Social networks as focus groups- The future of live TV

A couple of months back I wrote about how social networking was making inroads  connecting people while they watched TV.

Liveprogramming, such as awards shows, were benefitting disproportionately from this type of community building with some estimates showing the Golden Globes, Grammys and Oscars with 14%, 35% and 14% bumps in viewership, respectively. Can it ALL be attributed to social media chatter and participation? I doubt it. But these events consciously make social media a part of their promotional campaigns by leveraging the conversations that are already taking place on twitter and facebook. (Here is what the Grammys did in 2010.)


During the interminable World Cup and the almost-as-boring NBA Finals, twitter said that there were over 3000 tweets per second referencing these events. Normal twitter traffic is about 750 tweets per second, evidently.

So what? Well, here’s what: TV is losing viewers, but is in no danger of disappearing. Partially because instead of fighting against social networking as a threat to their hegemony, they have decided to co-opt it to their benefit. (“They” being the faceless, nameless “them” that decides what goes on the air.) With laptops and iPads and smart phones at full throttle as people sit on the couch watching whatever, the Mystery Science Theater 3000-ization of TV is complete. Every tag for every promo on every sports channel and reality show implore us to follow them on twitter and friend them on facebook. The real time feedback from viewers coupled with the demographic information we all gladly provide as payment for joining these networks is a data gold mine for programmers, advertisers, producers and folks wanting to target a specific sector of the populace.

We’re making it easier for them to make TV that better resonates with us that we can chatter about in an endless, self-referential loop. The focus group has reached its zenith.

New social networking communities

Social media is obviously a huge part of my life. I write about, it’s a big part of my day to day life, I talk about it ad nauseam and my consulting business is devoted to it. Nevertheless, I am fully aware that its uptake is not nearly as ubiquitous as some of us addicts might like to think. There are huge segments of the population, (dare I say the majority?) who wouldn’t know foursquare from Times Square, facebook from Redbook.

I make this blog post on my last day of a 6-day trip to Doha, Qatar. (Sorry, no picture to post. I know-lame!) I was curious to know what the social media scene was like here, especially since I am trying to evaluate how best to use SM on behalf of a new “green” client here in Gulf. Lo and behold, there was an Arab bloggers meeting here in Doha just yesterday called Mudawanat: All ABout Blogging. (Here’s one review of the event. Jeremiah Owyang spoke to the conference and writes about it here.) Unfortunately, I found out about it too late (shame on me), and would have been unable to attend in any event since I was a little busy finishing up some work. But it was encouraging to see that social media uptake is continuing to grow steadily everywhere you turn.

I know that my personal and professional lives have been immeasurably enriched because of social media/social networking and I am glad to have found a new community, if I make it back to Qatar someday soon.

Have you seen yourself online through someone else’s eyes?

As regular readers of this blog know, I devote a lot of time to talking about how social networks are shaping our kids and that we, as parents, need to keep ourselves apprised of what’s going on out there in facebook-twitter-flickrland. The assumption tends to be that we need to keep an eye on our kids because they might do (or post) something dumb that might haunt them forever.

Even President Obama, in his back-to-school speech, explicitly warned kids about posting the wrong kind of stuff on facebook.Young people, the thinking goes, don’t have the benefit of life experience nor do they show sufficient discretion in terms of the things they choose to share online.

Perhaps. But I would argue that the real enemy of discretion is complacency. After you’ve spent a little time and you get comfortable on social networks, there is sometimes a tendency to let your guard down. As the economy continues its jobless recovery, did you know that 45% of HR professionals used social networks to research candidates occasionally? (Google, facebook and LinkedIn being the top three resources they checked, surprising no one.)

So if you were sitting in a job interview right now and the HR person asked, “Hey, mind if we pull up your facebook page real quick?” What would you say?

Now, because I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy, I should mention that the converse is also true: HR pros admitted to hiring because of what they saw on a candidate’s profile, citing “a positive look into the individual’s personality” or because the profile was professional, creative or “showed off the candidate’s skills.”

If you’re looking for a job, make sure you’re in that second group. It’s not just kids who post dumb stuff.