SMN Insights: Social Television Consumption Habits

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SMN Insights: Social Television Consumption Habits

Written by Anneliese Herbosa, Content Manager of The Social Media Network 2013-14.

SMN Insights features the informed thoughts and opinions of our team. We probe the latest news and trends related to social media, marketing, public relations, and the vast digital space.

Watching television is an inherently social activity that is amplified through social media. I sat down with our resident TV junkies Orane, Dean, and Diana to hear their thoughts on how social media activities have increasingly been changing the way viewers consume televised media.

Social TV Consumption

Timely discussions and engaging fan interactions

When asked how fan interactions online affected the way they consume television programs, one of the most crucial factors raised was that of timing.

For Dean, social media activity has an effect on his pre-game watching experience. Before a game, Dean usually finds himself scrolling through feeds looking for breaking updates and exclusives on players from the official accounts. He finds that social networking platforms naturally invite live discussions to thrive, and allow fans from all around the world to chime in. Based on his observations of and active engagement in online discussions surrounding his favourite sports programs, he feels that a new level of excitement surrounding the sports spectacle is reached with the conversations taking place online, creating more hype even before the game has even started. One example Dean provided that is close-to-home for us Vancouverites is when the Canucks announce the starting goaltender before a game via their social channels.
This brings a lot more excitement and fun to the experience of watching sports on TV. It [social media] brings you a lot closer to the game and makes the experience much more engaging. (Dean)

RELATED: Social television supplements ratings with valuable engagement data.

Heightened anticipation

Diana, a long-time fan of Whose Line Is It Anyway, noticed some promotional tactics of the program and those involved. Prior to the return of the long coveted series Whose Line Is It Anyway, the show started pushing the hashtag #WhoseLineIsBack to get fans excited. To add an additional layer of promotion, the actors used the hashtag as well. As the latest series began to unfold, it was apparent that the show was not only using one primary hashtag, but there was one specific to each showcased game that was played.

Here’s a list of hashtags that were flashed during the show, which prompted viewers to use these hashtags while live-tweeting their viewing experience:

  • “#WhoseLineIsBack” during the first minute of the episode.
  • “#Bromance” after Colin kisses Ryan during Let’s Make a Date.
  • “#WhatsInTheBag” during the first 10 seconds of What’s In The Bag?
Prior to the series airing, they started using the hashtag to get the buzz going online. The actors even posted promotional updates on their personal accounts. (Diana)

RELATED: Social TV – does it draw new viewers?

Influential recommendations

When it comes to social TV habits, Orane finds it most useful as a trustworthy source for watch-worthy material, to an extent. By observing her social graph who actively broadcast their viewing activity across their social channels, she is able to gauge the quality and popularity of programs by getting the gist of sentiments surrounding the program.  On the other side of the spectrum, the one thing that irks Orane the most when social butterflies discuss shows online is the amount of spoilers that are divulged. This is especially the case when viewers who were unable to tune in while the show was airing live finally get around to catching up. Orane provided the example of when the ‘mystery’ mother from How I Met Your Mother was finally revealed. Since she did not have the chance to catch up on that particular season, she voluntarily stayed away from Facebook for a few days because she was well aware of its virality and knew that images of her [the mother’s] face were beginning to circulate the web.

I love it when people post about their favourite show because it gives me an idea of what’s good and what to add to my to-watch list. But, people need to learn some social media etiquette – when discussing shows online, these conversations usually contain spoilers! (Orane)

Promotional Vehicles

Many different kinds of TV shows are starting to incorporate social media into their digital strategy. Our team shared a few examples of specific programs and networks that are effectively implementing social media into their engagement tactics.

Urgency to participate online

Live-tweeting a show has essentially become a norm for the 21st century viewer. According to Orane, AMC was said to be doing an exceptional job of incorporating hashtags into their programs. Notable shows which exemplify this include: #BreakingBad, #MadMen, #TheWalkingDead. In the opening credits of each show, these hashtags appear on the screen providing a sense of urgency to participate.

Right from the get-go, I feel like I should be tweeting along. (Orane)

Extended reach and greater shareability

In addition to encouraging viewers to post live streams of consciousness amidst viewing shows in real-time, using vast social spaces such as Facebook were said to serve as forums for discussion to help shows as they ramp up for new seasons. Facebook was seen as an interactive environment for both consuming and creating relevant content. Dean described The Newsroom on HBO as an example for utilizing Facebook as a space to promote informative and entertaining (infotaining, if you will) rich content to help promote the season premiere of the show’s second season. On The Newsroom’s official Facebook Page, eye-catching infographics, character approval rating charts shown after episodes (image below), and headlines released before episodes to tease new content were used effectively.

This is great content because it encourages discussions and is easily sharable to further extend the show’s reach to friends, and friends of friends. (Dean)

Up close and personal connectivity

Deviating from primetime and reality shows which are increasingly incorporating hashtags on the corner of the screen, Diana examined the impact of hashtags and social handles for local news segments. Her favourite local engagement strategy is via Lynda Steele of CTV. Steele runs a segment called Steele on Your Side where she is a consumer reporter who investigates problems from local viewers. What stands out for Diana was how Steele’s personal twitter handle is displayed, inviting viewers to connect with her directly. This allows greater connectivity and increases the accessibility of these public figures which, before the proliferation of social media, would not have otherwise been as possible.

It’s great when they show her [Lynda Steele] Twitter handle so you can connect with her online. (Diana)

(Image courtesy of

RELATED: (Video) Twitter on TV – A Producer’s Guide

How have fans’ online interactions before, during, or after a television show airs, affected the way you consume TV programs? Which programs or networks do you find to have effectively embraced social media into their strategy?

These are our insights – now we’d like to hear yours. Share with us your thoughts on social TV. Make sure to use the hashtag #SMNinsights to weigh in!

Featured image courtesy of Direct Geek via Jason Cruz.
These thoughts are our own and do not represent those of the organization.
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