What I most enjoyed about college was making connections between my classes. For example, say I’m taking a sociology class and we are discussing gender roles and how that affects society, and then in my media ethics class we are discussing a controversial Benetton advertising campaign that many people found sexist. BAM! Connection across disciplines made.

I experienced the same joy in attending South by Southwest Interactive 2013 by happy accident. The second day I was there I attended a session called “How Twitter Has Changed How We Watch TV” by Jenn Deering Davis @jdeeringdavis (check out the conversation from the session via the hashtag: #tweetTV). Davis discussed how Twitter conversation can help predict whether or not a show is going to be (or is) successful. Also, I just barely made it into this session, check out this vine, it’s the people waiting to get into the session that is already full.

According to amount of tweets, here is a comparison of different types of programming:

Photo credit: @mahdz on Twitter.

Ongoing: A show that has many “shocking” things happen throughout the series (like Pretty Little Liars or The Walking Dead)

Finale: A show that saves the “shocking” moments for the finale

Event: A big, one time event like the Grammys or the Super Bowl

Streaming: Something like when Netflix released “House of Cards” season 1 all at once.

So basically what is happening is people are watching these shows live (ideally) and tweeting/facebooking about what is happening as it happens. In fact, 88 percent of people are now multi-tasking while watch TV. Why do they do it? To feel like they are part of something: 51 percent of people tweet about shows to feel more connected to other viewers.

But all of this is happening live right? So what about when people are watching popular TV shows the next day, or the next week on Hulu or online? They won’t want to check social media for fear of spoilers. So now what?

So then the next day I happen to end up at this panel discussion called “Death of the couch potato: the future of social TV.” Perfect right? The panelists were from USA Network, Univision and The Next Web @Jesseredniss @dbecktweets @hermioneway @starexplorer (check out conversation from the session via the hashtag: #socialTV). So the question going into this session was: But what if they aren’t watching live? Everything the networks are doing is encouraging live viewing. But I know that many people in my generation don’t even bother purchasing cable because we know we can watch whatever we want online (hbo go, hulu, Netflix, network websites … etc). So I was elated when David Beck from Univision answered my question. I discuss his answer in this video below:

We can learn a lot from what TV is doing. They are listening to their viewers and they are responding in real time. Some shows even provide alternate endings depending on how their fans vote. Networks of course want viewers to watch live because it builds hype and ultimately makes their shows more popular. But now what do we do about these people who aren’t watching TV live? We can look at the release of “House of Cards” on Netflix and how much conversation that drove even though it wasn’t live viewing. And what do we do about non-live viewers avoiding spoilers? Simulate the “live” experience by watching online and viewing the social interactions in pace with the programming. That’s not the only solution but it’s definitely a start. The future of television viewing is capturing the fans, no matter where they are and inviting them to be a part of this overall phenomenon. USA Network is giving their fans special access online with bonus content and getting behind the scenes looks. The more you engage, the more you get out of it. And the fans will want to dive deeper into their favorite shows to get to know their favorite characters better.

The takeaway is that if fans are passionate about a show they will show up no matter what, no matter when and participate in the social conversation, which will drive their friends to want to find out what that show is about. But TV aside, we can apply this to any industry and how important it is to listen to your audience or customers for feedback and adjust accordingly.