Well maybe not really free TV advertising, but pretty much; and that’s what using social media in efficient, creative and effective new ways is all about!

Using Twitter Hashtags To Join Audience Conversations I spent the majority of my my professional career as a media planner / buyer (advertising space) for ad agency clients in Toronto, Canada. One of the things I always had to keep in mind was that I wasn’t buying airtime (:15 seconds of commercial space, for example), I was buying “sets of eyes and ears” – or I was buying the opportunity to get my client’s brand in front of people giving their attention to the TV show we purchased.

Something I noticed about 18 months ago was the opportunity for businesses to generate value by using hashtags (#) on Twitter to participate in conversations around Television shows, and the extreme potential value for small businesses who wouldn’t have the cash budget to buy TV ads in that particular programming.

NOTE: In the United States TV advertising airtime is purchased by channel or network daypart – afternoon, mid-day, prime-time, etc. – whereas in Canada we’re able to more precisely target our client’s advertising investments to reach specific target group demographics and psychographics, because historically we’ve bought TV ad space by choosing specific TV shows! We purchase airtime to run client :30s ads in Dexter, or in Dancing With The Stars, or in Flip This House and we choose the show because each one delivers us a different amount of our target group audience we know is likely to like our client’s product/service, because it is aligned with the content & context of the TV show.

Twitter Hashtags & TV Shows: Made For Each Other
One of the first TV show integrations to Twitter I saw was Mad Men, where I saw the character of Betty Draper, Don Draper’s (then) wife, Tweeting as herself in character and time frame. I was able to engage in conversation with her about their home in Ossining, New York and ask her if she wasn’t afraid of the prisoners from Sing Sing, the historic real-life maximum-security penitentiary I know is nearby. Although this Twitter account (at the time) wasn’t the actress or even a staff member of the TV show or network producing Mad Men, it was clear to me that the TV show was gaining benefit from the Twitter activity – building the audience of people who were actively engaging in conversation (attention) with the Mad Men brand (adding the Twitter audience to the TV audience = growing reach) and promoting awareness of the TV show through social media “word of mouth”.

Twitter Realized The Opportunity
Then Twitter started measuring the impact of TV show integrations to their own platform and promoting it to TV producers – TV shows can sell more TV ad space when they have a more committed and engaged audience, which is why so many TV shows now add a Twitter hashtag to the screen to remind and encourage audiences to engage with the show and each other on Twitter, while the show is airing!

Twitter Media even promotes best practices for TV shows looking to build their audience using hashtag integrations and there are also specialized agencies that do this type of work specifically! A whole bunch of other web articles are written about this here.

TV shows that integrate Twitter hashtags experience a 300%-600% increase in social engagement.

With a few regional population and audience numbers, and local-area TV advertising rates, I could even calculate a dollar value and audience reach opportunity for tweeting hashtags of various currently-on-air TV shows! (like buying TV airtime for free!)

The Opportunity For Small Businesses
When you turn this trend around and look for how to use it to your financial benefit as a small business marketer, the answer becomes clear:

  • Tweet using relevant TV show hashtags while the show is on air, to have your brand exposed to the TV show audience and to be able to engage in relevant brand-focused conversations at the time when they are actively thinking about your type of product or service.

A Real Small Business Example
As an example, if you are Frame Your Mirror a small business in Calgary, Alberta who offers DIY bathroom renovations with a simple ecommerce website, you want to tweet using the hashtag for the relevant TV programming on HGTV like Flip This House and Designed to Sell and to hosts Kimberley Seldon and Debbie Travis TV shows – there are many TV shows that invest in drawing promoting themselves & building their TV audiences, that you can talk to while they are on air live!

Don’t forget to check your TV schedules and consider time-zone changes, you may have a 4-hour window of time to converse with the audience of a 1-hour program!

You can also search Google for the show host/creator and engage them personally and directly on Twitter to ask them when the next episode of their show will be airing – they’ll be happy to have the opportunity to respond to you (and your brand) to remind their audience when to tune in!

@frameyourmirror @debbie_h2oThis is a clever idea to make your plain bathroom mirror more stylish

— Debbie Travis (@Debbie_Travis) May 1, 2012


You could also participate in Twitter hashtag conversations around relevant movies like The Money Pit and TV sit-coms like Home Improvement (these are not good examples because they’re too old), but they won’t be nearly as relevant as the DIY reality style, educational, aspirational, expert-lead programming.

As a small business, you can even search for people tweeting in conversations using the national TV show hashtag in your local business area, so that you are developing your audience and generating potential client leads in the cities where it’s most relevant to you!

Can you see why I love social media?

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