Why TV Should Look To Twitter For Inspiration

Social media and accelerated sharing are driving the rapid evolution of TV and movies.

When it comes to TV and movies, each person has their own particular likes and dislikes. Whether the content is classified as sci-fi, slasher, romantic comedy or some combination thereof, the aim of producers is to cater to niche audiences while still maintaining a broad appeal. In the past this has been a difficult equation to balance, generally resulting in some form of compromise: either generate more ‘mainstream’ content or risk losing large chunks of your audience. However, the advent of the internet has been changing the way people pick and choose their entertainment. Particularly social media is having a huge impact on the type of content that is being produced and is helping to identify and shape entirely new groups of audiences.

In collaboration with the minds behind The Curve Report from NBCUniversal Content Innovation Agency, PSFK is investigating the profound impact social media is having on the entertainment industry, and the new types of film and television that are being created as a result.

According to data from The Curve Report, “Twitter penetration has reached a tipping point, with nearly half (44%) of Generation Xers and Ys actively using the platform compared with less than a third (31%) just two years ago.” This change has allowed for a universal and dedicated space for conversation to flourish. Given the activity on the network, traditional programmers have sharpened their social skills and now promote hashtags, engage in viewer conversation, and actively interact with feedback from their audience. Furthermore, sophisticated new social platforms—beyond Facebook and Twitter—are allowing audiences to wield more direct influence over what content gets produced and distributed. The result is that social media has become both a spotlight and an incubator for new programming, illuminating new ideas that traditionally would have flown under the radar, giving them the right environment to grow organically and break into the mainstream.

Perhaps one of the best recent examples of this is the Syfy network’s original film Sharknado. While not a huge departure from its other over-the-top monster flicks, such as Sharktopus, Dinoshark, or Piranhaconda, the film was a huge breakout success, and at its peak generated discussion at the rate of 5,000 tweets per minute, becoming the network’s most social broadcast ever. As Dave Howe, the president of Syfy, explained in an interview for The Curve Report, “Being able to leverage social media to generate and drive the conversation was critical to the success of that movie, and that’s what we hope will now become a franchise.” The success of Sharknado—of which the sequel Sharknado 2: The Second One is already planned for July 2014—marks a new type of Popular Flick, where social media is the defining factor in deciding what content makes it and what falls behind.


Another recent example is Coca-Cola Romania enlisting MRM Worldwide to help Romanians rediscover the happiness of sharing a meal together. They ran a typical ad showing family and friends coming together with the help of Coca-Cola. However, unlike other spots, this one integrated live tweets on national television. At the bottom of the ad, there was a text bar that hosted content from fans featuring the hashtag #LetsEatTogether. MRM live-edited the tweets as they flowed in and chose up to seven tweets to display each time the ad was played. Most of the tweets were addressed to specific people, with friends inviting friends to have a meal with them and enjoy each other’s company. As a result, Coke’s Twitter base in Romania increased 15% and the ad garnered over 1 million social media impressions, making the real-time interaction an integral part of the advertisement, and driving high levels of engagement from fans.


As Lisa Hsia, Executive Vice President of Bravo and Oxygen Digital Media, explained in an interview with The Curve Report, “The old way was that we have a team of developing experts who talk to the producers to see what’s happening, and they follow trends, and then they decide. Who are really the experts in terms of determining a hit show: The development experts or the fans?” This type of social engagement is allowing for content to be tailored and delivered directly to a group of dedicated fans, giving them exactly what they want. However, this trend goes much further, as it has the potential to open up a whole new world of content creation, and help shape entirely new audiences. As social engagement grows, so too will the quality and breadth of new and exciting content.

Header image via Digital Trends

For a closer look at the future of video, be sure to head over to The Curve Report and Popular Flick, which takes an in-depth look at how social media is driving the future of movies and television.