Twitter Plus TV Creates “Social Viewing”

Robin Sloan, Twitter, at NTVL 2010

Although television has become more fragmented thanks to the web, millions of people still tune in for certain shows, including the Emmys and the MTV Video Music Awards. The real-time conversation that Twitter allows makes it a perfect companion for those events, staffer Robin Sloan — who works on the social network’s media-partnership team — told attendees at GigaOM’s NewTeeVee Live conference this morning. Sloan said that the network gets 90-million-plus tweets every day, and “a lot of those tweets are about TV shows.”

As an example, he showed a graph of tweets about the show Dancing With the Stars. Huge peaks in traffic coincided exactly with new shows, meaning people were tweeting about the show as it was happening. The Twitter media evangelist talked about three things that using Twitter can do to make such events more powerful, including:

  • Synchronous show tweeting: in which channels such as Discovery get a scientist or some other knowledgeable person to tweet along with a show about a specific topic, to add information. This is “simple, but can be very powerful,” Sloan said.
  • Social viewing: Taking advantage of the fact that viewers are tweeting about the show is “the new campfire,” said Sloan — a way of showing people that they are not alone. True Blood has a whole website that just aggregates tweets about the show, so that viewers don’t have to remember hashtags, etc.
  • New kinds of content: During the MTV Video Music Awards show, Sloan said the network tracked all the tweets in real time and had a “Twitter jockey” on screen who watched them and picked out examples. The show also had a 95-foot-wide monitor showing the number of tweets and votes for specific stars.

This kind of “conversational choreography” is becoming a crucial part of any major TV event, Sloan said — just as important as focusing the stage lights or charging up the microphones — and can become a new way of reimagining content thanks to the “incredibly powerful force” that is the real-time conversation about that content.

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