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Social Media Symbols on TV: 6 Ways Brands Can Move from Recognition to Engagement

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You know those social symbols found across nearly every TV spot and program these days? As it turns out, people actually notice them. A recent Accenture study of US TV viewers found that nearly two-thirds of consumers have recalled a social media graphic while watching television, and one in three viewers have made the next step of interacting with social media after seeing a symbol.


A TV spot for “The Chronicle” prompts viewers to interact via YouTube and Twitter.

These findings are promising for brands actively marketing their social channels through on-air advertising, and even better news for TV networks and programmers — but the question remains: How can marketers move viewers from recognition to engagement?

First, let’s take a look at some of the key findings from the study:

  • The greatest motivator for viewers to visit a social presence while watching TV is to obtain more information about a show or product. Scoring coupons and promotions/contests were also strong motivators, indicating that while consumers are “connecting” to brands via social channels, engagement and social interaction are not often what they are instinctively seeking.
  • Demographics also factor into the propensity of a viewer to interact with social media while watching TV. More than 60 percent of respondents 18-24 said they have interacted with a social platform or app while watching; less than half of respondents 24-44 reported this behavior. This trend continues through the older demographics.
  • Conversations around programming and sharing content were the least interesting action to consumers while watching TV. As digital natives, Millennials are comfortable connecting to brands via social, but they are still interested in receiving the same value as those twice their age. As viewers grow more accustomed to social’s on-air integration, it’s important to keep in mind that many times they are looking for added, differentiated or exclusive content that’s not a carbon copy of what they see on the screen.
  • One of the most important findings from the study was that most people avoid interacting with brands via social during TV viewing because they are not aware of what they will get in return. Viewers want to know that liking you on Facebook, tweeting with a specific hashtag or voting via QR code will actually provide value to them.

Given this information, what can brands do better? If we learned anything during the Super Bowl, it’s that we should not expect consumers to engage just a social media symbol or CTA has been incorporated into an advertisement or program. Across a dozen commercials, there were Shazam and Twitter logos, as well as QR codes, but few spots prompted viewers to take the next step.

Here are six ways brands and networks can better reach and engage their audiences during the TV viewing experience:

  1. Tell the consumers what you want them to do. Even savvy social media users can be confused by a lack of direction. While it may be obvious that you want viewers to ‘Shazam’ your commercial or TV show, what’s missing is the “why?” Tell viewers what they can expect to encounter next. TV programs have an advantage here since their conversations with consumers can last anywhere from a half hour to three hours and across multiple platforms on a given day.
  2. Supply viewers with information about your show. Information about your programming is one of the biggest draws to social channels, so providing viewers with options to learn more about your brand and/or content during an episode is necessary. How to draw them in with this content is what will make your brand stand out. What fans want more and more with TV programming is a special connection and experience. With social platforms, fans can have direct connections with programming, so the more information, like behind the scenes photos, how a specific shot was made and what these actors are like behind the camera, will draw them in.
  3. With increased familiarity around the core social media symbols, marketers should avoid tweaking them to match their own branding. Once fans can take action, those platforms and sites should be highly branded to match your program and initiative. The clearer your directions, the better the odds of conversion.
  4. Provide viewers with exclusive experiences. Live events such as the Oscars, the Grammys and MTV Music Awards are often buzzworthy on their own, driving organic chatter by virtue of their timeliness. For weekly or nightly programs however, marketers should not expect an on-screen hashtag to lead to a 20 percent rise in social activity. Give viewers something of value that will entice them to stick around and engage with your content. 360i client USA Network recently partnered with Shazam to unlock content during episodes of Covert Affairs and found that offering photos and episode commentary worked just as well as did sweeps language inviting them to a “unlock a trip to the set.”
  5. Heighten sweeps and promotions with actions. Scoring coupons and promotions lead to some of the highest conversation rates for social media symbols. Once you secure a new audience via a contest or promotion, be sure to engage them and drive conversations beyond the initial pull. Making fans “work” to enter promotions is neither easy nor advisable, so consider other ways to encourage engagement with your content. For example, unlocking an exclusive video can tap into both of the top reasons fans interact with social channels – giveaways and information – as well as sharable content.
  6. Increase the reason why the audience will become social. Once viewers have joined your communities on Facebook and Twitter, or unlocked content through Shazam, the next phase is to extend the reach. As social marketers, each action consumers take (i.e. their engagement) has the ability to increase your reach with the ultimate goal of creating a larger digital footprint and sparking more conversations around your brand. This is achieved by converting “Likes” or Followers to engaged advocates.

The Accenture study underscores the fact that as consumers become familiar with certain products and symbols, they will still need an impetus to taking the next step and engaging with your brand in digital communities. By offering value upfront and clearly communicating how viewers will benefit from interacting, you can reassure viewers that connecting with you via social media will provide them with new opportunities to experience their favorite brands and shows.