Twitter and television may seem like prime examples of new media and old, but they’re not as far apart as they may seem.
Exhibit A: Twitter’s latest feature. This week, news broke that the social media company is testing out a new “TV trending” box at the top of users’ timelines — just the latest illustration of something called the “second screen” experience.
Rumblings about the second screen have increased in recent months, thanks to a host of new studies. A big one: About half of all smartphone and tablet owners — folks who call the latest Apple (AAPL) iPad, Samsung (SSNLF) Galaxy or maybe (I guess) the Microsoft (MSFT) Surface their own — use their devices while watching TV.
While the most commonly cited activity during television was “looking up information in general,” Twitter has been busy promoting this as a grand new opportunity for advertisers. See, Twitter can add value to television commercials in two ways — targeting and timing.
Let’s start with the first ad opportunity. Twitter detects when and where a brand’s commercials are running on TV. Twitter then identifies users who have tweeted about the show that was playing when the ad ran. It can target those users again with an ad for the same brand, on a different medium.
This quick, cute video sums it up.
That’s not all, though. While the timing aspect is less obvious, it’s just as important — and actually strengthens the appeal of the first.
See, streaming television services, whether Netflix (NFLX) or Amazon (AMZN) Prime, have started a shift away from the importance of prime-time viewing. As users can watch shows when and where they want, the ads shown during the latest episode of New Girl aren’t as important.
To an extent, Twitter could be reversing that shift too. The real-time conversation of Twitter — live-tweeting plot twists and getting immediate commentary — could give viewers a reason to watch a show when advertisers want them too. Plus, a recent Neilsen study showed that Twitter buzz about a show actually causes more users to tune in around one-third of the time.
All in all, an engaged Twitter audience can improve ratings and add another medium for targeted ads. It’s no wonder that numerous television publishers have already been jumping on the second-screen trend. The Voice on Comcast’s (CMCSA) NBC and Disney‘s (DIS) Nashville on ABC — just two of many examples — both use hashtags to promote their shows and engage with viewers.