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I have been following the use of social media, Twitter in particular, by television viewers and programmes in South Africa with a keen eye. Considering that there are now approximately 3.4-million South Africans active on Facebook and Twitter it is no surprise that ‘social television’ is growing.
When broadband first became widely available, the techie crowd unanimously threw down their TV remotes, vowing never to sit through another advert or wait a whole week for the next installment of their favourite series. The trend didn’t really catch on though, as the rest of us decided that TV and social media were made for each other.
A merry mix of real-time conversation, gossip and opinions, social media makes TV more entertaining…and informative.
The State of the Nation Address
The most topical example of this was the State of the Nation Address. It was broadcast on television and radio. There were 4 500 mentions of the key terms “state of the nation”, “Jacob Zuma”, #SONA2012 and #SONA online by yesterday afternoon.
Although the annual speech by President Jacob Zuma is big news, the social media mentions were also driven on radio and Twitter by Gareth Cliff. The popular morning drive DJ has a penchant for sparking interest in political affairs and a happy social media accident occurred in 2011 when the State of The Nation Address collided with Phuza Thursday and a political drinking game was born on Twitter.
So successful was the idea, that it was repeated yesterday with a strip-poker twist as the State of The Nation Undress (see #SOTNundress). The game required people to watch and remove one item of clothing every time the president laughed, said “absolutely” or “poverty”, or raised his glasses with his middle finger.
BrandsEye, the fastest growing Online Reputation Management software provider in Africa, published statistics and graphs on mentions of the address on www.brandseye.com/SONA. A few interesting facts include:
- There were 35 000 conversations online from midnight on the 9th to the end of the address
- 27 000 of these happened during the broadcast
- 95% of these occurred on Twitter
- This is approximately equivalent to the number of conversations that occurred during rugby games at the time of the World Cup
- This year, the address received around 7 times more attention online than in 2011
Tim Shier, Managing Director of BrandsEye revealed that the top themes discussed on Twitter were:
- employment (representing 1% of the conversation)
However, these themes were not discussed in detail.
“People didn’t examine the issues as much as just mentioning them, it was as if they were mirroring and responding to what they were exposed to on traditional media more than really engaging the topics. This may be because the public lacks political knowledge and is not used to discussing politics online. There is a definite appetite for it though.”
“Something I have been noticing is that traditional media seems to set the ‘agenda’ for online conversations. It leads and social communities follow”, says Shier.
South African TV and Social Media
Other examples of the interface between television and Twitter in particular include the viewers of soapies such as Isidingo and Generations; local lifestyle and entertainment shows such as Hello Doctor, Top Billing, Flash, 3Talk and major productions such as the South African Music Awards and the Miss South Africa pageant. Since social media has become an extension of peoples’ everyday activities, which include TV, conversations online have become an appendage to the viewing experience.
As an example, Isidingo is hashed out blow by blow on Twitter. Fans’ reactions and opinions on characters, the set, wardrobe and every other detail roll down Twitter streams every weekday between 19:30 and 20:00. In that timeslot last night, 359 tweets were tagged with #Isidingo — almost 12 tweets per minute. @IsidingoSABC3, the official Twitter account of the show has grown its numbers organically by tweeting throughout the programming and responding to @mentions, which are mostly questions about the show, in English and Zulu. However, the producers are doing the bare minimum to harness those potential relationships.
Miss South Africa is another example. Sarann Buckby, co-director at Phatic Communications was glued to the Twitter stream instead of the screen, “I stumbled on the Miss SA as a global trending topic on Twitter while watching the show. I soon found myself reading the tweets more than actually watching the show on TV. They were funny, shocking and fascinating”.
Some shows, and live programming in particular, use Twitter to source viewer commentary like questions for the host and guest in real-time. Others use it to run small competitions and capture viewer reviews. Producers and stations are dipping their toes into the social media ocean but considering the growth that is taking place in its usage during programming, it’s time to strap on a cozzie and go swimming – no arm bands.
Predictions for 2012
Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking but we may see a lot more initiative coming from our favourite shows in 2012. I predict that they may start to develop more crowd-sourcing campaigns, especially from those influencers who are already engaged; they may begin to use TV show check-in’s on Facebook; create app’s to ‘own’ mobile screen time and thus compete with social networks; use social media to run campaigns between show times and they may even employ people or agencies whose sole purpose will be to bridge the show with its social media commentators in a truly engaging way.