How Brands Can Dive into Social TV

June 25, 2013 Paul Van Winssen

I recently wrote an article on the rise of social TV, covering how networks and social mediums are adapting to provide a more complete experience for viewers in a multi-screen world. This shift in consumer behavior also creates a great opportunity for brands to expose their messaging to audiences in new ways. Brands can infuse themselves into social conversation surrounding events that occur on television. They can also build immersive campaigns to hold their viewers attentions across multiple screens and mediums.

Real-Time Marketing

This new opportunity for brands in the social sphere has led to the outbreak of real-time marketing. Real-time marketing is used to deliver content to targeted customers at a specific time and place. As a marketing technique it has been around for years, but has been greatly enhanced by the explosive growth in social and mobile. With respect to Social TV, real-time marketing burst onto everyone’s radar at the 2013 Super Bowl thanks to a 34-minute blackout. This blackout threw off the timing of traditional TV ad spots, yet presented social media marketers with an opening to create content on the fly and insert their brand into the conversation that everyone was talking about. Although many brands were successful in this regard, Oreo stole the show with their now infamous “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet.

Despite the praise Oreo received for capitalizing on the moment, every brand doesn’t need to come up with brilliant creative on the fly in order to succeed in Social TV. Brands can easily use pre-approved content to inject their messaging into the conversation. The key is to create integrated campaigns across multiple mediums that can maintain the attention of viewers. The Super Bowl in 2013 again provides an array of robust examples. 50% of all advertisers used Twitter call-outs in their TV spots to try and generate discussion around their commercials. Budweiser’s #clydesdales call-to-action (CTA) in particular helped increase their follower base by 445%.

Data Driven

Now, when it comes to inbound marketing content is king, but data drives content optimization. Social TV is no exception as users on Facebook and Twitter channel millions of reactions to television content. This allows brand marketers to track audiences and how they react to both on-screen content and other social commentary around the programming. The data they have gathered can then be used to integrate social advertising with traditional media, as well as to target key demographics.

Perhaps the most obvious use of social TV data is brands creating advertising campaigns that target audiences of specific TV shows. Twitter is the social network that has taken the lead on Social TV, and their new TV ad targeting tool is a great resource for brand marketers. Because Twitter’s Promoted Tweets can be targeted to specific keywords or hashtags, advertisers can push content aimed at social conversation surrounding certain programming. Brand marketers can use CTAs in their TV ads to stimulate the social discussion around their brand. Then, they can use promoted tweets that pair with those TV ads and continue to drive the conversation. Finally, they can measure how socially responsive people were to their TV campaigns which will help hone future ad spots.

Don’t Forget Facebook

As I highlighted in my last post, Twitter has become the de-facto network for Social TV. The real-time nature of Twitter, which encourages quick and frequent interaction, is perfect for social commentary. And yet, Facebook should not be counted out as a major player within the social TV sphere. Facebook made a bid for real-time marketing dollars recently when it launched hashtags. This could, in the future, allow advertisers to target ads to users posting about a specific hashtag (although Facebook doesn’t allow this feature yet). This creates a similar opportunity for brand marketers as already exists on Twitter, and allows them to push content to users who are discussing a specific topic (ie. TV programming). Facebook would have the ability to provide additional layers of targeting by demographics and preferences based on the massive amount of social data they possess.

The problem that Facebook currently has (and a key reason why Twitter is leading the social TV race) is that Twitter data is public by nature, whereas the majority of conversation on Facebook is inherently private. Because of this, the amount of public Facebook discussion surrounding TV is insignificant when compared to Twitter. Marketers can only measure what they can access, and have less data to drive social advertising campaigns. For Facebook to become a player in Social TV analytics, they will need to open up Insights to aggregate conversation data across their entire user base.


The rise of Social TV presents a great new opportunity for brands to insert relevant and customized content into the social conversation. Brands can create campaigns across mediums that provide a holistic experience and keep users and viewers engaged. Marketers can use social data to push promoted content to the right users at the right time, and to measure the success of their TV advertising.

What are your thoughts on social TV? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Paul is a social media marketer and startup enthusiast based in Toronto, Canada. He likes to traverse both the tech startup and marketing agency worlds (and everything in between). Paul divides his time equally between tech events and Blue Jays games.

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