Saturday, May 10, 2014

Social Media Mavens of Reality: The Relationship Between TV & Social is Changing

To the digital experts, the live-tweeters and the social spectators alike, reality television and social media have become so intertwined that it's difficult to see where the boundary between mediums exists. Allowing for real-time reactions - that often make it onto the lower-third of the show itself - and for viewers to follow the quasi-real people featured on these programs, this relationship has proved to provide an incredibly enriching viewer experience. As a junior at Northwestern University pursuing the Integrated Marketing Communications certificate and having interned at Bravo TV, the network that revolutionized the relationship between reality TV and social, I have analyzed recent developments in the industry, figuring out what digital coordinators at cable networks can do to capitalize on the reality-social relationship in the changing social tide.

The growth of social over the years has brought about a variety of platforms, meaning a variety of channels through which networks can produce promotional content. In her piece, "Twitter Is for Reacting, Tumblr Is for Discussing," Jess Scanlon explains the importance of just that: utilizing these platforms in different ways for maximum effect. Scanlon discusses how Twitter and Tumblr are key in different stages of the social consumption of TV. Reactions occur real-time on Twitter but last days later as they move onto Tumblr for longer conversations - like a ripple effect of content generated in reaction to the show.

A recent piece of industry news demonstrates the use of these various channels to create a reality show entirely online and the possible future of television. Andrew Wallenstein and AJ Marechal write in Variety about the renewal of @SummerBreak. Debuting entirely on social media, last season's show was a groundbreaking and successful experiment that merged social and reality television completely. Produced by the Chermin group, BBDO and AT&T, the show ran real-time, meaning that reactions on social media could change the course of the series of five-minute YouTube episodes. @SummerBreak also created powerful and enriching content across social platforms that captivated and increased viewership.

While moving the entire experience of television to social media is in the somewhat-distant future, there are three lessons I recommend you implement to gain from the revolutionary reality program's command of content and Scanlon's research on social reactions across platforms.

*Reacting on Twitter, conversing on Tumblr - Know which platforms are active throughout the consumption of your program and stimulate them accordingly by...
*Acting like a fan - Create a constant stream of content through all social channels, consistently, in the voice of your target. You can better reach this target by...
*Adapting to fan reactions - While the majority of reality programs aren't produced in real-time, think of your social followers as a focus group and alter programs and future programs accordingly

By following these action items, you will increase your command of the ever-strengthening relationship between social media and reality television and create more enriching viewer experiences.

Anne Sundell is a junior at Northwestern University studying Radio, Television + Film and Integrated Marketing Communications. She has worked at Bravo TV and looks forward to spending the summer working at ConanAnne loves all things television and would love to continue the conversation or live-tweet about Dance Moms @justgrANNEd.

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