Social TV Research: Embracing a full story Through Advertising Lessons

written by: Zachary Weiner

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coolI’ve made the claim several times that when we research the effects of social media on television there are some lessons to be learned from the Ad world that are not always strictly related to advertising. These lessons provide key insights that should be studied by broadcasters, Apps, research firms and the ecosystem at large.

 The reason I make this statement is that all too often we try and evaluate social TV and its nuances from a very direct cause and effect stance. While not wrong, this doesn’t truly delve into the nature and effects of social media. Social media just like socialization in general is often; cumulative in its effects, long standing in its efforts, and subtle in its manifestations amongst its users.Cues that we pick up via social media do not always manifest in ways that can be measured directly. This is especially true when we compartmentalize how this vehicle specifically effects television viewing, retention, recall and attraction.

I’d like to delve into a recent piece of research conducted by the Center of Research Excellence, where we can notice these gaps in a story as strictly an example.The research itself was exceptional, and I am not making any claims contrary to this. It was also quite comprehensive in its means, well executed and yielded some exceptional data. But the story wasn’t complete and just like our favorite prime-time shows, catching only glimpses of the program won’t provide us with the conclusions we are looking for.

The below two research claims  in the study are vastly interesting and vastly incomplete.

1) Only 1.5 percent of viewers claim to be drawn to existing TV shows based on social media and 6% for new programming.

2) Infrequent viewers are mostly influenced by off-line, world-of-mouth communication, which can be much more effective than social media in reaching potential viewers

They are based partially on the below research methodology:

“This new research is based on a sample of more than 1700 consumers ages 18-54 who kept track of all their exposures to prime time television and the late local news for a one week period via the use of a diary that could be accessed via a mobile app. Any respondents who were not smartphone enabled were provided one so that they could participate. - This was also followed by an additional 7 days of ethnographic research. The research was conducted by the Center of Research excellence.  (Referenced here)

The above illustrates an area where we need to apply some advertising lessons, specifically the effects and logic of branding. There are multitudes of psychological studies out there that make claim to the fact that we don't always recognize our influencers or understand the more subtle nuances of what drives us, especially over time. While the infrequent viewers seemed to be more influenced by in-person word of mouth or one-to-one communication, one has to further ask about:

A.) The branding effect and it’s relation to time

There are a multitude of psychological studies that make the claim that we don't always recognize our influencers or understand the more subtle nuances of what drives us, especially over time. While the infrequent viewers seemed to be more influenced by in-person word of mouth or one-to-one communication, one has to consider…. 

How do we analyze the subtle effects of a post, a tweet etc in passing over a greater time span and with respect to more subtle psychology? Can we truly understand the effects that social media has on television watching given a restricted time frame and a restricted knowledge of the psychological complexities found in socialization whether it’s digitally or in person?

Greater understanding and insight into the world of branding could be applied here. Traditional advertising has waged that there is a rule of three (exposures to an Ad for actionable potential) to be considered, at the very least on a conceptual basis.

Lets say that an infrequent viewer saw a tweet about a new program from someone in his or her social circle from several weeks or even months before.That tweet may not have any direct effect or any causative effects that can be shown. To the participant it may seem like a non-event or not even be acknowledged and for the researcher might not even register on the radar of study. But down the road it may have created the first point of recognition or even recall. The subtle reminder that creates more attention/action when the item is brought up again on a one-to-one basis or via the vehicles of other manners of discovery. Usually consumers don't attribute potential subtle recognition effects to their direct actions and research efforts have a difficult time studying it, but this does not mean that it doesn’t exist and does not mean the effects are not of a grand scale.  

Lets take another simplistic example. User A finds himself craving Doritos when his friend is discussing Lebron’s play last night. In the users mind he is simply craving Doritos at that moment. In the advertisers mind, this was a result of a neural connection made months before when the Dortitos ad aired during a basketball game. The advertiser believes this is due to the branding effect.The belief being that the advertisement created both a point of reference as well as an ability to recall the brand a long time after it’s display, sometimes even years later. Can anyone else remember the Snuggle bear or Mr. Kool-Aid? I sure can. Social media displays and their effect on long term cognition can have the exact same effect. What we see on social media in relation to television may not manifest for weeks or even months and may not be recognizable to the user, but the effects are there nonetheless.

B.) Indirect Effects and Social Media Pervasiveness

Item two stated that infrequent watchers were driven more by direct communications than social media. We must ask however, what drove those one-to-one social conversations that were received by the infrequent user? I.E. Are the frequent users more prompted to have one-to-one conversations with the infrequent ones based on  their primary social media usage? Is there a reminder effect, or a greater draw to chatting in the real world, due to conversations had on Social media? This would indirectly influence the infequent user. If social media aids in personal conversation between a frequent and a non, could we not state that social media has a far greater reach even to those who are not directly influenced? Food for thought. Implications for thought. 



The conclusion to come to here is that our research into social media can not be complete without a much deeper dive into a various groups of psychological, sociological and advertising principals. The lessons that we learn from research without due respect to these areas can be made in strong error.  In the next post of the series I will delve into some more social psychology and how it affects the nature of Social TV.

Lastly, excuse my absence from my writings for a few months. My firm CTV Advertising, is in the process of launching our newest division “Emerging Insider Communications”, which is the first communications and marketing firm to deal strictly with the emerging TV ecosystem! Stay tuned.

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