TV Worth Checking Into

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The power of the Internet is undeniable.

When thinking about U.S. President Barack Obama‘s election in 2008, many people link that historic victory to the power of the Internet. Leveraging Social Media and many of the digital marketing tools at his disposal, Obama’s team was able to make all of the little things (friends connecting on Facebook, a tweet here and there on Twitter and micro-donations as low as five dollars from individuals online) add up to winning the oval office. But it was Obama’s inauguration as president that will always be the most unique moment for me. The ceremonies were carried live over CNN, who partnered with Facebook for the occasion. On the left-hand side of my computer screen was the TV feed, while on the right-hand side I could follow what friends and strangers around the world were saying about the inauguration.

Suddenly, this television event became Social Media.

It was social in that we could all share our thoughts, comment on what others were feeling, and be truly “together” in a way that would have been impossible if these digital online platforms did not exist. I remember thinking that it felt like everyone I knew was in the same room with me, when in fact, we were dispersed across multiple countries and time zones. We may have been by ourselves in our protein forms but we were experiencing the moment together in our byte-size forms.

TV is not getting more interactive. TV is getting more social.

While the media pundit talk is all about the growth of the Internet and the threat that poses to television, the statistics will tell you a very different story. People across all demographics and psychographics still love their TV. It’s how we interact with our TV that is continually evolving. In 2008, we were chatting about the great TV moments that meant something to us on Facebook. In 2010, we’re using location-aware apps like GetGlue, Philo and Miso to check into our favorite TV shows (along with books, movies, video games and more), much like we would check in to our favorite restaurant on Foursquare.

As Mashable recently pointed out in a Blog post titled, Why Entertainment Will Drive the Next Checkin Craze, the technology works particularly well for shows like Mad Men which, despite its modest ratings, has an almost religious fan following. “Watching Mad Men is a shared experience, whether you’re at a viewing party or alone in your bedroom, simply because of the culture surrounding the show,” writes Jennifer Van Grove in her Mashable post. “That’s why passionate viewers, if they’re socially inclined, are the type of people who will no doubt run to Facebook and Twitter to share their anticipation and viewing experience with the world.”

From the viewers’ perspective, these platforms enable them to connect and share with their fellow fans in a simple and fun way.

It allows them to chat about the show, it lets them feel like their voices are being heard, and that they are connected to others who are like-minded. Most importantly, it makes these fans more connected and loyal to the brand of the program.

Mad metrics

Just think what AMC will now know about their most rabid Mad Men fans. They’ll know: where they live, how many people are with them, what they think of the show minute by minute, which characters strike the strongest chord, which commercials the fans liked the most, and on and on and on and on. Checking in to television could become the next Nielsen for this medium that has grappled with true audience numbers, sentiment and analytics for decades.

Many marketers think that all brands must be a part of the social media conversation.

These check-in platforms demonstrate that the primary strategy of a brand engaged in Social Media should be to empower members of its community to connect to one another because that, ultimately, connects them even closer to the brand. Funnily enough, I’m writing this as the Emmys play in the background and live commentary on the broadcast rolls by on Twitter.

And once again I’m reminded that TV is still an integral part of my multiplatform media mix.

The above posting is an article from Sparksheet. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


  1. I think there’s a dash of your friend Joseph Jaffe’s recent book in your logic, too. Mad Men may well be successful because it is serving its most loyal fans so well. It’s not trying to anything but pure Mad Men. Those loyal fans, as a result, will do the rest of the marketing work. I’m just sad it’s too late to help Twin Peaks.

  2. What’s interesting is how checkin is now going to the non-physical. Take a book, for example. Imagine, being able to really connect with someone who is currently reading the same book as you are. Don’t be surprised to see Amazon launch this kind of functionality into the Kindle some time soon.

  3. Media spend is nothing compared to the campaign’s activity on line. I’m wondering if this breakdown only refers to how much money they’re spent advertising online? It’s hard to tell. Regardless, your point is well-taken: one doesn’t replace the other and when the two are working together (and working together well), the results can be staggering.

  4. Even watching the hash tags on twitter that turn up while there is a popular show or event on has hinted at this. Social media has in a way become the watercooler conversation, providing a platform for discussing a shared experience.
    Personally I am interested in what may happen with products like Google TV, and if they will allow broadcasters to provide apps that can run alongside broadcast media with web content, and interaction.

  5. Shouldn’t TV be incentivizing viewers into joining the fan club that is people checking in to watch their shows, gushing on Twitter, and who knows what else? Plenty of shows attempt to get you to text a number to be able to watch behind-the-scenes videos or more in-depth explanations. I’m much less driven by that than I am by feeling like I can talk to all of my fellow fans. Did they catch something I didn’t? Do I have a clever joke only they’ll get?
    Unfortunately in my case, or perhaps fortunately depending on how you look at it, I’ve only ever bothered to check out Twitter when Lost was showing its finale (because I’m a fan) or when Survivor was on (because I wanted to demonstrate the interaction to my wife). Otherwise, I feel it’s slightly more effort than it’s worth currently to check in, tweet, or who knows what during things like this. Once I feel more incentive though, I will find it much more exciting to check in to a TV show or a book, as you commented to Will above.

  6. Couldn’t agree more Mitch. Interactive TV never worked because watching TV is a social activity and surfing is an individual activity. But with smartphones, iPads and other ‘second screens’, viewers can socialize with like parties while watching TV. Having this second screen will be a boon for advertisers looking to reach viewers who FF over 30 second spots.
    I expanded on these thoughts in my blog post:
    All the best. Thanks for the thoughts

  7. At our core we are still social people and to a certain degree we haven’t developed past our clique mentalities from high school. So while huge historical events like Obama’s inauguration can garner massive online social gatherings, I think the real growth are in annual live televised events that people like to comment (and yes, be catty about). For those hooked up, it is now almost impossible to watch either The Oscars or The Superbowl without also being online.
    Take the Superbowl as an example. Besides people rating those expensive commercials when they air and comparing notes, there are also friendly betting pools on certain aspects of the game, such as “how long to the second will the National Anthem be?” “Who’s going to be the first celebrity spotted by the cameras in the stands.” Last Superbowl I came across a whole list of questions like this with only about half of them actually dealing with the play on the field, and they ranged from “what will the score be after the 1st quarter” or “who will pick off the first interception?”
    For the Oscars it’s the fashion debate, or who will be the first presenter to flub their lines, or who will be the first winner to thank God or their agent (and not in that order).
    It would be a wise move for such entities as The SuperBowl and The Oscars to tap into the online world live as it can only enhance the experience and add to their respective brands (because right now other people are doing it for them and reaping whatever benefits are to be gained).
    Jimmy Fallon tried this as host of The Emmys, and not to successfully, but it definitely is a first step down the path of television and online convergence for live events that I believe will eventually become standard procedure in the future.

  8. Facilitating excitement around a brand should be core to these businesses. Instead of worrying about what they’re doing in places like Twitter or Foursquare, their time may be better spent enabling their community to connect to one another in an easier fashion.

  9. You can bet that some of the platforms I mentioned above have similar gaming engines to the ones you will find in Foursquare (being the mayor, badges, etc…). Much like rats, us humans need our own, special blend of cheese to do things. Incentives = cheese and I mean “rats” in the kindest way possible πŸ˜‰

  10. I wonder where the TV broadcasters sit when it comes to this thought provocation? Do you think they should be doing the partnering or should they be acquiring these types of platforms and trying to integrate them into their programming? How they handle this will be the interesting side of the conversation. It would also be interesting to see a company like AOL make the acquisitions and then create the strategic partnerships (it would be a nice second wind).

  11. I think the broadcasters have to be part of it. They can seed additional content and since they know how the content twists and turns, they can best know when and where to engage consumers throughout the show.
    IMO opinion, it will be something like a Hulu approach. Independent but strong content partnerships.
    I worry that content providers left to their own devices will create such an ad led model (just like most newspapers) that consumers wont see the value in it.
    Do you think that content providers will try to be obstacles if they aren’t participating on their terms? Are they embracing social or suffocating it?
    I can’t wait!

  12. It would be wise for the broadcasters to own this interaction, because – ultimately – they should have the relationship with the viewer, and try to present themselves as one line of connectivity. Let’s see if they can be nimble.

  13. Definitely, the incentives exist. I guess that I’m thinking that the TV show, store, book, who-knows-what needs to be actively creating these incentives rather than having them just built into an outside system. I could be wrong, but it seems like Groupon has been so successful in part because the participating companies give incentives of their own. With shopkick, participating stores give coupons. With Foursquare and Starbucks, mayors get discounts…when the baristas know what Foursquare is, that is. In those instances, there is a larger benefit to use than a badge that ultimately means about as much as a Farmville bean patch.
    We’ll always have marketing dorks, who try all of this out, because it’s part of their jobs. We’ll always have the hyper-active, who jump on anything social media or tech, but growth outside the tiny, tiny niche needs to be spurred by buy in from the TV show, retailer, etc, right?
    To put it another way, “More cheese please.” πŸ™‚

  14. And that’s why the gaming engines are important. People need to be prodded to try new things. On top of that, let’s not forget that TV is a passive media (it’s not active). People sit back, enjoy and tune out… making it active or proactive is only for a small segment (at this point). For more on that, check out Clay Shirky’s new book, Cognitive Surplus.

  15. I definitely do need to pick up that book. I was going good at 2-3 books/week until about 6 weeks ago. For a while, it felt like I’d cover the whole marketing, and marketing-related psychology/sociology, canon in a year or less.

  16. Oh wow, I didn’t even know the three check-in apps. Over here there is which provides chatrooms round the tv-programme and had a good start among the geeks but I haven’t heard from in a long, long time.
    I’ll try Glue for books for sure. Do they have podcasts, too? πŸ˜‰

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