Can you name the most-tweeted television show from the first half of 2013? American Idol? The Big Bang Theory? NCIS? They all would be great guesses. Together, they attracted nearly 70 million television viewers in America. But the truth is, none of them took the crown as the most-tweeted show.
That honor went to a lesser-known ABC Family teenage drama, Pretty Little Liars, which generated over 11 million tweets in the first half of 2013. The show’s season finale was the most talked about show on Twitter in history, garnering nearly 1.9 million tweets alone and a staggering 70,000 tweets during the last 60 seconds of the show.
The expression of audience passion via Twitter and Facebook is one of the reasons brands are turning their attention to social engagement as a new advertising currency. The New York Times recently highlighted how social media is now being used as a barometer of popularity in today’s culture. While brands have traditionally valued the size of a television show’s audience above all else, social engagement is now becoming a key factor for determining where to invest advertising dollars.
TV shows are well aware of the growing importance of social engagement for brands. That’s why shows are experimenting with new ways to support and help brands tap into it. In fact, many shows now offer their own curated social experiences that facilitate audience, star and brand connections across platforms. One example is the live online after-show from Project Runway.
Broadcast via its own website following the conclusion of an episode, Project Runway’s hosts, stars and fans dissect what just occurred using a combination of live video, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts and interactive polling. Interestingly, the TV program has found that connecting with stars visually via live video is more crucial and important than previously thought. It not only expands the enjoyment and engagement beyond the written word, but it facilitates a more intimate connection between audience members and the stars they love.
Sponsors clearly get it. Clickable banners, a watermark on the screen and a branded browser player in the after-show are now some of the biggest selling points of advertising on Project Runway.
While the size of an audience will always be an important factor in determining which TV shows a brand sponsors, it will no longer own all of the mindshare. Audience engagement – a measure of passion – will become even more important. Just how effectively TV shows curate and foster those passions will determine who wins or loses in the shifting world of TV advertising.