3 Things Advertisers Can Expect from Social TV in 2012

The line between television and mobile Web is getting blurry, which the industry experts at yesterday’s NBCUniversal SocialTV Symposium said is great for ratings. “People are watching over an hour more of television than in past years,” said Stacey Shepatin, SVP, director of national broadcast at Hill Holiday. It looks like social TV is here to stay. Here’s what this means for advertisers.

1. Twitter and Facebook campaigns will be more interactive.

“A hashtag is a campfire that people gather around,” said Joel Lunenfeld, VP of global brand strategy at Twitter. The micro-blogging site allows marketers to organize and direct conversation. When Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer truck at the Daytona 500, the photo his fellow racer Brad Keselowski tweeted of the view from his car went viral. It was hardly a disaster for NASCAR – Tide took the opportunity to sponsor the cleanup efforts, inviting fans to caption the photo of workers hosing down the track.

Facebook relies on the “simple human behavior of sharing,” said Kay Madati, head of entertainment strategy at Facebook. In the case of Huggies in Hong Kong, the brand invited mothers to do something they do all the time: upload photos of their babies. The promotion reached 120,000 fans and 7 million people total through the fans’ networks, making the Huggies brand page the fastest-growing page in Hong Kong. The company also saw its best quarter ever, growing its market share by 4.3 percent.

2. Advertisers will have more integrated experiences with the content.

NBC’s “Fashion Star” pairs aspiring designers with buyers at major retailers. While critics have said that the show feels like an hour-long infomercial and that the ratings haven’t made it an instant success, there will likely be more of this type of programming in the future.

“Ghost Hunters Live” was able to incorporate Dodge into the program by supplying the ghost hunting team with vans for carrying their equipment. “A ghost hunt in an insane asylum doesn’t scream ‘advertising opportunity,'” said Craig Engler, SVP and GM of digital at Syfy, but that particular brand’s presence throughout the show worked well in that context.

3. At some point, social media will need a standard for audience measurement that’s comparable to the Nielsen ratings.

The network representatives agreed that it took multiple services across many platforms to measure engagement for social TV.  They were joined on stage by Trendrr.tvcomScoreBluefin Labs and Meteor; all of which offer such services.

Throughout the symposium, the speakers displayed charts of millions of tweets on the overhead projector, comparing the visual data to an EKG or a seismic map. The “real-time, measurable back channel of conversations is fraught with data and insights,” said Mike Proulx, SVP, director of digital strategy for Hill Holiday. Notable metrics included TPS (tweets per second) and the social “brand lift” that occurs when consumers share the content with their friends in a positive way.

Social media makes it possible to measure viewer engagement before, during, and after the show. Said Trendrr CEO Mark Gunheim, there’s a “swarm in the middle, and a long tail on either side,” but the data compiled throughout the course of a show is “most actionable when it’s on air.”

But understanding the results is tricky. Like music, the silence on the back channel is just as important as the crescendos. When Jennifer Hudson sang her tribute to the late Whitney Houston at the Grammys, the chatter on Twitter stopped, not because the fans weren’t watching, but because they were absorbed in what was happening.  In the end there were 13 million mentions of the Grammys, which coincided with the award show’s second highest ratings of all time.