The Future Of Television Is Social & Grey’s Anatomy "Gets It"

These days there has been an evident convergence of television and social networking, from social TV apps to integrated social media campaigns. The future of television is definitely social.

These days there has been an evident convergence of television and social networking. First, people started writing and gossiping about the television shows they were watching on Facebook and Twitter; then, social TV apps like Tunerfish, Miso and Yap.TV started popping up, giving fans the ability to start online conversations about their favorite shows, earn fan badges and even take part in branded contests tied to their favorite networks and series; and now we’re even seeing television shows themselves integrate social media into their episodes. Last week Grey’s Anatomy integrated a live Twitter campaign into their episode, providing us with a neat look at how television could become even more social in the future.

I want to start by taking a look at last Thursday’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, ‘Don’t Deceive Me (Please Don’t Go)’. A major part of the episode revolved around Twitter as Dr. Miranda Bailey starts live-Tweeting her surgeries so that surgical residents from all of the Twitterverse can learn something. The Chief doesn’t know what Twitter is (which accounts for all sorts of childish jokes – “I’m looking on the internet for pictures of Dr. Bailey’s teats”, that sort of thing), but ultimately discovers that Twitter is a fantastic communication tool.

What was cool about the campaign is that in preparation for the episode they actually opened up a Twitter account for Dr. Bailey at @MirandaBaileyMD and she was tweeting during the episode as well. The account has over 22,700 followers and has been listed 164 times.

These days there has been a lot of concern about the future of television, what with so many viewers cutting the cord and switching to online streaming services for all their movie and television needs. Studies have shown that online viewers are more engaged than television viewers and it’s clear that the television industry is going to have to make some changes if it wants to survive the online video boom.

I think that Grey’s Anatomy is on to something. If it’s true that online viewers are more engaged than television viewers then what better way to get television viewers more engaged than to incorporate social media into the equation? By opening a Twitter account for Dr. Bailey and having her live tweet during the episode, Twitter users who watched the show live during its Thursday night premiere got a little something extra that those who waited to stream the episode online missed out on. I think that in the future we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of these sorts of campaigns in order to engage viewers and give them an incentive to watch shows on television when they first premier.

Grey’s Anatomy may be one of the first shows to incorporate a stunt like this into the actual plot of an episode, but they aren’t the first show to use social campaigns to engage viewers. Comcast’s Tunerfish ran a campaign with HBO last summer for True Blood, in which fans that “checked in” during the season premiere on HBO received special badges. Miso and QVC ran a campaign that let users check in to QVC over the Thanksgiving weekend to take advantage of exclusive Miso-only product deals. And these are only a small selection of campaigns of this nature, which seem to be popping up more and more.

In addition to the television shows themselves going social, I’ve got a feeling that we’ll be seeing television advertising making its way into the social realm as well. Adweek recently announced that social television app Yap.TV is working on a product that will be able to synch up live TV ads with tablet ads. Mike Shields at Adweek writes that the new technology “recognizes when an ad airs on TV and then prompts a user to take some sort of action, such as watching a demo of a new car model or signing up for an offer from an insurance company.” In this way, brands will be able to make up for some of the decrease in the size of live television audiences by featuring extra content for the users of social TV apps. Yap.TV posted to the company blog that they think their new technology will “revolutionize advertising, and usher in a whole new world of social TV.”

I’m excited to see what Yap.TV is going to offer, but I’m even more excited to see how social apps and television shows and networks themselves are going to bridge the gap between traditional television and social media. It’s clear that social media has already become an inseparable part of the television-watching experience and I have a feeling that as the two world continue to converge we are going to see some spectacular campaigns. The future of television is most definitely social and, if you ask me, there are some exciting things on the horizon. What’s your take on the convergence of social media and television? Do you think social TV is the future?

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