Twitter Plus TV Creates “Social Viewing”


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 (s VIA) 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 (s DISCA) 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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Shakir Razak


This avenue has so much potential.

However, those working in the field might want to consider how the networks like controlling their environments. In a world of more universal digital sign-on’s, How long after a market has developed, will the larger media behomoths tolerate the status quo of the nascent market, rather than as even Murdoch mentioned with regard to pay-walled news, of wanting to charge for excerpts and links, ditto various sports bodies, who have no problem seeing even the non-core content eco-system as something they should have rights over; How long before these people will want proprietary control of social-tv – which by piggy-backing on hulu, network sites, etc. they quite easily could.

Also, while Twitter, being late to the party would like to take ownership of the field, isn’t their already a company called that’s done much hard work?

Yours kindly,

Shakir Razak


The ability to mashup data with live programming opens the door to a hyper-customized viewing (and participative) experience. Television (if the name even remains valid) will become interactive as opposed to a one-way delivery mechanism. Google TV will be interesting in this space.

@jamie – the #backchannel tag is a cool idea to unite community

@tuscan – good foresight with – nice approach

Tuscan Knox

Sloan is dead-on accurate: twitter is the new “campfire” the new sofa – where social conversations about TV are happening in real-time. The problem is that to engage in these conversations is actually pretty difficult – as he points out with the TrueBlood example, users don’t know all the hashtags, keywords, etc… so a service for aggregation and simplification is needed.

we noticed this trend a while ago and started to act as a single point of conversation and interaction for ANY show – not just one – while that show is live on air.

check it out:

Jamie Favreau

Detroit has a #Backchannel hashtag which is used during the Channel 7 (WXYZ local affiliate to ABC) broadcast. So far we have had meetups and other things associated to the broadcast. IT is a fun way to watch the local news and it seems to bring community together.

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