Last week, CW's "The Vampire Diaries" for the first time landed the top spot when it came to social media, according to Trendrr.
The serialized drama ranked as TV's #1 social program during the week of January 21-27, accruing over 850,000 social interactions across Twitter, Facebook, GetGlue and Viggle. ("Vampire Diaries" even topped broadcast heavyweight "American Idol" for the week.) Cast members including Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder and exec producer Julie Plec live-tweeted during the Thursday, January 24 episode, encouraging the online engagement.
Social media, at this point in the TV game, still exists as the Wild Wild West, with nets constantly experimenting with online initiatives to capture aud engagement -- some work, some don't. CBS recently let viewers vote for the ending of an episode of "Hawaii Five-0" via Twitter and CBS.com to encourage live-viewing. Programs like "The Voice" and news nets' live election coverage include social media and Twitter correspondents who handle analyzing trending topics and tweets from viewers. And now, with data from companies like Trendrr, nets are being handed a fresh way to analyze the popularity of a program -- though nothing can really beat Nielsen ratings (yet).
What social media brings to the table is depth to Nielsen ratings. Niche programming is often touted with words like "audience engagement" and "passion," which can be, in a way, the TV world's version of real estate's use of "charming" -- sure, a show may not draw viewers the way that CBS's juggernaut "NCIS" does, but thanks to granular data provided by Trendrr, we can now look at depth and "passion" in a more meaningful way, instead of looking at merely the spread of viewers. Perhaps a program does not draw tens of millions of viewers, but its online engagement births a host of opportunities for branding and advertisers.
Use of Trendrr data, of course, is powerful for younger-skewing nets like the CW where auds relate to social media like a compulsion, and teens and young adults follow their fave stars on Twitter, devouring their tweets. To expect a show like "Scandal" to engage its viewership the way "Vampire Diaries" or "Pretty Little Liars" do is to forget how its demos engage with tech devices and social media.
So, while social media does offer another way to analyze a show's popularity, it is far from being an across-the-board method simply because, well, teens and young adults flock to Twitter in a way that older demos do not. (Case in point: how often do you see a Bieber-themed hashtag trending on Twitter and have no idea what the hell it's about?)
Nevertheless, the gathering -- and subsequent publication -- of social media data for TV shows is very relevant, as analyzing the popularity of a show calls for an increasingly multi-dimensional approach that goes beyond live-viewing, C3, C7 and the like.
For advertisers targetting young, cutting-edge consumers, social media data provides the gateway to skeins those viewers flock to, and offers an advertising angle that goes beyond typical, passive ad viewing during a program. For nets, social media data allows them to pinpoint the shows with the most passionate viewer base and frame marketing and branding campaigns around social media. For tech companies, it's a reminder of how second-screening is rapidly growing in the nation, so apps and devices should keep up.
The question is: will we one day see a ratings system that, by the end of a season run, can crunch numbers from live-viewing, C3, C7, beyond C7, digital viewing and social media?
It's seems like a delirium-inducing challenge, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.