The TV networks officially announced their new programming slates for 2012-2013 at Upfronts in New York City this week. By the time they rolled their first look footage for advertisers and critics, the new series already had dedicated Twitter accounts set up, ready to interact with the shows' first fans.
Social media has become such a huge part of the TV landscape that any network not securing a simple, memorable handle for their new shows is way behind. (Also, any network that lets a show title like "How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)" get approved is obviously not in the business of listening to their social media team. Good luck with that one, ABC!)
On an Upfronts call with journalists, ABC entertainment president Paul Lee stressed how important Twitter has become to the business of television, especially with the TV landscape growing. "There is no show now that doesn't have a massive social media component, even before we launch it," he said. "We get a sort of dashboard of a sense of excitement on the web before we even get to launch. It's not just vital to the shows that are up and running -- it's vital to the launch."
But the Twitter feeds aren't just to promote new shows, new episodes and teasers -- Lee went on to say what the networks get back from it: "We literally get feedback before, during and after launch. It is a critical tool for us to understand how our audience is responding to our shows."
While metrics on the most popular shows on Twitter aren't measured with an exact science just yet, it's only a matter of time. The fact that every network now has a social media division says that TV executives realize the power of fan reactions, live conversations and making shows tweet-worthy.
There's been a noticeable push to get stars interacting with their fans on Twitter, and Twitter even has celebrity outreach teams and "help" pages to get those TV stars and personalities started and in on the conversation in a smart way.
Much like the future of media itself, the future of television is more than social. Social is a fabric; it connects the individual nodes that make up the human network. But, social is also not a means to an end. And the same is true about the working theories driving Social TV. Understanding the role social plays in how viewers connect with programs, and other people watching those programs, is essential to defining the future of television.
Over the years, I’ve written much about my vision for the long overdue convergence of not only Web and TV, but also how the three screens (TV, mobile, and PC) and human relationships impact adoption and engagement, as it relates to people and programming. So when I hear the term Social TV, I get it. I’ve certainly used it in the past. At the same time, I’ve also said that the future of television is more than integrating Tweets or #hashtags into the programming, to start a “global conversation” around the world’s largest digital water cooler.