TV Producers, Advertisers Need To Leverage The Web’s Largest Focus Group: Social Data

Columnist John Donnelly III explains how TV and advertising executives can use social media insights to inform business decisions such as ad buying and TV show plots.

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So it’s all done. A season’s worth of episodes are ready to go. Viewers are ready. Networks are abuzz with the possibilities for every time slot. For advertisers, this time of year is stressful.

Developing ad campaigns is about understanding where an audience is and what’s going to compel their interest. Commercial time remains a costly investment, and advertisers are under consistent pressure to nail their campaigns to ensure ROI

For years, TV producers and ad executives have relied on focus groups, collecting individuals fitting the description of a target audience and using their insight to make decisions. There’s opportunity for executives to essentially conduct a massive analysis of a show’s audience to inform ad investment in the form of social media insights.

TV viewers aren’t hesitant to share their thoughts on TV programming on Twitter, Facebook and other popular social channels. The insights TV producers and advertisers can glean from social discussion related to programming illustrate the audience type for different shows, the times they’re viewing and other significant details that can help avoid costly misses.

Analyzing pre- and post-show discussions about different programs can point to the best ad spaces for advertisers to target. Moreover, the discussions in which these users participate, aside from programming, reveal their other interests and provide even more insights into their target audiences.

[pullquote]There’s opportunity for executives to essentially conduct a massive analysis of a show’s audience to inform ad investment in the form of social media insights.[/pullquote]

Using Social Data To Understand Your Audience

TV advertisers make their spending decisions based on a number of factors. Knowing where a target audience spends its time is obviously a prime consideration.

TV producers and writers have similar approaches to developing new programming and storylines. Social media can reveal which audiences enjoy various kinds of programming and content.

Looking at the first day of season premieres for ABC’s Thursday night lineup, which features “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” some interesting demographical statistics emerged related to the shows’ audiences.

We found that 47 percent of posts related to “Grey’s Anatomy” before the premier came from people under the age of 18. Following the show, 45 percent of posts came from people aged 35 years and above.

Knowing this demographic split beforehand is the kind of thing that can greatly impact the nature and success of any TV advertising strategy. Moreover, TV producers can tailor a program’s evolution by considering the elements its viewers will most likely relate to and enjoy.

Similar trends emerged for the rest of ABC’s Thursday night programming. “Scandal,” which follows “Grey’s Anatomy,” didn’t have quite the same level of buildup as “Grey’s Anatomy.” However, as the show began, social traffic and posts spiked.

We found that more than 40 percent of the posts came from viewers between 18 and 24 and focused heavily on Olivia Pope, the main character played by Kerry Washington.

“How to Get Away with Murder,” which rounds out ABC’s Thursday night lineup, received significant social buzz ahead of the premier following Viola Davis’s impassioned acceptance speech at the Emmy Awards. Thirty-eight percent of posts ahead of the premier came from people 17 and under while 67 percent were from females.

The audience has always been at the heart of TV programming and advertising. However, advertisers today have so much more data to leverage than the basic demographic insights.

Showing Your Audience What It Wants To See

Taking social analysis a step further, TV producers can develop a better overall understanding of their target audience by analyzing overall social insights. Knowing, for example, that a certain subset of people is keen on a certain television show warrants deeper research into that audience’s interests.

Looking at the same block of TV programming, our social analysis found that “Grey’s Anatomy’s” viewership is 53 times more likely to be interested in Snapchat compared to the general Twitter population. Moreover, they’re 292 times more likely to be interested in celebrities compared to the general Twitter population.

Like producers trying to tailor story lines, there are clear conclusions TV advertisers can reach here related to the messaging likely to appeal to their audience.

The Snapchat data point also reveals an additional medium to market to the demographic. Moreover, it reveals interesting ways to tailor future content more likely to compel a program’s audience.

Advertising is no different from any other industry in that the ability to measure more has led to a massive influx of data that must be leveraged to ensure money is spent efficiently.

Social data and the insights gleaned from them are a natural fit for TV advertisers, since the data come directly from the people advertisers want to reach and provide a direct look into an audience’s thoughts on programming.

ABC’s Thursday night lineup features programming largely produced by Shonda Rhimes. Her success with “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” has resulted in programming that reaches vastly diverse audiences and has become wildly successful.

By understanding the social sentiment of these programs’ audiences, producers and advertisers alike can identify more ways to appeal to their audiences.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

John Donnelly III
As senior vice president of global sales and marketing at Crimson Hexagon, John Donnelly III is responsible for all go-to-market operations across marketing, sales and business development. Donnelly brings over 20 years of experience in the technology industry to Crimson, and has managed companies from start-up to over $700M in annual revenues.

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