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Hall of Fame MVPs

imedia consulting hall of fame mvp social television

Social Television

Like many of its legacy media brethren, television was faced with the unenviable decision of ‘adapt or die’ – they could get on the new iMedia train or get left in the dust. Television made the right call to embrace the future and join the masses online.

First up, the original inspiration behind this Hall of Fame MVP honor, the NBC show The Voice. What drew our attention here at The iMedia Playbook was the integration of social media into the very fabric of the show – “… what separates The Voice from other social television shows is that NBC doesn’t use social media as an awareness and marketing tool — it is core to the show as a whole, so the digital integrations are very organic” (Mashable, 6/15/2011, The Voice: How a TV Show Became a 24/7 Social Media Conversation). The Voice was formatted from the very beginning to encourage active participation in the show, participation that extended far beyond its time slot on NBC’s primetime schedule. The show even featured a dedicated “in-show and online correspondent” – Alison Haislip from G4TV. Haislip was the on-screen face of the digital and social media efforts, serving as a liaison of sorts between the online viewing audience and the show itself. Singer and actress Christina Milian will be taking over this role when season two begins in early 2012.

The Voice was one of a handful of trailblazers, totally embracing the digital and social media and integrating them into the traditional broadcast program. A natural progression of this interaction is applying it to reality competition programs, where the audience is already engaged with the program, voting for their favorites to win. The trick would be to figure out how to use digital and social media as a means of the audience to cast their votes.

Enter The X Factor.

imedia consulting hall of fame mvp social television x factor

The X Factor, airing on FOX, utilizes direct message-enabled voting, making it the first TV competition program to tally DM votes to help determine a winner (Mashable, 10/26/2011, Twitter Now Lets “X Factor” Viewers Vote via DMs).

While The X Factor may be the first to utilize Twitter’s direct messaging format for votes, they are not the first to combine the voting process and social media. “For example, American Idol let viewers vote on the show’s Facebook Page during season 10. The Voice … allowed viewers to vote by buying the contestants’ songs on iTunes. And design competition Project Runway let fans use Twitter hashtags to vote for a “Fan Favorite” every episode” (Mashable, 10/26/2011, Twitter Now Lets “X Factor” Viewers Vote via DMs).

Although making use of direct message-enabled voting is an iMedia win for The X Factor, it also gives the program access to a goldmine of valuable information about their audience. To start with, you must follow the show twitter handle (@TheXFactorUSA) to direct message your vote. That simple fact alone drives up the show’s number of followers, expanding the reach of any potential advertising and promotions the show may chose to broadcast over their handle. Seeing who their audience is - who are the profiles that are following the program - opens up the opportunity to learn more about their viewers. Insight into what links they tweet, who they follow and perhaps even access to their Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and/or Tumblr pages is the kind of treasure trove of information that advertisers love to have.

Turning television social doesn’t have to mean surrendering your program to the unwashed masses trolling Twitter. Programs and networks have been making use of Twitter hashtags as a means of facilitating the real-time, interactive conversation between fans. We at The iMedia Playbook have seen this in action on Comedy Central. Shows like Tosh.0 and South Park encourage live chatting during the shows and utilize hashtags (#OccupySouthPark) to make that process simple. The popular Comedy Central roasts have leveraged the Twitter hashtag (#sheenroast, #trumproast) into a full-blown, real-time conversation, adding another layer to the viewing experience.

imedia consulting hall of fame mvp social television

Digital and social media is not just program-specific anymore. This past November, CBS injected their fall sweeps with social media, creating ‘Social Sweep Week.’ “The anchors for CBS Sports and stars from CBS TV shows [took] over the Facebook and Twitter accounts for their respective programs. … [in] another example how the network is embracing social media with its on-air programming. CBS kicked off a week of social media buzz for the Fall TV season, using Facebook and Twitter to promote new and upcoming programming” (Mashable, 11/3/2011, CBS Supercharges Sweeps Week With Social Media).

All this is just scratching the surface of what Social Television has to offer. There is the hardware aspect of it, with services and products like Google TV, Apple TV and wi-fi capable television sets. There is the online and streaming aspect of it, with sites like Hulu and services like Netflix, where the audience can now see their favorite programs online at their convienience.

It is with all this, we say kudos to the television industry for continuing to embrace and integrate iMedia, transforming television into a social communal experience with fans worldwide.

Our second recipient of the Hall of Fame MVP honor … Social Television.