Everyone seems to be focused on social TV these days, but will a killer hashtag or Facebook meme bring new viewers to a series? Maybe not. A new study finds that while social media has an impact on regular viewers of a TV show, it has little impact on attracting new or infrequent viewers to a program, according to a study by the Council for Research Excellence. Infrequent viewers are mostly influenced by off-line, world-of-mouth, which can be much more effective than social media in reaching potential viewers, the “Talking Social TV” study said. The Council, a body of senior research professionals formed in 2005 to identify important audience measurement questions, expects to release a second study on the relationship of social media on mobile devices and TV viewing later this year.
When it comes to drawing repeat viewers of a program, “social media is one of the most effective ways to encourage ongoing engagement with a show,” the study said. For infrequent viewers, social media and show promos were found to be less related to high viewing than word-of-mouth in the real world. More than five social media exposures are needed to obtain the same one-percentage-point lift as one off-line word-of-mouth exposure for these infrequent viewers, according to the study. This suggests social media plays a role in encouraging sampling, but the role is a smaller one.
Meanwhile, demographics play a more important role than program genre in explaining the role of social media in TV viewing. Social media has a bigger influence for repeaters who are over 55 and white, and for infrequent viewers who are Hispanic, African American and male. Specifically, about 8.1% of Hispanics engage in TV-related social media activities while watching TV, compared to about 4.9% of white viewers and 4% African Americans. That’s perhaps due to high penetration of mobile devices and high use of mobile broadband among Hispanics. The most active users of TV-related social media tend to be younger, female viewers, the study found. Social media plays a stronger role for genres such as reality, sports and talk shows, and its use during viewing is the weakest for children and family programming, followed by comedy and drama programs. Social media interactions while not watching are the weakest for reality, documentary and children/family programming.
“While our ‘Talking Social TV’ study found social media incrementally influential in drawing viewers to new shows as opposed to existing shows,” said Beth Rockwood, senior vice president, market resources for Discovery Communications and chair of the CRE’s Social Media Committee, “these latest findings suggest social media may have a stronger role in building relationships with a show for existing viewers than in drawing newer viewers to that show. If programmers already have a regular viewer watching their show, they can engage them further.”