Friday, November 4, 2011

Social Media TV: The Powerful Marriage of Twitter & Fox

As the IMC program at Northwestern University has taught me, it is of growing importance as marketers to understand how social media platforms can positively affect businesses in today's changing tech landscape.  Consumers are increasingly turning to their computers to share opinions, giving marketers in all industries the opportunity to leverage unique touch points with their target audience. 

Recently, Fox has emerged as a great example of a company who is harnessing the power of social media to engage with viewers.  The TV giant announced on Oct. 25 that they will now allow votes for the hit show X-Factor to be sent in by Twitter.  The change will begin on Nov. 2, which is the first episode this season where viewers begin choosing which act stays and which goes.  Previously, judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid, and Nicole Scherzinger picked their favorite performers.  This is the first time that a TV station and Twitter have joined forces and Fox executives believe that it will help the company harness the power of social media.

During the show, host Steve Jones repeatedly reminds viewers to tweet their thoughts using the tag #XFactor.  Further encouragement is given as the #XFactor symbol is prominently displayed on the screen throughout the show.  This constant stream of comments allows Fox to have immediate feedback about X-Factor while the show is airing.  This is a first for TV stations and Fox has been smart to realize that it is the perfect way to connect the judges, finalists, and viewers.

The Twitter voting will be limited to 50 votes per account.  Voters will have to use Direct Messaging (DM) to the XFactorUSA account to ensure their privacy is maintained.  While viewers can still use traditional methods to vote—website, text messages, or phone calls—Fox is heavily pushing voters to try out Twitter.  The shows website, gives more information to interested viewers.

Now, this all sounds great for Fox, but what about the potential problems?  Twitter has made a tech investment but this is the first time the technology will be used for this purpose.  Who knows what will happen-- I can only imagine a backlash from voters if the website malfunctions.  In addition, users can make multiple accounts to vote.  Unlike text message and phone call votes that go through a third party system, Twitter votes may have difficulty being verified.  Finally, Fox may be over-estimating the Twitter-savviness of their audience.  I’m betting that viewers are going to be confused about Direct Messaging and not realize that their regular tweets don’t count as votes. 

Overall I see the use of social media platforms to engage with consumers as a trend that will continue to grow.  However, Twitter is not going to be the solution for everyone.  Marketers must realize that media habits are changing and did deep to understand the preferences of their specific target audience, not the masses.  The ability to adapt to today’s tech environment, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, or Foursquare to connect with consumers is ultimately what will help businesses get ahead.

Melanie Greben, Graduate Northwestern IMC, @MGreben

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