Earned Audiences–Where Twitter Meets TV

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There was a time when sitting down in front of the TV was a family affair. It was me, Dad, Mum and maybe a dog. The little brother was tucked up in bed and the little sister, well, she was far off into the future. And while there would be the occasional conversation – mostly during the ad breaks between episodes of Prisoner – or when the footy would break at the end of six – watching TV was a shared experience with limited variation.

These days, the tables have turned.

Sure, we still arrange rooms around a large glowing screen. But it’s not just one glowing screen in the room any longer. The big one on the wall fights for attention with the various smaller devices – smartphones, tablets and notebooks that adorn our laps. TV is no longer the centre of authority in our night’s entertainment – it’s just the context for a much broader conversation.

TV shifts from content to context

One of the most interesting transformations that has come about in recent years is the demotion of TV from centre of an experience to the frame for that experience. These days, TV is just the start of a conversational journey that happens within a home. From there, hundreds, thousands, millions of streams of opinion, humour, sarcasm and even spoilers, issue forth from the devices of the people who are consuming shows while simultaneously co-creating as-yet-unwritten meta-narratives via Twitter, Facebook and specialist apps like Beamly or GetGlue. The shows provide the context into which “prosumers” pour their creative energies and content.

What does this look like?

ABC’s Q&A program creating earned audiences

QandAtweetsA great example of social media connecting audiences is Australian Broadcasting Service’s Q&A program. Actively curated for live amplification during broadcasting, the #QandA stream prompts conversations amongst participants, friends and connections along with a generous smattering of online trolling and vitriol.

Some participants argue with points raised live on the show, some share links supporting their arguments and others just simply throw their best lines into the void hoping that their 140 characters will somehow be picked up and shared with the TV audience. One of the more prolific protagonists, Wolf Cocklin, has gone so far as to create a line of #QandA related merchandise that he sells via creative community/marketplace, Red Bubble.

Tellingly, this audience sprang up organically, adopting the #QandA hashtag and generating a massive stream of content. At first, the QandA producers appeared unaware or uncertain of how to approach this new community of viewers. After all, they were at times, unruly and prone to swearing. But as an “earned audience”, it was icing on the cake of broadcasting. For while TV runs multiple rounds of surveys to understand (and extrapolate) viewership, people who participate using #QandA:

  • Self identify
  • Reveal a range of interests via their profile and publishing
  • Share networks of others
  • Rally audiences and grow reach

In many ways, this audience is the programmer’s dream. So it makes sense that before too long, tweets began appearing on-screen and spurred on by the promise of 5 seconds of fame, participants responded, growing a massive audience that spans Australia’s three timezones.

The last couple of months has also seen participants publishing their tweets many hours ahead of broadcasting. This strategy seems designed to maximise the possibility of a tweet being broadcast. After all, the views of the show’s panellists are known in advance as are the hot topics of the moment. And if you can give the producers a few easy, early tweets that can be loaded into the system, then everyone wins.

Bridging the brand and consumer gap with earned audiences

While the lessons from #QandA are interesting, it would appear at first glance, that going from “conversation to conversion” is more challenging. For some time, marketers have been keen to identify the connection between social media and sales – with many giving up the ghost. But new research sponsored by Twitter seems to suggest that Twitter-based brand exposure does indeed drive action. This includes:

  • Visiting brand websites
  • Visiting brand Twitter pages
  • Searching for the brand
  • Consider trying the brand
  • Retweeting the brand

As expected, the tweets that originated from the brand were less effective than those that originated organically (or appeared to be organic).

While this is interesting research, it smacks a little of research that shows that “radio ads are more effective”. For no matter how engaged or how “managed” a branded social channel may be, Twitter chats, hashtags and the like remain wild, contested territories for brands. Yes, there can be cut through, but it comes with risks.

And while the stickiness, energy and passion that comes with social media may be the flame to the marketer’s moth, an earned audience is not a PERMISSIVE audience. And just because people are talking about you, doesn’t mean that they want to talk TO you. That requires a whole different level of trust. And it’s a world away from TV.

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Gut Feel Wins Out – 50 Planners to Watch in 2014

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When we have a question, we search the web with Google. When we want to get or share an opinion, we turn to Twitter. And when we want to learn or share, we read blogs, take a Skillshare class or watch a YouTube video.

There is no doubt that a great deal of our contemporary experiences are mediated by technology. And as the torrent of content crashes through our various streams, from email to RSS, search to social, we unwittingly give over to algorithms, analytics and charts. It’s easy. Reliable. A matter of fact.

But there is a tyranny in data that we have not yet come to grips with. There are subtleties in creativity and nuance in piecing together the strands of commonality that can be woven together to create new stories or imagined futures. We are so overwhelmed that we have fallen back on data, facts and information – not as the only source of truth, but as the most convenient. As a result, we miss that emotional twang that reminds us that amongst the raging sea of ideas, executions, plans and analyses – there are real people at either end of the things that we produce.

One of the antidotes to this is to embrace the power of subjectivity.

Now, I am not advocating wild “feelpinions” – which are always laden with prejudice and politics. But what if we were, in fact, to respect a body of work, an individual’s expertise and their peers’ recommendations? No, I’m not making a comment on the volatile nature of contemporary Australian politics. I’m tipping my hat to the hand picked list of 50 planners to watch in 2014 compiled by Julian Cole and Liane Siebenhaar. In their own words:

Rather than rating blog views, Twitter followers or other unreliable performance indicators, we picked people who produce interesting content and innovations. People we’d like to have a coffee and hangout with. The people we think we can learn from in 2014.

And that’s a good enough recommendation for me.

Trust is Up across Australia–Edelman Trust Barometer

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One of the more useful and interesting regular reports is the Edelman Trust Barometer. Each year, thousands of people are surveyed – and the global and national results for 2014 have now been published. It’s well worth a deep dive into the information, statistics and analysis. But one of the standout observations is that “Trust in every institution is at its highest point”.

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This is particularly interesting for a number of reasons:

  • Locally we have emerged from a particularly tumultuous election cycle. While trust in government has improved – the growth in trust in the NGO sector has accelerated. We increasingly place our trust in independent organisations NOT governments
  • Business leaders and CEOs remain at the bottom of the trust heap. This may not be an issue for many organisations but for businesses that operate in high-touch environments, CEO profile can have a significant impact on a range of indicators from share price to employee morale, net promoter score etc
  • Experts are back on the favoured list – with the public increasingly supportive of experts and academics.

If – as we expect – the connection between social media / business / life becomes much more nuanced and integrated through 2014, then trust will become a much more important factor in our business, professional, personal and social lives. And for organisations wanting to remain relevant in the lives of connected consumers, that trust counts.

The question for marketers is – have you built trust into business DNA? Because now more than ever, marketing = business and business = marketing.

It’s Not Risk. It’s Gaining Trust

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We often (still) hear stories of businesses and individuals fearing social media. And if you listen closely to what is being said, you will hear the fear. You will hear anxiety.

And when you hear about those folks who brave social media – who push the envelope within their organisation, you will hear them talk about managing risk. Engaging stakeholders. Dealing with the randomness.

But this great TED Talk by Amanda Palmer reveals a new way of thinking about this.

What if, rather than managing risk, we were to think about “gaining trust”. What would that mean for the way we approach our customers, audiences, stakeholders and employees?

And how would it change what we do.

IMG_9400 bluedance via Compfight