Social TV Strategies: 5 Great Ones, Summer To Fall 2013

Social TV

The television industry can be particularly Darwinian, efficient in its methods but often cold in the delivery of its final verdict. According to Network Insights, 65% of upfront pilots are cancelled by Christmas. Theoretically, a baby Cape Buffalo in the Serengeti dry season has better odds at survival than an upfront TV pilot. To give a television program a fighting chance, a network’s strategy must involve smart conversations on social media platforms.

Here are five great, ongoing social TV strategies that have worked to engage viewers over the summer and leading into the fall:

@AgentsofShield, #CoulsinLives

Heading into the new fall season of television premieres, ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D was the standout on all fronts. The show, a property of Marvel Comics with the infinitely buzzy Joss Whedon attached, had obvious advantages with automatic street credibility with sci-fi and fantasy fans already built in. But to their credit, the show’s creators and marketing team didn’t rest on their laurels.

According to Crimson Hexagon (in conjunction with Lost Remote), which analyzed summer TV buzz for new fall programs from May 10th through August 27th), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D garnered the most tweets. Further (and not surprisingly), the Marvel property also garnered the most tweets at this year’s ComiCon.

The most successful social TV strategies are both driven and timely. In this case, the show was officially ordered on May 10th, and that very same day, @AgentsOfShield and @ClarkGregg called on fans to tweet using the hashtag #CoulsonLives to reveal an exclusive trailer. In the first five days of this campaign, the hashtag generated 102,271 tweets, putting it on the road to becoming the buzziest TV show of the summer.

NBC’s The Voice

Reality TV competitions present great opportunities to seamlessly integrate social media content with television programming. Everything about reality TV competitions – the viewer voting, the idea of the “big live event,” etc. – feed into social media. NBC’s The Voice (which may have reached a turning point in its competition with American Idol by recently winning the reality Emmy) has also struck gold as far as turning audience engagement into actual online sales.

In a stroke of clever business and marketing, when fans download songs from the show on iTunes, each purchase now counts as an online vote. Last September, Assistant Professor Shawndra Hill of the Wharton Business School, published an examination of real-time social media responses with a focus on real-time response to online sales. The Voice sells music from the show on iTunes, leveraging the buzz of social. “Most significantly, linking online buzz to sales, we found buzz an excellent predictor of sales,” Hill writes. “Song, contestant characteristics, and quality were even better sales predictors when combined with buzz, suggesting that buzz and perceived product value together can best explain sales.”

CNN’s Live Coverage of Politically Significant Events

Some news organizations, like CNN under former Senior Digital Producer Steve Krakauer, have been exceptional at social media integration. Others, like Bloomberg TV, Fox, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, or CBS Evening News, for examples, seem hesitant to use hashtags and Twitter handles on-air. Why are they hesitant to use these things that occupy so little on-screen real estate and have such a high potential upside?

CNN, out of the gate, has embraced social TV like no other political network in America. One of CNN’s most important moments was the 2012 presidential election. Two tools were particularly standout: CNN’s “Exclusive on-air undecided voters meter,” and its “#CNNDebateClock” hashtag leveraged activity in the social space to make for a more engaging audience experience during that historic election, the “big live event.” CNN also dominated the political/social space earlier this year with their social TV coverage of the Hurricane Sandy tragedy and, previous to that, the Queen’s Jubilee.

Viacom’s Live Summer Events

When talking about social TV engagement, Viacom is always the 800-pound gorilla in the room. A brief example: According to Fizziolo.gy, a company that tracks social media buzz, there were nearly 1 million Instagram posts about Miley Cyrus’s performance at this year’s VMA Awards. “The VMAs are known for creating global, watershed moments in pop culture,” MTV President Stephen Friedman told AdAge’s Simon Dumenco in 2012. “Knowing that our fans are watching the show on television while actively discussing and sharing key moments on social, we’ve created a multi-platform digital ecosystem for those moments to be amplified in real time.”

Viacom owns the summers as far as social TV is concerned, with its seemingly endless parade of big live events – the the VMA’s, the BET Awards (Trendrr tracked over 10 million social actions surrounding the 2012 BET Awards), and so many others.


Netflix is a bold game changer in the social TV space. It just earned an Emmy, an honor unheard of for a newbie player in the original television content game. And its programs like House of Cards, Arrested Development, and Orange is the New Black have generated considerable social buzz.

Granted, compared to the other media players mentioned in this post, the Netflix’s social TV imprint is modest. But, with that said, it should be noted that all of Netflix’s accomplishments have occurred in an incredibly short span of time. Plus, the company plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into more original programming (and they have bold methods in place to deliver that content to the viewer). Thus, it’s impossible not to give Netfix due respect. In the social TV arena, it wields a disproportionate influence considering its relative youth, but it’s most certainly not going away any time soon.


If anything can be gleaned from the summer TV buzz, surely it’s that social conversation is imperative for the success of TV shows, and that the conversation is often moved forward largely by “smart” fans. Or to put it another way: fans that care about the writers, producers, actors, showrunners, etc . – those who care about the show’s details. With that in mind, it’s important for shows and networks to target new audiences, along with targeting fans of particular genres, producers, actors, etc. And getting those personalities involved in the social media campaign can only help, if just starting a campaign, or ensuring it stays alive and well.

Any thoughts on these social media campaigns? Which do you think has been most effective? Let us know in the comments.

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