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Social TV, Children and Teens: What Marketers Should Know

By:   Date posted: October 18, 2012

teens-social-tvWhether you’re checking into your favorite show on GetGlue or tweeting at your favorite contestant on “The Bachelorette,” social TV is a growing sector of social media. Social TV is a newly coined term that describes the social media interactions taking place in the digital sphere during and in response to a television program. Anything from tweeting to writing a Facebook status to posting on a forum about the television show falls under social activity. In fact, recent research has found that 60 to 70 percent of adults use a second device or “second screen” such as a mobile phone, laptop or iPad while watching television.

Marketers, advertisers and adult viewers are all embracing the social TV phenomenon, but what about teens? How do teens engage with social TV compared to adults? What are marketers doing differently to target a younger audience while still abiding by privacy laws and regulations?

Social TV: The Numbers

According to a study by Digital Clarity, 80 percent of people under 25 use social media while watching television. However, there are differences in how teens participate compared to adults.

The division in activity is most readily apparent when comparing what adults and teens do with their “second screen.” According to MediaPost, only 11 percent of adults say they interact on social media sites or apps while watching television. Teens are different. For every 10 teens below the age of 25, eight regularly interact on social media sites while watching television. Activity by these teens comprises the tweets, Facebook posts and check-ins that marketers love to see.

Why Is Social TV Important?

Social TV is important for a number of reasons. People of all ages enjoy sharing their opinions with others who have similar interests. Creating an online forum for discussion about a hot topic such as a television show has the power to bring people together and generate lots of chatter in the social media sphere.

Secondly, there isn’t a large barrier of entry for social TV. If someone is watching a television show, he or she has a television. And with roughly 50 percent of U.S. adults owning a smart phone, there is no way to escape social TV.

Social TV is also important from the perspective of marketers and advertisers. According to Mediapost, 24 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 have started watching a show on television because they saw online conversation related to it. This makes marketers think more about how they promote programs. Television shows such as “Project Runway” and “What Not To Wear” have been including hashtags onscreen. This action makes it easier for viewers to converse with other fans and easier for marketers to track the success of specific hashtags. By tracking the volume of mentions for these hashtags, marketers can see the overall engagement, sentiment and types of conversations happening around the show. These insights in turn help marketers target programs, create advertisements and know how viewers feel about the show.

But What About Young People?

Children face bigger barriers of entry when it comes to the Internet. Most kids under 13 cannot legally participate in social networks. Many commercials targeting children often ask them to get their parents’ permission before going online. These barriers require marketers to think outside the box when marketing to this age group.

Integrate Social TV, Blogs, Games, Discussion Boards and Websites

A popular social TV show among teens is ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars.” A unique aspect of the “Pretty Little Liars” website is that there is a blog devoted to the show. With each new episode, a new entry is added that features unseen clips, fun facts and descriptions of the show. Users must register to leave comments on the blog posts. Because the show targets tweens, the Facebook, Twitter and RSS buttons are “after the fold” toward the bottom of the website. This means that ABC Family’s goal is to encourage users to spend time on its owned website rather than social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

For younger children, “SpongeBob SquarePants” offers a similar social experience online. The website encourages users to sign up for the discussion boards and to talk about their favorite characters, plots and other SpongeBob-related content on the website. There are no buttons that lead users off the site to Facebook or Twitter, making it clear that Nickelodeon prefers to monitor conversation on the “SpongeBob SquarePants” website.

When checking out Cartoon Network’s “The Regular Show,” users are encouraged to participate in the FanTalk Forum. While some marketers may not consider such forums a viable investment, it boasts considerable traffic of over 200,000 views. This website is the perfect example for marketers looking for a forum to encourage conversations between younger viewers.

The aforementioned websites are set up much differently than adult TV show sites such as “Bones.” The popular adult-targeted TV show has its website separated into full episodes, clips, photos, extras and about. The “Bones” website encourages users to participate in social discussions on Facebook, Twitter and other auxiliary social networks rather than on its own website.

Marketers Need To Listen

One of the most important lessons marketers should take away from social TV is that they cannot force advertisements on children and teens while promoting social TV. The FTC strictly enforces these rules and regulations.

Marketers should focus their attention on driving engagement to websites and forums rather than solely Facebook and Twitter when targeting children. That being said, this should not sway marketers away from Facebook. Once children reach the age of 13 (when they’re allowed to join Facebook), they will be able to “like” these pages and become active participants.

Knowing how to listen to what children and teens want and how they are interacting online is important. Children and teens may not be your target audience now, but they’re on their way to becoming your influential users.

The future of social TV looks bright, and it will be fascinating to see what marketers will do to target both children and adults.

What shows do you think are using social TV correctly? And what shows could use some improvement?

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Margaret Aprison is a community manager for Socialogic, a social media marketing agency. She has worked at a number of large ad agencies and still works part-time for a nonprofit. Follow her @mhapriso.

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