Second Screen & Reality Talent Shows

Reality talent shows are still in full swing and highly popular. For years, TV viewers voted for their favorite contestants of these shows, determining the newest pop sensation or the best celebrity dance team. With the growth of Social TV, the voting procedures have evolved. Thanks to social media, voting for TV contestants went from premium phone calls to a free and more accessible opportunity for viewers. Using outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, more of these reality talent shows have been implementing a using social media as their voting systems.

TV juggernaut American Idol has actively engaged with viewers since its inception in 2002. For its recent eleventh season, viewers voted for their favorite contestants through Facebook, utilizing an app that collected votes from people who visited the page. Also, contestants on the show were able to communicate with their Twitter followers. For example, Jessica Sanchez actively communicated with her followers during her American Idol run, leading to 61,849 positive mentions at the time of the finale, trumping competitor Phillip Phillips and his 38,000. Though Sanchez placed second in the competition (perhaps due to the ineligibility of votes from her large international fanbase), her current Twitter reach of over 800,000 and growing online presence is a key indicator that social media can play a major role in the popularity and recognition of not only the contestants, but the show itself.

Other reality talent shows such as X-Factor and The Voice also had successful runs this past year, challenging American Idol’s status as the premiere competition show. These shows also implemented social media strategies that allowed fans to vote for their favorite contestants. For example, in addition to calling, texting, or using its app, X-Factor partnered with Twitter to allow contestants to vote via Direct Messaging to the X-Factor Twitter account. Though DM’s usually require the other user to follow you, Twitter allowed The X-Factor to have its users DM votes to its account without needing to follow back. If their social media strategies continue, the show has high potential to match the same success as its UK counterpart.

The Voice’s voting strategy included a new app for their Facebook Timeline. Similar to American Idol, users were able to vote directly through the app, share activities with friends, and track different artists. One huge boost to The Voice’s social media presence was its integration with Facebook’s Open Graph. The Open Graph feature on Facebook requires users to view content on Facebook for more than 10 seconds. This resulted in referral traffic doubling and online votes climbing 40 percent over its previous season. Users stimulated conversation and engagement through shared voting history and personal comments with their friends, further influencing voter trends.

In fact, some suggest that social media can have just as much of an influence as the judges and contestants on these different shows. In a study conducted by Carat, it was found that 66 percent of viewers found Twitter to be the most trustworthy outlet when deciding how to vote. Contestants such as Jessica Sanchez, as well as the judges themselves, reach these viewers as a way to generate activity and conversation about their respective shows. For example, Joel Madden, one of the judges on Australia’s version of The Voice, not only tweets about the show’s updates to his 600,000 plus followers, but also implements “third-party vote spruiking.” Joel Madden’s “spruiking,” or getting high-profile friends to promote voting, greatly increases the reach and activity for The Voice, especially with friends such as Pete Wentz, Samantha Ronson, and wife Nicole Richie.

Increased engagement, thanks to Social TV, can lead to further growth in ratings for these reality talent shows. As Tracy De Groose, Managing Director at Carat, mentioned, “As with many things in life, we are massively influenced by friends and opinion formers.”

More TV viewers are now engaging in conversations through social media, further influencing decision making and voter trends. In a world that is growing more social, TV shows that involve audience/viewer interaction must pay attention to the different ways of engaging audiences and take the second screen voting experience to new levels.

What do you think about reality talent shows engaging viewers through second screen experiences and social media? Let us know in the comments and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

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