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Social Media for TV Needs to be Designed Specifically for TV

[Editor's Note: This is a vendor-written article. StreamingMedia.com accepts vendor-written articles based upon their usefulness to our readers.]

For many companies, social media is the de facto solution for driving user engagement and increasing brand awareness. The same can be said for TV content companies. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—to name a few—seem to be everywhere, including on TVs. But to what extent does social media make sense for the TV experience?

There are two primary ways in which social media and TV-watching intersect. The first is through companion apps. Companion apps are also known as second-screen apps, as they provide viewers content on an additional device. 

GetGlue is a popular TV companion app. It allows users to check-in to a TV episode, or other form of media, to let friends know what they’re watching or which sites they’re visiting. Users can also share video clips with other users, and earn discounts and other rewards for multiple check-ins. 

IntoNow (recently acquired by Yahoo!) provides a service similar to Shazam’s. Viewers launch the app, which will identify a TV show based on audio fingerprints, and display information about the show on a user’s mobile device.

Some networks develop apps dedicated to a single show. These apps provide anything from additional show information to video clips from episodes, and even trivia-type games about the show. 

Other social media apps on TV are simply iterations of popular social networks, designed for a large TV screen. Most app stores on connected devices carry Facebook and Twitter, and virtually every TV personality and network has taken to the popular social media platforms to promote new shows or segments. 

Is all this social media engagement necessary?

In an age where Twitter breaks news quicker than TV programs and websites, it seems that whether or not to use Twitter and Facebook is an easy decision for content companies trying to drive viewer engagement.

But consider a recent Pew survey: only 8% of online Americans use Twitter. The Pew survey also suggests only around 24% of Twitter users check Twitter more than once a day. When you stop to think about it, Twitter may not be as wide-reaching as many make it out to be.

To this end, relying solely on networks like Twitter to drive engagement is a strategy that should be approached cautiously. And porting social media apps to larger TV screens—when users cannot interact with the networks while watching TV —can safely be avoided.

Companion apps, on the other hand, might make more sense.  According to Pew, nearly 88% of Americans own cell phones, and about 45% own smartphones.  More and more TV watchers watch TV with a second, sometimes even third, device nearby, and are actively engaging their devices while watching TV. If viewers naturally interact with a second device while watching TV, companion apps can take advantage of that trend.

It’s difficult to draw a hard line between what does and what does not make sense for the intersection of social media and TV. It seems that companion apps, where the main feature is to interact with TV content, make sense. Apps, where the main feature is to share content over social media networks, may not reach enough viewers to make them worthwhile.

Looking at numbers, you can see that social networks have not proliferated quite as quickly as some headlines would lead you to believe. If we look at social media other than the traditional ones (Facebook and Twitter users) then maybe this intersection makes more sense. 

TV is essentially helping to redefine what a social media experience feels like. Apps that allow viewers to learn more about a show’s characters or actors, and then give the user the opportunity to share those facts with friends, still drive personal engagement in much the same way Facebook does. To be successful, however, social media for TV needs to be designed specifically for TV. 

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