Twitter + TV Goes Beyond the 30 Second Spot

Many companies spend a great deal of time, money and effort getting people to do something. Like switching brands. Trying a new product. Or watching a TV show. And to do this, they use advertising. TV has been the great transformer of the 20th Century – it has educated us, engaged us and even amazed us. And the thing it transformed was not the world, but our behaviour. But it has always been a one-way street – broadcasting its message from a single point to the masses.

And then along came the internet and provided a whole new way to be educated, engaged and amazed.


We have always known that there was an abundance of awe inspiring activity taking place in the world but it was often hard to find. Realising that fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) tapped our primal urge to fight or fly, in the war for ratings, broadcast media prioritised the sensational over the substantive. But in a multi-dimensional communications world, where the means of production (ie creating content) and distribution are readily and widely available, new forms and types of content are emerging – and with them, new behaviours.

Anyone interested in human behaviour knows how difficult it can be to change a personal habit. But trying to change habits within a culture add layers of complexity that can boggle the mind.

Which is why this latest move from Twitter has me intrigued.

Much of the innovation that we have seen emerge from Twitter has been invented and driven by its community of users. It’s one of the benefits of having a large and active, participating user base – ideas, trends and opportunities magically appear out of the interactions of the crowd. But the businesses behind social networks have an advantage over other types of businesses – they can observe real time and emergent behaviour and adjust accordingly.

When people started using Twitter and hashtags to collaboratively consume television programs it marked a new line in the sand for a struggling TV industry. The dominance of the single screen was well and truly over – and the rise of the connected, multi-screen experience was underway. Now, we can all collectively watch TV shows like #QandA, contribute to the fast flowing conversation online and compete to see our names flash upon the screen. Twitter, in many respects, has given us a reason to tune in at a set time on a set day. Despite our timeshifted life, it’s made TV relevant again.

And this new Twitter + TV offering is taking this a step further. Take a look.

What I like:

  • It taps into existing behaviours: we are already using Twitter to collaboratively consume content on TV. It’s a no brainer that this could be monetised or extended
  • Creative opportunities for extending the customer experience: smart brands (and I would include TV broadcasters in this) have the potential to radically transform the relationship they have with “viewers”
  • Encouraging participation: for all the energy and noise, we are still in the infancy of social media adoption. It’s one thing to have a billion users across the world, but getting that billion people to do something other than login and post once a month is the next great challenge

Some of the problems I can see arising:

  • Broadcasting more broadly: when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right. Twitter has never (and I repeat NEVER) understood its role as a community platform. The fact that it facilitates amazing conversations doesn’t mean that it is a “conversation company” as we have seen with various ham-fisted changes to functionality, and its short-sighted limiting of its own ecosystem etc. There is the potential for this new offering to generate more noise and simply broadcast more broadly. This would be a great missed opportunity
  • Most brands lack comprehensive multi-channel strategy: while we see some substantial and innovative approaches to multi-channel strategy and execution, most brands (and their agencies) lack the level of strategic understanding required to make this work. We can’t all be Red Bull – but we could be more successful if we invested in these channels and strategies
  • Digital skills are thin on the ground: a key to making this work will be deep digital skills and a collaborative approach to storytelling. Brands need to up their investment in digital skilling not just in marketing but across the enterprise. When social becomes the #1 channel for engagement across your business ecosystem (ie not just sales and marketing), then you’ll have the kind of competitive advantage you’ve been dreaming of.


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