Television has entered a new era due in large part to the interaction between television programs and social media. Thanks to Twitter, fans are able to have a real time ongoing dialogue as a show is being broadcast. Mobile technologies allow for these interactions to occur anytime, anywhere, regardless of television air times, resulting in massive opportunities for the television stations. Networks have capitalized on this by creating show specific Twitter handles in addition to episode specific hashtags. Furthermore, numerous programs, including news networks, utilize user-generated content in their programming to drive the conversation and enhance their telecast. The first official integration between Twitter hashtags and television programs was during Comedy Central’s roast of Donald Trump on March 15, 2011. Positioning the hashtag “#TrumpRoast” in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, Comedy Central’s roast of Trump drew its largest Tuesday audience in its history. The hashtag was used more than 27,000 times on Twitter during the telecast.
Nowadays, it’s rare to watch a television show without a hashtag lingering in the corner of the screen. Several shows have now made it a habit to include anchors’/celebrities’/guests’ Twitter handle when introducing them to the program. Television shows have benefitted greatly from incorporating social media into their programming, particularly live shows. Special events, such as awards shows (#oscars) and sporting events (#sb50), are especially popular for live tweeting. This past year, the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards became the most Tweeted non-sports program ever, drawing 2.2 million people who sent 21.4 million Tweets. The VMA’s most tweeted moment of the night (247,525 tweets) came when Kanye West announced his intention to run for President in 2020 while accepting the Video Vanguard Award [pic 1]. Since Nielsen Social began tracking Twitter TV activity, only the Super Bowl has generated more tweets than the 2015 VMA’s.
Social media and television have become so intertwined to a point that it is now standard practice to create or obtain Twitter handles for all programs. Twitter handles have therefore become extremely valuable. Despite being against Twitter’s terms and agreements, the practice of buying and selling Twitter handles is quite common. The most famous example is the case of Chase Giunta who was reportedly offered $20,000 by JPMorgan Chase for his Twitter handle, @chase. Not wanting to violate Twitter’s rules, Chase denied the offer but still had to surrender the handle after Twitter worked with JPMorgan Chase to hand over the name based on alleged trademark issues that Giunta was powerless to fight. Giunta’s story speaks volumes about the power of Twitter branding and the lengths companies will go to in order to secure a “pure handle,” that is, one that doesn’t include “the real” or underscores or a number.
Certain shows such as @midnight are now highly interactive, incorporating large amounts of user generated content. The premise of @midnight is that there is a panel of comedians that play a series of trivia based games and earn points for each correct or funny answer. The audience (both in studio and at home) plays a large part in determining who wins the game. Each show actually begins with host Chris Hardwick introducing a trending meme/video/quote and asking the panel of comedians to craft funny responses or choose the correct answer among multiple choices. Additionally, each contest includes a game known as “Hashtag Wars” in which panelists create phrases that go along with a given hashtag theme. The hashtag theme of course extends to Twitter where the home audience in encouraged to make their own witty, comedic tweet that could potentially be featured on-air during the next episode.
In addition to shows utilizing social content in their programming, networks have also used television content to drive higher engagement with its social audience. The relationship between social media and television is beautifully symbiotic. The social trends and online promotion drives more viewers to the television show and video clips from the shows posted online attract more followers and fans. Television networks have several tactics to get the most out of this relationship. For instance, shows such as The Voice have begun placing relevant hashtags on the screen during dramatic moments, most commonly when contestants are eliminated. Another common tactic is to use what is called a “madlib” hashtag (a favorite of late night hosts), which is meant to be used at the beginning of a post that starts a sentence a user can finish. Some programs have gotten very creative with their Twitter presence, most notably HBO’s True Blood. HBO created multiple Twitter accounts for various characters whose tweets are phrased similarly to how they’d speak on the show. The significance of social media’s interaction with television has become so apparent that a new industry centered around TV stations interactions with viewers has emerged. Companies such as Spredfast, Never.no, TV Interact and Vidpresso have all emerged with the same mission in mind: to help broadcasters more efficiently leverage social media. It’s intriguing to wonder what these shops and the networks themselves will develop as the relationship between social media and television evolves. Will there one day be a show entirely driven by social content? A show that only takes place on social media sites? A show that is also a unique social platform? The possibilities are endless.
How do you envision this relationship evolving?