The TV networks officially announced their new programming slates for 2012-2013 at Upfronts in New York City this week. By the time they rolled their first look footage for advertisers and critics, the new series already had dedicated Twitter accounts set up, ready to interact with the shows' first fans.
Social media has become such a huge part of the TV landscape that any network not securing a simple, memorable handle for their new shows is way behind. (Also, any network that lets a show title like "How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)" get approved is obviously not in the business of listening to their social media team. Good luck with that one, ABC!)
On an Upfronts call with journalists, ABC entertainment president Paul Lee stressed how important Twitter has become to the business of television, especially with the TV landscape growing. "There is no show now that doesn't have a massive social media component, even before we launch it," he said. "We get a sort of dashboard of a sense of excitement on the web before we even get to launch. It's not just vital to the shows that are up and running -- it's vital to the launch."
But the Twitter feeds aren't just to promote new shows, new episodes and teasers -- Lee went on to say what the networks get back from it: "We literally get feedback before, during and after launch. It is a critical tool for us to understand how our audience is responding to our shows."
While metrics on the most popular shows on Twitter aren't measured with an exact science just yet, it's only a matter of time. The fact that every network now has a social media division says that TV executives realize the power of fan reactions, live conversations and making shows tweet-worthy.
There's been a noticeable push to get stars interacting with their fans on Twitter, and Twitter even has celebrity outreach teams and "help" pages to get those TV stars and personalities started and in on the conversation in a smart way.
Their detailed analysis includes charts of Twitter activity around certain shows, before, during and after air:
Tweeting around TV follows a fairly predictable pattern: first, anticipatory Tweets appear 15-30 minutes before the show airs on the East Coast; then, the Tweets surge during the episode (with sharp spikes in response to surprises and reveals); finally, there's another 15-30 minutes of post-show buzz and reaction.
Last year, The Hollywood Reporter wrote a piece about "The Voice" (or #TheVoice, as it were) and how it promoted the coaches' Twitter feeds and the show's hashtag, especially during big, buzz-worthy moments of each episode, to keep engagement (and ratings) up.
Twitter agrees that this is the best way to maximize your show's exposure, saying:
Across networks and genres, when TV shows bring hashtags, accounts, or other Twitter elements into the broadcast itself, we see a direct and immediate increase in engagement on Twitter -- anywhere from two to 10 times more tweets created while the shows air.
Sites like Trendrr TV and SocialGuide are designed to help users measure their impact and engagement with fans, but Twitter has a few helpful hints and guidelines for entertainment personalities who want to increase their Twitter presence. Their list includes: tweet in your own voice; use hashtags and @ mention other people you reference; live-tweet events; share special content, photos and videos; ask questions and reply to your followers; and give an insider perspective. After all, that's why your fans are following you.
While each network has certain shows with more engaged audiences on Twitter, the social media teams all agreed that it doesn't mean those shows are necessarily more "social-friendly" than others -- it's all about execution. To paraphrase one exec: Social viability is less about the type of show and more about how seamlessly it's integrated into the show. There have been some really creative executions on both scripted and reality shows, not to mention news and talk shows. The big wins come when the social integrations feel authentic and organic to the core of the show.
So who comes out on top? And what are the most tweeted about shows at each network? "The Voice," "Dancing With the Stars," "Revenge," "Glee," "American Idol," "Big Brother" and "The Vampire Diaries" seem to be winning the TV on Twitter game.
Click to Page 2 for a look at where they all stand, with perspective from the networks' social gurus as well.
Follow Maggie Furlong on Twitter: www.twitter.com/maggiefurlong