Social TV Year-in-Review: Spredfast VP of Business Development Kai MacMahon

By Adam Flomenbaum 

Spredfast-logo-vectorThe below post is part of our 2014 Social TV Year-in-Review guest post series and is written by Spredfast VP of Business Development Kai MacMahon.

It feels like we’ve been talking about #socialtv’s coming out party forever, but in 2014 it really hit the mainstream with a vengeance. The latter half of the year prior gave us the ‘Breaking Bad’ finale, one of the true landmark #socialtv moments to date, and that success was built upon rapidly in 2014 as we saw #socialtv adoption on an unprecedented scale. From the Superbowl through the Oscars and the FIFA World Cup, 2014 was a record breaking year from start to finish.

Below are our key #socialtv highlights from that record breaking year, along with a look ahead to 2015.

Looking Back: Four Key #socialtv Trends for 2014

#soccialtv Hits The Mainstream

In 2014 we saw #socialtv scale like never before. How big are we talking? For context, consider that during the 2012 Patriots/Giants Superbowl Mashable reported 12.2 million ‘social media comments’  but in 2014 Nielsen reported a record 25 million tweets about the 2014 Broncos/Seahawks game.  You read that right, in 2014 there were as many tweets about the Superbowl as there were households watching it. For comparative purposes, the entire 2012 London Olympics saw just 83 million comments in social, and that global event was a month long.

That 2014 Superbowl wasn’t an outlier either: the FIFA World Cup saw an astonishing 672 million Tweets, and the Germany/Brazil Semi final again broke the single event record with over 32 million. The recurring theme for 2014 was scale: huge events driving huge conversation driving huge #socialtv activity. The growth in 2014 has been quite staggering, confirming that #socialtv is well and truly mainstream now.

The Year of Content Diversity

In addition to the incredible and unprecedented activity around big sporting events like the FIFA World Cup and the Superbowl, alongside record breaking #socialtv appointment events like The Oscars, which on its own drove over a billion social impressions this year, we have also seen consistent increase in #socialtv activity around a wider variety of profile shows and events. Sports and big live events may have been the advance party, but the rest of the TV world has caught up quickly: in 2014 every genre imaginable got in on the action.

Measurement Matters

This was the year the industry got serious about #socialtv measurement. Nielsen Social launched their Twitter TV Ratings at the tail end of 2013 and have been tracking activity closely ever since. Aside from the hockey stick growth across the board, another metric of note is the # of networks we saw appearing in #socialtv lists in 2014: of the top ten series tracked by Nielsen Social this year, six originate from different networks. The industry still has plenty of work to do on this front, but deepened relationships with fans, particularly the all important 18-34 group, can only be a good thing, and the industry’s newfound commitment to measurement is clear.

Extending Twitter TV Engagement

Conventional thinking has it that viewers are most active on social during a show’s first airing. That continues to be true, however the time between airings is becoming increasingly important. In 2014 Nielsen found that 32% of Twitter TV activity takes place outside of the show’s live airing window (‘airing window’ is defined as three hours before and after broadcast). That highlights the power of #socialtv in building loyalty and retaining viewer interest week to week. As the industry matures, this will become even more important.

That’s the wrap-up of 2014, but what do we have to look forward to in 2015?

Looking Ahead: Four Key #socialtv Trends To Watch in 2015

Further Platform Diversity.

#socialtv is no longer just Twitter and Facebook’s domain. Sure, those platforms continue to dominate, but in 2014 we saw a marked uptick in activity on others, with particularly interesting things happening on Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. That trend will continue apace in 2015.  Twitter’s position as the default for real time #socialtv is not yet in jeopardy, but we should expect to see more creative activity on other platforms.

#socialtv Advertising

The TV advertising model that has been in place for decades is obtrusive and interrupts content rather than complements it. We love buying things but hate being sold to, so it goes without saying that disruption of that model is a huge opportunity area for the #socialtv industry: more closely tying advertising to viewing habits is a no-brainer. The opportunities, both real time and for time shifted #socialtv advertising are huge, and 2015 is the year that #socialtv advertising will arrive in a big way.

Enhanced offpeak #socialtv

With 32% (and growing) of activity taking place outside of the airing window, logic dictates  that this should be an area of focus moving forward. Maintaining the momentum of the on-air content, driving discussion, building loyalty and generating word-of-mouth will all be key themes in 2015, and focusing on enhanced off-peak #socialtv activations is one way we’ll get there. We will see more #socialtv practitioners apply more thought to how to reach fans between airings in 2015.

Data Geeks Take Over

Doing #socialtv well isn’t cheap: it requires significant investment and effort, and getting it right is hard. The rewards are there for the taking, but justifying the investment is more important than ever before. Understanding usage patterns and linking those behaviors to traditional business metrics is going to be a key theme of 2015: that’s where data comes in. Is your #socialtv activity helping drive viewers? Is it generating word-of-mouth that builds your fan base? Is it retaining fans or driving first-run viewership? We have the data to answer all of those questions, and more, whereas in years past it has been an afterthought, more folks will lead with data in 2015 because they will have to in order to justify the investments.


So, there you have it: 2014 was an extraordinary year for #socialtv, characterized by wild and unprecedented growth. We still have a long way to go and there are many questions left to answer, but the pessimism of 2013 and the negative sentiment many have expressed about second screen apps in particular has largely dissipated. #socialtv is here to stay: ignore it at your peril.

The year ahead is going to be #socialtv’s most exciting yet: ‘Girls,’ ‘Better Call Saul,’ ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ are each set to debut in the first six months of the year, and although they – along with the big sports and awards events – will lead the charge in continuing to set the bar higher than ever before, the rest of the industry is hot on their tails. #socialtv is truly coming of age.