5 Guidelines For Second Screen Producers & Advertisers

 …the greatest shift in media habits since television began.

Mobile owned 2011. As a natural progression, 2012 is all about the virtual water cooler i.e., the second screen, also known as social TV. Call it what you may, the companion platform experience – TV meets social media – is on fire. At no point was it more evident than at this year’s Super Bowl that had the distinction of being American television’s #1 event and capturing the most tweets per second at  12,233 TPS (Tweets Per Second) at the time, helped along by Madonna’s halftime performance.

Twitter announced the record-book entries in a tweet.

Messages running on the TV screen can be very intrusive to the viewer so viewers are increasingly looking to the second screen (smartphone, tablet, PC) for interactivity. And this multitasking has been taking place already – a third of all internet browsing occurs while watching TV in 2011; two-thirds of viewers regularly interacted with their friends online and searched for information concurrent to watching TV. The second screen is merely adding some structure to this activity and making the social viewing experience more frictionless.

Social TV is still in the precambrian era, so while content producers experiment with what resonates with viewers, here are 5 guidelines to help you along:

  1. Don’t just experiment a little. Experiment a lot. Social TV is still very much in the precambrian era (and so is mobile for that matter) and viewers themselves are unsure of what they’d like to see in this format.
  2. Don’t disrupt the viewing experience on the main screen. Be mindful of how you invite viewers to interact. HBO learned this the hard way with their Twitter microsite for True Blood fans. Viewers were so focused on their TV screens that they didn’t want to divert time to check out what others were tweeting.
  3. Don’t worry about scale. This applies both to producers and advertisers who’re worried about not achieving scale as they would in a traditional TV format. The customized 1×1 interaction with a viewer’s social graph more than makes up for the lack of scale. That said, brands are in a unique position to experiment with launching individual apps for shows (e.g. characterchatter.com, the official USA Anywhere app), using third party platforms (e.g. Miso app that showcases shows like House of Lies), or using apps specific to an entertainment vertical like sports or celebrity gossip (e.g. apps that give you live streaming of other game angles such as NBC or apps to talk smack such as Smack-stat).
  4. Break down the story for different channels to maximize “shareability” across each. Brian Solis has written an excellent piece on the importance of identifying the days/times when people access various devices, and then targeting them accordingly, a concept that Solis calls Social Media Optimization (SMO). Some factoids that are interesting though hardly surprising – tablets and gaming devices are used predominantly after work hours and on weekends plus more Kindle usage occurs in the evening than any other device.
  5. As with everything else in digital, focus on the metrics. Traditionally 80% of users on a platform are “lurkers” – test ways to reduce lurking by encouraging engagement. Define metrics that help you measure velocity (e.g. number of interactions per second/per show), advocacy (turning loyal customers into megaphones) and relevance (deliver customized content by channel/device).

Social TV has a long way to go before coming even close to being user-friendly. Shazam’s Super Bowl experience was less than optimal (can you imagine a roomful of inebriated viewers being quiet for 7-10 seconds in the middle of a game?) and Miso’s House of Lies defies navigability.

That said, with a number of major TV events coming up like the Academy Awards and the Olympics, social TV is sure to be near-ubiquitous. As a natural consequence, interactive marketers at (inter)national brands will increasingly look to work directly with networks or vendors to sponsor branded co-viewing and place advertisements on the second screen.

Personally, what has me most excited in the near term is Miso’s Sideshow platform for HBOs’ hit TV show Game of Thrones. I’ve seen the first season and read the books, and boy am I ready to talk it up with fellow fans!
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