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Social media’s increasing influence on TV

Post Author Take1 / July 14th 2014

We touched on the subject of how social media is becoming increasingly a part of our TV watching experience in Social TV- where is it heading? In that post we looked at the concept of Social TV as a product and its potential as a marketing tool. In today’s post we’re looking more generally at how audiences join their social media activity to their TV watching and how program makers are encouraging it.


You’d have to be living under a rock not to notice the trend for hashtags on TV channels and TV shows these days. Special hashtags are chosen for anniversary episodes, specific storylines and even just for the series as a whole. Twitter handles are also frequently displayed alongside the hashtag for direct conversation between fans and the PR teams.

Hashtags to accompany TV shows aren’t only pushed by programme makers though, audiences utilise without prompting too. Hashtags have become a really snappy way of communicating a lot without using up your Twitter character allowance. Our love for this has even seen speech between people changing to emulate the experience of a tweet.

TV watching is being enhanced through shared experience. People have always enjoyed dissecting a TV show with others. We used to do this with friends or around the water cooler at work (and this still continues) but social media offers immediacy. In only a matter of seconds we can know the opinions of hundreds or thousands of other people who are watching the same thing.

Peer reviews sway viewing figures

Social media provides an intense peer review system which is proving to be hugely influential in viewing figures. On demand TV provider YouView carried out research that found “12% of those surveyed said they got programme recommendations directly from Facebook, with 6% saying they relied on Twitter” (Standard Digital). The preference for Facebook is surprising in light of the heavy use of hashtags we’ve just talked about.

Services like YouView and Netflix are inundating us with choice but are behind in terms of how they suggest new shows to their audiences. Traditional broadcast channels choose what shows to promote, often creating a montage-type clip to alert you to all the great programming available. However on-demand platforms don’t have this outlet. Rather they have to develop algorithms that identify what you like to watch and match other programs to your preferences.

This lack of guidance together with our existing inclination to seek advice from friends and family means people are turning to social media to seek out recommendations. Social media is a quick and easy link to friends, family and other fans of our favourite shows.

Simply post “Just finished Breaking Bad, what shall I watch next?” and you’ll probably receive 20 comments of suggestions or discussion on the merits of Breaking Bad.

The modern fan club experience

Tumblr in particular has marked itself out as a space for a new hybrid of fan club. It’s a great platform for sharing multimedia content, lending itself to hosting additional content ready for super fans to consume.

The official Dr Who Tumblr has over 580,000 followers. In the run up to the Doctor Who 50th anniversary its Tumblr fan page went into overdrive. 6 months ahead of the 50th anniversary episode the fanpage began running promotions and contests to build up the hype for the TV show. They also orchestrated live tumblring as the show aired, being careful to protect their fans against spoilers.

This campaign landed Dr Who the runner up spot in Shorty Awards for Best Use of Social Media in Television.

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