Social TV: Can Daytime Soaps Better Use Social Media to Stay Alive?
Everywhere you look these days there's an article about the phenomenon of "Social TV". Fans logging into Facebook, Twitter, Get Glue and other social networking platforms to dish about their favorite series with online pals has become highly important to a television program's success. It has also played a factor in affording several on the bubble series reprieves. Could the Social TV craze have played a factor in General Hospital's recent pardon by ABC?
According to TV Guide, GH being picked to stay on the ABC airwaves, as the Mouse House decided to gut The Revolution, helped the 49-year-old sudser top the site's Social Power Ranking. Almost a week after the news was broken by Deadline, GH is still the No. 1 television series on TV Guide's list. Speaking of Deadline, their piece on The Revolution being cancelled, a Good Morning America spin off temporarily taking its place this summer and General Hospital reportedly living to see its 50th anniversary on April 1, 2013, remains the site's most commented on post.
None of this comes as a surprise to diehard soap fans, who witnessed #GeneralHospital and various characters from the series trending on Twitter in the weeks and months leading up to the announcement. We already knew GH was one of the most buzzed about shows on the web, but the question is, what can General Hospital and other soap operas do to turn their Social TV currency into actual ratings?
According to a report in Ad Age, it isn't always easy to turn tweets and "likes" into ratings gold. For every Super Bowl XLV, which netted 4,000 tweet per second during the game's final moments—and was also the most watched TV event in history—there's a Glee or Gossip Girl, which, although they consistently rank at the top of Social TV tracking sites like Mashable and Trendrr.TV, tend not to make nearly as significant showings in the Nielsens. Recently Glee reached No. 2 on Trendrr, yet for the same week in question, it was No.77 in the Nielsens.
Of course this could easily lead to the old debate of how reliable the Nielsen ratings system really is, but as of this point in time, it's those numbers that ultimately decide if a show stays on the air — not Facebook impressions or recommendations on Klout.
One positive trend analysts have noted, is that Social TV is encouraging diehard fans of a show to forego the DVR in order to watch live again.
From Ad Age:
In fact, after years of declines in live tune-in, Twitter, Facebook and some mobile startups appear to be luring audiences back to appointment TV. While DVRs unglued us from TV schedules, the desire to tap into the tweets, posts and check-ins in real time may just bring us back.
"If you look at the tweets about a TV show, a huge proportion come from when the show is airing live, not an hour later," said Robin Sloan, who works with Twitter's media-partnership team. During awards shows such as the Oscars and Grammys, Twitter has seen viewers complain that those events aren't aired live on both coasts. To appease U.S. fans forced to swear off the internet for a month to save from British tweeters' "Doctor Who" spoilers, the BBC decided to air the show on both continents on the same day.
This particular trend could prove most beneficial for the four daytime soap operas currently in production—GH, Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful—as they are ranked on the Nielsens by Live Plus Same Day viewing, meaning if a soap opera watcher doesn't view a DVR'd episode within a 24-hour timespan, it doesn't count towards the soap's ratings. If any medium should be utilizing social media to encourage live viewing, it's daytime soap operas!
So what are the daytime suds doing to encourage fans to watch live? General Hospital's executive producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati both joined Twitter earlier this year. Most of the soap's popular cast members are also on the site. There's an official General Hospital Twitter handle with over 24,000 followers. On Facebook, the GH page has over 785,000 "likes".
Days of Our Lives has two Twitter accounts, one managed by NBC and the other by Corday Productions. NBC's DAYS account has over 45,000 followers, while the one managed by the production company has around 19,000. The official DAYS Facebook page has a little over 500,000 "likes".
Of the four soaps currently airing in daytime, Y&R's sister sudser The Bold and the Beautiful has made the least impact on social networking sites. B&B's Twitter profile is followed by just a little over 12,000 fans. The fashion sudser's Facebook page has 215,000 "likes".
By comparision, The CW's insanely buzzed about-yet-low rated, teen soap Gossip Girl has almost 1.6 million Twitter followers and over 3 million "likes" on Facebook. That means that essentially Gossip Girl's entire audience (an average of 1.64 million total viewers during the 2010-2011 TV season, according to Nielsen) follows the soaps every shocking plot twist on Twitter!
From the looks of things, the daytime suds could all benefit from much more aggressive Social TV campaigns. The fact that the median audience for daytime soaps skewers over 50 likely accounts for much of the disconnect between the millions of viewers who still watch daytime dramas and the soaps' comparably flimsy Social TV numbers. Shows like Gossip Girl are targeted at teenagers and young women, who use social networking sites at a much higher rate than older TV watchers.
According to a Pew Research Center study from 2011, of the 13 percent of adult Internet users who are on Twitter, 18 percent are aged 18-29. Fourteen percent are aged 30-49. Only eight percent were in the 50-64 age range and just six percent were over 65. The study went on to say blacks and Latinos were more likely to use Twitter.
Okay, that's enough information overload for one post. Here's a few things I think the daytime soaps could do to get their Social TV numbers up and by correlation encourage more live viewing: