Twitter and TV: How should brands respond to multi-screening?

Jessica Carter
Deputy Editor
Sift Media
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With new research demonstrating just how closely integrated Twitter and television have become, businesses are being encouraged to think outside the box when it comes to making the most of multi-screening. 

Appearing at Advertising Week Europe earlier this week, UK MD of Twitter, Bruce Daisley, and Thinkbox’s research and planning director Neil Mortensen unveiled new research from their two organisations that revealed how and why the UK is increasingly using Twitter while watching TV – and how marketers can become a welcome part of these conversations.

Explaining why this area was of particular interest, Daisley told attendees: “The increasing evidence we’re seeing is that there is a symbiotic effect. So when tweets go up, viewing [of the related TV show] goes up... and when the viewing of a show goes up we see evidence of tweets going up as well.” 

With Twitter and TV giving each other such a boost, it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that the two are far more powerful when working in tandem than they are alone. “When an advertiser gets the first and second screen locked together, it has an incredibly high impact,” Daisley confirmed, with Mortensen later revealing that the TV and Twitter combination was found to be "five times" more effective at driving positive responses than either channel is on its own.

For those that perhaps need a little more convincing before they run off to embark upon their next TV and Twitter super-campaign, Mortensen cited Sainsbury’s marketing activity as case in point. On their own, Twitter efforts resulted in a less-than-inspiring 4% boost in positive reactions to the well-known supermarket. Similarly, TV only managed to generate a measly 4% incline. However, as a twosome, TV and Twitter notched up a far greater 21% rise – that’s 21% more people willing to do their next shop at Sainsbury’s than before. Happy days for that advertising department, then.

The Freudian factor

There is a little snag for advertisers though, in that this relationship between the first and second screen isn’t a very straightforward one to understand and therefore effectively harness. Why? Because it’s so organic. “This interaction between TV and Twitter is not something that we’ve orchestrated,” Mortensen reminded us. “It’s something that the audience are doing themselves. It’s driven by people, so it’s very natural.” And people, in their personal environments, are largely driven by their subconscious. Which takes us into tricky territory.

Hence the need for research agency BrainJuicer to get involved. It was tasked with conducting in-depth ethnographic and quantitative research to get a complete view of what exactly was going on between TV and Twitter. A number of information-gathering strategies were used, including putting a camera in the living rooms of participants in order to see, first-hand, how they interact between the first and second screens in their normal environment.

The findings indicated two different ways of engaging with Twitter in connection with TV – the ‘lean forward’ and ‘lean back’ approaches. Those who ‘lean back’ while interacting want stimulation without having to commit. In causal browsing mode, they will switch between the first and the second screen at will. Advertisers should not make the mistake of thinking that this nonchalant attitude creates disengagement though – having both screens working together keeps people in the living room in front of ads and makes them less likely to wander off. This type of audience are still taking in messages implicitly, and often find themselves unconsciously responding to brands' triggers.

Those who interact while ‘leaning forward’, meanwhile, are actively looking to extend the TV experience. They seek to become part of the show and become empowered by having their voice heard. This kind of interaction is very emotive, and it’s this emotion that heightens engagement.

Getting involved            

When thinking of ways brands can capitalise on this existing activity, Thinkbox and Twitter have come up with three levels of involvement; three ways to get closer to the online conversation.

1. Integration – Aligning your brand and campaigns seamlessly across Twitter and TV with fully integrated content and targeting. Hashtags are particularly important in this approach; three-quarters of users look up a tweet when they see it advertised. As a result, TV ads which feature hashtags drive 42% more conversation than those which don’t.  

2. Anticipation – Thinking strategically about content and interacting with it in an authentic way at the right moments. It’s worth noting here that different types of TV shows have different social rhythms which determine the points at which people tweet, meaning brands must choose their moment carefully. So, advertisers need to understand how broadcasted content works in order to anticipate activity and capitalise on prime moments. You still have to be prepared for the unexpected though, just like savvy Specsavers when the ref at last month's Chelsea-Arsenal match mistakenly showed the wrong player a red card. He might have been left a bit red in the face, but at least he provided some prime marketing material for the eyewear retailer. Every cloud...

3. Association – If your brand isn’t on TV, or if a campaign has come to an end, you can still engage your audience on Twitter by capitalising on trending TV moments. Find where the conversation is happening and get amongst it.

It’s important to note that the findings show that, on the whole, entertaining tweets – which are either interesting or funny, or best of all, both – are the most effective. Also, brands need to remember that a two-way conversation is critical for true engagement. Retweets and responses are a great way to achieve this dialogue, as they were found to be very desirable to Twitter users. Receiving a retweet “evokes a strong positive emotional reaction” according to Thinkbox, which, for advertisers, is right on the money. Literally.  

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