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September 26, 2012
The Rise of Social TV
TV is inherently social. The hype surrounding social TV technologies and consumers’ use of social media in tandem with TV is not a new cultural phenomenon. It’s just a different technology-enabled expression of how we entertain ourselves.
Don’t be confused by the fact that “TV” now refers to the explosion of long- and short-form professional or user-generated video streamed, viewed, and downloaded on a broad array of devices from smartphones and tablets to laptops and gaming devices to Apple or Google TV offerings. It’s all social TV. Americans are addicted.
From the very first broadcast, people talked about who and what they watched. In the early days of TV, families huddled around the tube as a collective, even national, experience. Passive watchers experienced “appointment TV” and planned to be in front of the set at the time and day of their favorite programs. Viewers talked about and critiqued the characters, the storylines, and the actors themselves within the family, the neighborhood, and around the water cooler at work. New technology created a structured, common experience.
As TV grew and cable and portable and color TVs came online, the social experience changed again. Each family had multiple TV sets. Each family member had his or her own TV and watched in different rooms, creating psycho-demographic and content segments. Dad watched the ballgame; Mom tuned in to cooking shows, and the kids followed their own interests or those of their peers. Every so often a show like “Dallas” brought everyone back together, but generally new technology created common but individual experiences with an increasing array of channel choices and the option to record and time shift favorite shows.
The Internet revolution changed the social dynamic yet again. Today we watch all kinds of content on demand using an array of devices to both passively watch and actively respond. Multitasking, which includes using several devices at once, sometimes focused around a single experience, is the norm for younger digital natives and is becoming learned behavior even for older digital immigrants. We expect to watch and to respond, review, and share TV content. The core behavior is the same. Technology expands our reach and empowers us to play a bigger role in actively shaping the experience.
The next phase of this evolution in social TV is for viewers to become actors in several new ways. M-Commerce and mobile payments will finally make the fantasy of watching and simultaneously buying a reality. Addressable TV spots will zero in on the most likely prospects and offer on-screen interactivity. Viewers will soon direct the storylines or flesh out character development as they do on sites like Fan Fiction or 4Chan and directly interact with actors in real time (think ball players tweeting from the dug out or Joan River’s Oscar play-by-play). Viewers are curating their own programming, sharing it with their friends, and promoting it to the world on social and video platforms.
The implications for TV brands and marketers who use them to reach and persuade customers are 5-fold.
Parse Your BIG idea across channels. Consumers want apps and websites or ancillary campaigns to fill them in on the back-story, add context, define terms, or help them get into your content. They don’t want duplicate channels. They want different channels to compliment each other add texture and enhance the experience.
Plan Interactions. Consumers, familiar with participatory experiences and gaming, want to influence elements of the story, become part of the story, and share the experience with others. Decide what you want people to think, feel, and do and then give them ways to express themselves. Think about pre-during-post timing. Determine what you want the lasting takeaway to be. Organize your assets and your content to deliver the desired experience by encouraging and directing consumer responses.
Orchestrate the Content. Consumers expect are interested in experiences that bridge the real and digital worlds. Use offline events, promotions, and appearances or even check-ins as content and as interactive springboards for social media. User experience planning trumps media planning. 
Figure out how people will learn about the programming and structure ways for them to react, share, and get involved. Communication is not sequential or linear. Often it is asynchronous. Fans find their way to you through many individual pathways. Anticipate them. Offer them images, clips, illustrations, badges, links, or pre-written tweets for easy commenting, posting, and sharing.
Target Inflection Points. Most programs have predictable storylines and communications arcs. TV shows have relatively fixed times, numbers of episodes, and seasons. Use these to target messaging and to build momentum for programming. Consumers want an active experience where they do meaningful things. Map what they do and intersect them along the way.
Everything is Mobile. Smartphones and tablets are increasingly used as entertainment and social devices. Build your content on these platforms and factor in the native capabilities of these platforms to enhance the overall experience. Create a mixture of active and passive experiences and keep in mind that consumers are very familiar with gaming memes and have an on-demand anywhere expectation.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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