years. It wasn't long ago that Twitter was dismissed as frivolous, with people saying, "Who cares what you ate for dinner?"

Now Twitter -- and the power of real-time social media -- is feeding the headlines and stories of worldwide news outlets. On NBC's Dateline last week it was reported that the Japanese tsunami and earthquake coverage was 'supplemented' and even 'validated' by trending topics on Twitter.

Viewers are ferociously participating in the TV that matters to them in new ways as well. In May 2010, the MIT Technology Review said this about Social TV:

The viewership for live television broadcasts has generally been declining for years. But something surprising is happening: events such as the winter Olympics and the Grammys are drawing more viewers and more buzz. The rebound is happening at least in part because of new viewing habits: while people watch, they are using smart phones or laptops to swap texts, tweets, and status updates about celebrities, characters, and even commercials.

These real-time shared experiences may hold the secret to bringing back the 'must see TV' audiences the networks have lost over the last 15 years. Social viewing is the new campfire experience; the you-are-not-alone experience. It is the gravitational center that has the power to pull in 20, 30, or 100 million viewers to a single TV experience. Whether it's Dancing with the Stars, MTV's Jersey Shore, or the NCAA, or worldwide breaking news, people want to be connected by contributing to the story in real-time. An additional bonus, these real-time TV experiences can and do affect ratings.

Indeed, one of the hottest topics on tap today, Social TV is generating as much excitement as coupon sites, check-in apps, and mobile pay architecture. After all, there's a $90+ billion pot of advertising gold at the end of the TV rainbow that tech companies, social media firms, TV hardware companies, mobile carriers, and everyone else under the sun would like to get their hands on.

Companies and brands that understand and leverage the real-time social media openstream will be the winners. Viewers are using social media to connect with the TV that matters to them. Then, as the MIT study shows, they are engaging in massive conversations around those shows. Learning to be a part of that conversation is still the sticking point for most networks.

It's an open field for the competition to harness this new market demand. Who takes home the pot of advertising gold? Will it be Twitter? Or will a new social architecture emerge that includes some combination of Twitter, coupons, shopping, mobile pay, and check-in apps? Stay tuned. The show has just begun.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit, Inc. the Co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing, published by Mc-Graw Hill in January, 2011. She also teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension in Westwood, CA. Follow her on Twitter @beverlymacy; @PowerRTM; @GravitySummit or email her at beverlymacy@gmail.com

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