Do hashtags on TV bridge the gap to online conversation?

Posted on 28. Mar, 2012 by in Digital Marketing

Social TV

It is safe to say we have all seen a rise in ‘social TV’ over the past 6 months. Whether it is Facebook or Twitter pages being promoted alongside ads during television breaks, or Twitter handles being shown during programmes, we have all been subject to this new type of digital media in some format.

Most interestingly, hashtags have been a fragment of mainstream television viewing for some time now in the US. Television shows like the Apprentice, American Idol and popular chats shows have been quick to adopt this practice in an attempt to get their programme trending.

UK broadcasters are now also directing the conversation about their programmes, events, or shows, to one predefined place though Twitter, and they use tools like Trendrr to measure how TV activity impacts online mentions. So the question is this – what value does trending topics online have when engaging audiences?

My inspiration for this blog post came when watching Britain’s Got Talent (BGT) this past Saturday night. I couldn’t help noticing the common theme throughout. BGT had created predetermined hashtags ready for each act, and wanted to allow the viewers to continue their chat and debate about each act online. This isn’t a new trick from broadcasters by any means, but I believe it was the first adoption for BGT and it certainly won’t be the last if you are judging it on the results.

The night featured one particular quirky German man called Dennis Egel. To the delight of the judges, the German man sang Evanescence’s Wake Me Up Inside with extendable (malfunctioning) wings to his back. At the very moment his costume was revealed the hashtag #Nowwithwings appeared on our screens. Not only were we all talking about it at home with our friends/family, we also had an opportunity to chat and comment directly in one place with everyone else who was interested in Dennis’s wings.

#Nowwithwings Dennis Egel

#Nowwithwings hastag used on Britain's Got Talent

Not only did this spark national interest and hilarity channelled through online social platforms, the hashtag #Nowwithwings was trending worldwide for a period of time.

Another recent example of the power and influence of effective hashtags was Channel 4′s Dispatches programme – The Great Ticket Scandal. #Ticketscandal reached up to 12,000 tweets in 24 hours, and also featured across three of the top trending topics during the course of the night. Dispatches now boast over 9000 followers to their Twitter page.

ITV, Sky and Channel 4 are currently the UK’s top broadcasters within social TV. Popular programmes like Celebrity Juice, Got to Dance and Million Pound Drop are all well versed with generating buzz online and engaging their audience through the use of branded hashtags. This approach has seen the likes of Celebrity Juice amass over 647,674 followers at the time of writing this post.

Channel 4 are certainly taking it seriously. Last month the UK broadcaster showed their intent to become the pioneers of social TV by launching a new TV channel based on ‘social media buzz’ called 4seven.

According to David Abraham, Channel 4′s chief executive, 4seven aims to “schedule the main channel content that is creating noise – amongst social media, bloggers, and commentators and incorporate this buzz into the look and feel of the channel.”

In my opinion, this is the right step for broadcasters as according to a recent study from Click Consult, Social Media has is now ‘more popular than TV’ as the favourite pastime  of 16-24 year olds.

ZeeBox logo

We have already seen the rapid growth of Social TV app ZeeBox, so what’s stopping 4seven have the same positive uplift. However, will this ambitious leap in digital media have the desired effect for its viewers? More importantly, how will the users react to a new dynamic version of catch-up, rather than 4oD? Time will only tell as the channel is said to launch this June.

With promoted tweets costing roughly $120,000 per day, according to venturebeat, is there value in letting (and risking) your audience do the leg work for you?

What are your thoughts? Is this the right direction for digital media or just a passing trend?

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