How social media turned TV audiences into ‘sheeple’ – and how you can influence them

Social media has played an increasingly advanced role in shaping what we watch.

 

It informs us on what the next groundbreaking progrmme is to see, advises us on new talking points to dish amongst work colleagues or friends and it shows us what our friends and our influencers are interested in.

 

Consequently, critics and wannabe influencers now have the platforms to actively share their voice and impact our decisions, which has become impossible to avoid.

I noticed this trend recently when my mum surprisingly started watching Blue Planet, which is a far cry away from her normal television schedule of Strictly and Downton Abbey.

 

It is also hard to find a day in the office where someone isn’t trying to converse over the latest episode of Stranger Things.

 

Significantly, in digging a bit deeper, it became clear that there are clear parallels with social media’s influence on what we want to watch.


This study delves into this debate and how through social media and PR you can influence individuals to watch your content.

The Statistics

If the above doesn’t convince you, numbers will.

As early as 2013, it was reported by Yahoo!7 in a poll of 7,000 individuals that “42% of respondents said they had chosen to watch a particular show because of a social media recommendation and 38% said they became aware of television shows through Facebook and Twitter,” evidencing how social media has turned us into TV Sheeple.

Interestingly, in the Yahoo!7 survey it was stated “43% used social media while watching television,” which demonstrates the connection between the two and the opportunity to boost viewership based on social media activity. This is given further strength as it was corroborated by Ericcson’s surveyof 30,000 people in 2016 that highlighted “64% of consumers say at least once a week they use a mobile device to complement or supplement what they are watching on television.”

 

In looking at viewership rates, Erriccson reported that since 2010, the share of viewing hours spent on-demand short video clips has jumped 86%. This statistic is particularly important as these clips which are mainly categorised as Youtube videos are based on content that is more reliant on social media, further highlighting the strength of social media in increasing viewership.


Additionally, such is the impact of social media influencers to our life, that Nielson’s in their Millenials on Millennials report, recorded that male Millennials have a “higher opinion of trending social media stars than they do for sports stars, pop stars, actors and actresses.” Thus showing how much influence social media influencers have on our viewing choices but also how far social media has come in allowing these individuals to have a platform to be more respected than traditionally known celebrities.


With the recent outcry over fake news, it should be noted that some people don’t even watch television, such is the influence of social media as a source of information. According to the Conversation in 2016, it recorded globally, for all age groups under 45, “online news is now ranked as more important than television news.” Particularly among the consumer group of 18 to 24 year olds, social media at 28% was rated more important than TV at 24%. 

Overall, these statistics paint an effective picture that social media to a large extent has been and can be responsible for our viewing habits. The tricky part is using the platforms we have to affect this.

The Unilad Model

Unilad, a platform that is synonymous with being a giant in social media and the place that unearths the latest trending content, is the best example of this.

 

Launched in 2014 as an entertainment outlet for UK students, its rapid rise coinciding with its campaign for The Inbetweeners 2 movie and The Entourage movie stressed how media has shifted in generating mass traffic. 

Starting out as a Facebook group, its large global share of the social media world has meant that Quantcast, an audience measurement company, discovered that “Unilad users are over 5X more interested in film and entertainment than the average internet user.” Therefore, when promoting content to its 34 million audience on Facebook alone, it was the largest site in the world to host the official trailer of Inbetweeners 2. Notably it also received the greatest amount of views and shares of the UK trailer for the Entourage film.

Consequently, as a platform Unilad have understood their audience to match their needs without being too intrusive and their audience has complied to share their content. Utilising these skills sounds simple enough but it can backfire if not done with care and consideration for your audience. Significantly, this is why sites similar to Unilad are able to generate such reach and are the starting point in that discussion with your friend at the pub or at work, as to what you are excited to watch next.

 

PR Stunts

 

Stunts are always a good way to stimulate interest for an upcoming series or film.

 

A recent example of this successfully working is the 2017 Baywatch film where coinciding with its release, a slow-mo marathon was held in Los Angeles. This gained traffic through social media with 60,000 views on Youtube alone and was likely a shared talking point for many people during the day who witnessed the event. It further gained shares and mentions on major publications, like Adweek and Campaign for its efforts.

More effectively, the best example is the 2012 stratos jump from Red Bull, where Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier. This stunt produced and broadcast by Red Bull pulled in 8 million live views on Youtube and currently stands at 42 million views on their channel. Although not solely responsible for Red Bull’s expansion into cementing itself as more than an energy drink, it did significantly assist in helping it transition its focus on the media front.

 

Incorporating Social Media into your Show

 

Audiences of yesteryear had less influence on what they saw on their favourite programmes or films with only little opportunity that their sentiments would be heard by a network exec.

 

However, the introduction of social media has changed this dynamic, as today’s viewers can not only watch a show but also share their feelings in real time. This has also changed the role of the producer of these programmes, for they can potentially know what is popular or not by what is trending on social media platforms. In essence social media has transformed live television into a “global social experience.”

 

It should be noted that this isn’t exclusive to television, as live game broadcasts on Twitch, events shown on Youtube Live, Periscope or Facebook live, all offer opportunities to be involved and have your thoughts heard.

 

Although consumer feedback is not necessarily a new invention with the previous method used as SMS, it is notable how much more influence social media has in this area. For that reason, those conversations on Facebook or Twitter shouldn’t be underrated in their importance to the higher-ups. Consequently, popular channels and television stations are using this to their advantage to encourage people to share and promote their shows.

An example of this working very well is WWE or World Wrestling Entertainment. For those who thought wrestling was just men in tights drop-kicking each other prepare to be surprised.  Forbes reported at the end of 2016, WWE had close to 739 million followers. They also anticipate that by 2018 this will surpass 1 billion. Additionally, now that your attention has been caught, you may be left wondering how this is possible?

Well, WWE has mastered the art of making the views of their audience heard. Regular viewers will know that at different points in the show, a running tab of social media comments will be displayed on the bottom of the screen displaying people’s opinions on the show thus far. Therefore, if your comment is merited you will be rewarded on live television for your views, thus enabling the incentive to share your views.

 

Importantly, in every match or segment, there is a hashtag in the corner of the screen so people know what to mention and they inform the viewer with a notification in the opposing corner when they are trending worldwide. 

The use of hashtags or encouraging individuals to share is given extra weight as is it also cited by Daily Nationwho mention “that the more a show is talked about the better the chances it stands of surviving…It starts with a simple hashtag like #NowWatching which makes it easy to track the conversation.” Moreover. that article goes as far as to say that “TV shows cannot run away from social media but should just embrace it.”

 

Overall, there is a lot of credence to suggest that the more your content is talked about, the more weight it lends to not just survival but also revenue. Consequently, mere things like hashtags or encouragement to share or subscribe can be very important to measure success and gain it.

72 Point’s Work

 

Our company’s influence is exemplified by a wide range of work but most recently, the work utilised for the History Channel on the build up of their “World War True” season strongly demonstrated the importance of PR and social media side-by-side.

 

Using our creative team and our extensive research arm which covered 2,000 respondents, 72 Point were able to demonstrate the shocking lack of knowledge regarding WW2 with some people mistakenly believing Germany and Britain fought on the same side. Coinciding with the survey which demonstrated more startling statistics, a quizz was generated to highlight the top 10 WW2 films.

 

These facts displayed on our site and spread across our wide media connections through social media and marketing platforms elevated the serious concern for these issues but also generated significant buzz for History Channel’s new programme. Examples of the success of our campaign are displayed by it reaching an online readership of 448 million combined with it being circulated by print to an audience of 4.45 million. The value of our sources gained in print and digital is highlighted by major publications like The Independant, The Sun, Mirror and UniLad promoting the story. Ultimately, this campaign built publicity in a unique way and assisted in turning people into TV Sheeple.

Conclusion

 

While the social media world seems like a competitive battlefield for attention it can effectively be used to your advantage. Utilising some of the tips above or just acknowledging the statistics can help and it should be known that the game has not just changed but evolved. Significantly to stay one step ahead of your competitors is necessary in this market and it is solely up to you to find ways in social media to step

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