The relationship between social media and TV is of considerable interest to media owners, agencies and brands. Twitter is investing heavily to buy social media monitoring companies, and Facebook is also seeking to bolster its claim on social engagement with TV. There’s no doubt that ‘Social TV’ has become the subject of much speculation.
But just how significant is the television viewer’s engagement with social media while they are watching prime time TV? Are certain demographic groups more engaged socially than others when it comes to TV, and are they the ones we generally associated with social media? What about genres – which capture the greatest degree of social engagement? These and other questions are answered by a major new study that was recently released study by the Council for Research Excellence (CRE). It was conducted by the Keller Fay Group.
Here are some of the key highlights. The full presentation, along with details about the methodology, can be found on the Social Media Committee page of the CRE website.
To start, there are two big “numbers of to know” that are revealed by the research: 19.1%, and 7.3%.
The first – 19.1% — is the size of social TV’s daily reach. Nineteen point one percent of online Americans ages 15-54 are reached by social media at least once a day regarding primetime TV. For example, someone who saw something or posted something about a primetime TV show on Facebook or Twitter would fall within this category, regardless of whether they were watching or not.
The second number — 7.3% — is the scope of socially-connected viewing. It helps to define how many people are “socially connected” and engaging socially about the program while watching individual episodes of prime time shows – the so-called second screen experience. (It should be noted that an additional 8.8% of viewing instances involve the use of social media but for something other than the show being watched, bringing the total use of social media “while watching” to 16.1%.)
Socially connected TV viewing is most evident with new TV shows (which indexed at 142) and sports programming (which indexed at 129).
In terms of demographics, socially connected viewing is highest among Hispanics and viewers aged 15-34. Throughout a variety of metrics in the study, Hispanics stand out as the group that is most engaged with social TV.
The study also looked specifically at which social networks people use while watching, and provides a unique, independent opportunity to compare Facebook and Twitter. During 11.4% of primetime TV viewing occasions, viewers are using Facebook; during 3.3% of viewing occasions, they’re using Twitter. On the other hand, use of Twitter is more often related to the program being watched than it is on Facebook. On 3.8% of primetime viewing occasions, viewers are using Facebook regarding the show they are watching – the definition of socially connected viewers. This compares to 1.8% for Twitter. On an absolute basis that means more people use Facebook than Twitter to discuss the show they are watching while they are watching it; proportionally, however 33% of Facebook activity is related to the show being watched, versus 55% for Twitter.
One last finding worth noting is the small extent to which viewers watch shows because of something they saw on social media. This was the angle that the New York Times highlighted when it wrote up the study results under the headline, “Twitter and Facebook Wield Little Influence on TV Watching.” With respect to new shows that were premiering for the first time this past fall, 6.8% of people say they watched because of something they saw on social media, compared with nearly 40% who said they tuned in because of promos they had seen. For the season premieres of returning shows, 3.3% say they tuned in because of social media, whereas more than 70% watched “because it’s a show I watch regularly.”
Back to the question posed in the headline. Is social TV a juggernaut or overhyped? The answer is very much in the eyes of the beholder.
UM’s Graeme Hutton (also a CRE social media committee member) recently commented that social TV is a “game changer” and “has the power to change the media world as we know it.”
Meanwhile, NBC Universal’s Alan Wurtzel takes the exact opposite position when he told the FT that social media “is not a game changer yet” in influencing television viewing. Based on an analysis done by NBCU around the Winter Olympics and the role of social media in driving viewership, Wurtzel adds, “I am saying the emperor wears no clothes. It is what it is. These are the numbers.”
There is ample evidence in the CRE research to support a variety of conclusions. I recommend you read it for yourself and hopefully whatever conclusion you come to, you will be better armed with the facts.