5 Myths about Social TV

Alan Wolk is global lead analyst at KIT digital, which helps traditional TV broadcasters make the transition to broadband TV broadcasters. Follow him on Twitter @awolk.

The term social TV gets bandied about with great relish by those who want to be part of what Michael Lewis once called “the new, new thing.” Everyone from gurus and ninjas to VCs and network execs are caught up in the madness. Here are five myths you’re most likely to hear about social TV:

1. People using social media while watching TV are actually watching TV.
There are so many stats about how people use their iPads and iPhones while they’re watching TV. You want to know what they’re doing on their iPad? They’re checking Facebook. The TV is just on as background noise. Maybe their significant other is watching a show they have no interest in; maybe it’s just too quiet in the house, or the game is coming on in five minutes. But their primary focus at that point is Facebook, not the TV screen. It’s not like they’re tagging photos during the key scenes of “Mad Men.”

2. Social TV drives live tune-in.
This is just common sense. If you’re enjoying “How I Met Your Mother” enough
to tweet about it during the commercial break, there’s probably only 10 minutes left by
the time I read your tweet. So while I might make a mental note to catch it on VOD,
there’s zero appeal in catching the last 10 minutes of a sitcom. And that’s assuming I’m even near a TV. If I’m reading something on Twitter, there’s an equally good chance I’m stuck waiting in line at the supermarket.

3. People are influenced by what their social graph is watching.
No. Our social graphs are random and rarely consist of people whose opinions we care about. They’re an odd amalgamation of former co-workers, relatives and people you went to high school with, thrown together with a few close friends. And few people are ever going to be bored enough to go through all their 200+ friends and sort them into groups based on TV-viewing habits. There are other stats that may influence viewing (e.g., people who also listed “The Graduate” as their favorite movie really like this film, too) but social graph is not likely to be one of them.

4. Twitter comments are a good judge of sentiment.
Twitter comments are a good reflection of what people on Twitter are saying and
nothing more. It’s far too niche an audience to extrapolate anything from the noise.
And that’s just during events like the Super Bowl or Grammys. Forget run-of-the-mill
sitcoms or crime dramas. Not only is it a small unrepresentative portion of the audience, but 90 percent of what they’re spewing is drivel: random observations (“Love her hair!”) or reactions (“HaHaHaHa!! #theoffice”). And that’s being kind.

5. People want to buy things while they’re watching TV and then share them with their friends so they can buy one, too.
No. They just want to sink back into the couch and watch TV. When Carrie comes
busting out of Abu Nazir’s warehouse on “Homeland,” no one is thinking, “What a cute blouse; I wish I could buy one right this very second!” People may buy things after the show, maybe even during a commercial if they’re desperate, but if you’re actively sitting down to watch a show, you are not going to stop, drop and shop — not to mention the fact that there are very few products you can just click and buy without having to specify which version, overnight or standard, color and whether or not to gift wrap.

Image via Shutterstock