For the past two weeks I have lived in social TV app land, first looking at all the statistics on this trend and then test driving a wide variety of them to get a wider understanding of the audience experience in this context. This week I try to distill what I have learned into some recommendations and my opinions about what is working and what is not. I’d love to hear what you think as well.
“Will Work for
Food Good Entertainment”
First of all, I need to say that I don’t believe every television show needs a mobile app. Writers, directors, producers need to ask themselves at the beginning does my story or content warrant this kind of deeper interaction? Will my target audience want to engage in this way? Do I have the resources (financial and creative) to create something that adds unique value? As a member of the television viewing audience, I can’t download apps for every show I watch, even just my favourites. There is only so much time I have or am willing to invest in this way, and frankly, it had better be worth my while. But I think there is real power in this technology that is of benefit to the right audience, especially in the finding, sharing and extension of story.
Help Me FIND Television I Like
Of course, I come from a search marketing background, which is ultimately about findability, and so I appreciate apps that help me in this regard. This functionality includes searching, browsing by category, a portable television guide for my specific location, or even suggestions based on my viewing habits and selections (I discovered the fantastic series Homeland this way). If I could have one big meta app or perhaps a social TV platform, whether it was a check in service or not, that included all these pieces I would find a lot of value in that.
Help Me SHARE the Shows I Like With My Friends (& Others)
I have a number of issues around sharability of TV content through apps. One is that most of my real friends are not using checkin apps and so this functionality doesn’t get me access to conversations I actually want to be a part of. Maybe once there is a clear winner in this regard, the Facebook of TV checkins, it would be worthwhile to pursue this experience more deeply, but right now it doesn’t offer me enough because my community isn’t there.
That said, I love Twitter and I have enjoyed participating and even just viewing a live conversation synchronous to broadcast of a favourite television show. For me, I find it most enhances my experience with reality or competition type programming. Pure Twitter seems a bit old fashioned these days when every show seems to have a Twitter enhanced app. However, I often find this frustrating because it locks me into one stream. When I’m on Twitter I like to multitask and check in with my primary feed or jump from hashtag to hashtag. Using Twitter inside a TV app does not allow me to do this and it feels limited.
I’ve also discovered that sometimes a show will accidently have a wide variety of hashtags. For instance, I was watching The Amazing Race last week on and found #TAR, #TheAmazingRace, and #AmazingRace as well as the host’s feed were all parts of conversations on Twitter during the broadcast. In the CTV app I was using initially it was only following one tag and I ended up jumping into straight Twitter to have the flexibility of following where the conversation took me. However, if an app could effectively compile all those hashtags into one conversation? Maybe that would make it worth using.
Help EXTEND Stories I Love Beyond Broadcast
I love that story and characters are now given the opportunity to live outside the confines of the traditional broadcast. Whether functionality allows me to experience additional storylines through mobisodes or interact live with the actual show (such as competing with contestants or other viewers) or play games that let me feel I am in the story, this allows me to get more invested as an audience member.
However, if any of these elements are badly executed or do not provide unique value, if I’m left feeling “well what was the point of that?” then there is a risk in damaging my relationship with your show. Again, ask yourself does my show and audience need this kind of interactivity? If the answer is yes, and you want to launch this kind of app, please, oh please, make it worth my while. Dazzle me with cool, engaging tech; work with people who really understand gameplay (don’t, for instance, make it a lame matching game); tell a great backstory and make subtle references to it inside the broadcast so I feel “in the know;” make sure you stay true to the world you have created and that I love as a fan. My time is valuable; make me glad I invested it with you and you will have me for life.
I love that story and media is being challenged in so many ways these days. The social TV phenomenon is part of the new exciting landscape. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent in app land, but likely will not be “checking in” or even looking for the latest, greatest app for my personal use. I’m quite happy with my “old fashioned” straight up Twitter enhancement of a few of the shows I watch. However, if you have a great social TV app you want to let me know about, please feel free to send it my way and I can take it for a test drive. I expect to take a trip to social TV land again in the not so distant future.
Do you have any other ideas, questions, resources, tips or insight about the social TV phenomenon? Please post below or send via email to annelise(at)veria.ca or on Twitter @veriatweet.
Or revisit the previous issue: Social TV Apps – Pt.2: A Sampling