The Rise of Social TV and What It Means For Advertisers

Lindsey Weedston Digital Advertising, Online Video, Social Media, TV Advertising

You might have heard people saying that TV advertising is on the decline because people aren’t watching as much TV. Once again, people are wrong. People aren’t watching less TV. If anything, they’re watching more. What’s happening is that people are watching TV differently.

It’s another case of individuals taking to the Internet to say the sky is falling when all we’re experiencing is a bit of change. Don’t get me wrong – the change is significant, and you need to be paying attention.

TV Within a TV

Image Courtesy of RhysJordanTaylor

Your Ads Are Being Ignored

People will always watch TV in some form, whether it’s standard cable, Netflix or Hulu, or pay-per-view. And survey says that people still very much prefer being able to watch something for free – or for a monthly payment – in exchange for viewing a few ads to paying more to avoid TV ads altogether. But with the rise of social media and mobile devices, they’re not paying as much attention to the ads on the screen – mostly because they don’t have to. During commercials, or even during the show, they’re taking out their smartphones and tablets and spending time on social media accounts.

The reason is obvious: Most people don’t like commercials. Unless they’re playing during the Super Bowl.

So unless you want to make mindblowingly amazing TV ads every time, you’re going to need to adjust. Remember the first principle of advertising: Put yourself in front of your customers. That means:

You Need To Be On Social Media

Honestly, if you’re not on social media yet, you’re already behind. At this point, it’s going beyond just having active accounts. If you’re relying heavily on TV advertising, then you need to be aware of a new trend called Social TV.


What is Social TV?

Social TV is the practice of using social media in conjunction with TV shows or commercials in order to generate better awareness of and engagement with either type of media. Many fans of popular TV shows have already been live-tweeting (tweeting about an event as it’s happening) their reactions to new episodes, using the name of the show in a hashtag (#Scandal). Talk shows and other non-fiction programs have created social buzz and audience engagement by creating their own hashtags and encouraging people to use them. And certain companies are beginning to try this out in their TV ads.

Budweiser Social Ad
And by “beginning” I mean this has been going on for years. A lot of companies who rely on TV ads still don’t seem to be aware of it – at least not as the important shift in the nature of TV advertising that it is. In 2011, Old Navy partnered with Shazam – a music app – to create an ad that asked viewers to “tag” the commercial’s song, which both unlocked the full song as well as coupons for outfits featured in the commercial.

Since then, cliffhanger TV ads have popped up which tell viewers that they can watch the rest of the commercial on the company’s YouTube account or website. Other companies have begun to routinely create hashtags and feature them in individual ads or strings of related ads. Still others have been using their TV ads to announce social media contests on Facebook and Pinterest.

All of this is done with the end goal of reaching consumers on the “second screen” – that smartphone, tablet, or laptop that TV watchers turn to when the commercials come on. If you can use social media and apps to re-engage disinterested audiences, you’ll not only get people to view your ads again, you’ll substantially increase their effectiveness by letting consumers engage with your brand.

So far, it’s been mostly big-name brands who have been experimenting with Social TV advertising. Smaller companies aren’t going to be in trouble just yet if they don’t immediately start putting hashtags in their commercials. However, there’s every reason to believe that Social TV advertising techniques are going to become a standard.

What this means for you:

You Need To Be On Social Media

Start building your social following now, or you’ll be woefully behind once all your business peers start utilizing Social TV advertising. Promoting these multi-screen campaigns will be much more difficult if no one follows you – plus, accounts with no followers just make you look like an amateur.

Don’t look like an amateur. Fire up that Twitter account. Then leave your Twitter handle in the comments so we can follow you.