TV Gets More Social…in Many Different Ways

Today’s guest post on Discovery Blog is from David Ernst, Vice President of Ad Sales Research, and Julia Goorin, Senior Research Analyst, at Discovery Communications.

Discovery Communications LogoSocial platforms and activity have become a part of everyday life, with many individuals entering their second decade of connecting digitally. During this time, television has become an increasingly more important focus of the social conversation.

Recent studies by Nielsen show that the number of people being influenced by social media to view specific programming has grown. In 2013, Nielsen reported that 25% of people were “aware of more programs” because of social media, up from 18% in 2012. This could lead one to believe that there is consistent correlation between television viewing/engagement and the social conversations spinning around programs, celebrities and the entire TV experience. However, research conducted by Discovery’s Curiosity Lab has shown that the relationship between social media and TV viewing is complex and multi-faceted, as the interplay between programming and the dialogue around it continues to evolve.

A recent study by Discovery Communications has shown that the preferred platform and method of social interaction will vary based on viewing circumstances and the type of program. Other findings from the Curiosity Lab research include:

  • The social space is much more fragmented than many may think. Nearly a third of of viewers said they looked to platforms other than Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for social interaction.
  • Facebook is the first place that most viewers turn to get information and connect about TV.
  • Twitter provides the best access to cast members and insiders.
  • Texting is an often overlooked but very influential social vehicle.

Social Icons

Based on Discovery’s findings and other research across the industry, we can point to some ideas that, if they are not truisms, are at least representative of conditions that hold true very often:

  • TV content is one of the most popular topics on both Facebook and Twitter.
  • Social engagement stretches far beyond Twitter. While this platform is most measurable, it comprises a small and fairly unrepresentative portion of the social landscape. Therefore, simply focusing on the relationship of Twitter activity to television behavior reveals an incomplete and distorted picture.
  • Sampling and viewership of TV programs can be stimulated by social mentions, but it is usually not the most important element of program discovery.
  • Conversely, high ratings can drive social mentions, but there is not a straight correlation. Social activity depends largely on the program appeal, type of program and an “in the moment” factor that makes a show or special buzzworthy.

As the television experience continues to evolve and expand, so will the ways people talk about it. Just as audiences seek out new and various ways to watch TV, we can expect them to look across a range of social platforms to learn, share and talk about the content they love.

Download the Curiosity Lab research on social platform preferences.