Social TV, or engaging with television content on social platforms, starts with the community, according to Cox exec dir, mktg-social media Adam Naide at a panel at the CTAM Summit. But it’s crucial to promote the content—like exclusive extras for social followers or free gifts for fans—in a way that generates conversation. In other words, it’s not the place for “shameless plugs and promotions,” he said.
 
Cox uses the @CoxTV twitter handle to host conversations about popular shows like “Homeland,” “The Walking Dead” and “Dallas.” “As an operator, we really trying to promote this cross-channel content,” he said, via platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. For instance, when “Dallas” relaunched on TNT after a 20-year hiatus, Cox partnered with the net to create a Facebook game that allowed people to cast their friends as characters. The show generated 3mln Facebook fans from the initiative, and a whopping 7mln people tuned in for the first episode. But commerce factors into Cox’s strategy, too. “It’s about driving demand for VOD, pay-per-view and ultimately the value of video product,” he said.
 
Something he’s learned about social media around live events, like PPV boxing matches, is that the “conversation is in real time.” To capitalize on that, Cox offered access to exclusive content via social feeds and free gifts (such as a pair of boxing gloves), but it also promoted the buy—with measurable success. They saw a 10-20% increase in lift within markets that ran the promotion compared to those that didn’t. A recent development for Cox is hosting “Cox Watch Parties” around scripted TV content, the first of which occurred Sun night during AMC’s “The Walking Dead” premiere. The MSO hosted a conversation and gave away prizes provided by AMC. It has also purchased Twitter media, according to Naide.
 
Sean Besser, evp, business development, partnership and strategy, GetGlue, cited a study suggesting that 9 out of 10 shows on cable will generate more social activity on GetGlue than Twitter. Besser’s point (beyond plugging his own product) was that the industry as a whole should think about new venues beyond what currently exists. He warned against merely having “Twitter and Facebook checkboxes” and said it’s important “to think about where the viewers are. It’s all about curating an experience that’s meaningful to people.” Meghann Sills Elrhoul, Trendrr vp, client services & analytics, said the social TV audience has exploded, citing a 275% CAGR in 2012 alone.
 
As for Zeebox’s 2nd screen TV companion app, just launched in the U.S., Naide said it is likely to be hot for the moment, but “you only get the most value when your friends are on it too.” Besser called it “so tech heavy” and potentially too difficult for average users. Trendrr’s Sills Elrhoul said, “there’s no distinct technology that sets it apart… They’re trying to do too much.” More important is concentrating “on one distinct driver, to be more focused and so more distinct in the marketplace.”
 
So does social actually drive ratings? Though we’ve heard plenty of marketers claim the contrary, Cox’s Naide said no. “It doesn’t drive tune in, it drives conversation,” he said. But generating buzz and building a relationship with your consumers through discerning their TV viewing habits is significant. “An engaged customer is basically table stakes for building that relationship,” he said, and that personalization creates opportunities for upgrading.

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