Social Media: TV’s Water Cooler

Television programming is transforming right in front of us, and the biggest factor instigating this change is consumers’ second screen. Between 60% and 70% of people have a second device in their hands when they’re watching TV. Their second-screen social activity while they consume media is shifting how entertainment franchises communicate with their audiences, course-correct their content and generate viewers.

Americans are watching more video content than ever. As subscription providers like Netflix and Hulu diversify, show marketers are left with the burning question: How should a franchise harness the power of social and leverage their online conversations?

Twitter is a hot spot for live television commentary. In general, the Twitter community has a lot to say, but hell hath no fury like an angry Pretty Little Liars fan scorned by the tumultuous show to which she is so loyal. The show averages 489,000 tweets from fans per episode, ranking No. 3 in Nielsen’s annual Social TV Report.

The gold and silver medals for most tweeted-about shows go, respectively, to AMC’s The Walking Dead and ABC’s The Bachelor, which bring in a combined 791,000 tweets during each episode. To put this in context, Twitter users send about 100,000 tweets per minute, meaning a typical hour sees about 600,000 tweets. TV programming is fundamentally changing the volume of content consumers publish every day. TV brands should monitor social conversation and sentiment on Twitter in order to effectively assess PR eff orts or course-correct the content it-self.

Reddit, also known as “the front page of the Internet,” is categorized by its passionate and engaged members. But with great engagement from the site’s 36 million users comes high skepticism.

Franchises like HBO’s Game of Thrones and Netflix’s Daredevil have successfully leveraged their show’s celebrity talent for interviews on Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread. This is perhaps the most efficient and authentic way to promote TV entertainment on Reddit — giving fans access to a show’s star power, as opposed to trying to hijack a conversation subreddit with brand messaging.

The Reddit community does not take well to blatant marketing; just ask Woody Harrelson about his abominable AMA, posted while promoting the film Rampart. The takeaway here? Do the research not only on the social platform, but on how fandom communities communicate and on which elements of a TV show they naturally gravitate to. If such elements are the show’s stars, then Reddit can effectively serve as a cost-efficient platform to connect the franchise to millions of fans in real time.

It’s no secret that YouTube stars like Grace Helbig and Tyler Oakley are the next A-listers. As they appear in more TV programming, the devoted fans that launched their stardom will come along for the ride.

Casting more Internet talent into traditional franchises will amplify online conversations around a given show, because their loyal audiences will follow them on any screen. Fandom is a strong factor in a YouTuber’s viral success. According to MTV Insights, 49% of 12-to-24-year-olds consider themselves “obsessed” with a YouTube star, which indicates influencer casting and integration is critical for young-adult programming.

The Internet hasn’t killed television, but is actively changing the way content is sourced, distributed, concepted, casted and marketed. Word to the wise: Plan for individual channels, and steer clear of spoiler alerts.

Dana Kelly is a social strategist at Los Angeles-based advertising agency Mistress.