Twitter and the Transformation of Television

In today’s world, one does not simply watch TV. With the advent of web 2.0, sitting down and just watching TV has become a thing of the past. Today, watching TV is an interactive and immersive experience. TV shows and channels have harnessed the power associated with web 2.0 not only to extend the reach of their marketing arm but also to allow viewers to become more engaged in what they are watching and in some cases even determine the outcome of some shows simply by using a hashtag.

Hashtags were originally used in IRC(Internet Relay Chat) chatrooms to connect with people that used the same hashtag. It wasn’t long before twitter realized the potential of the hashtag and adopted it to connect and categorize tweets. Hashtagging really gained traction on twitter around 2008-2009 when users were able to search for specific hashhtags. This pivotal point in time allowed the public to share their thoughts about certain TV episodes and their content as well as view the thoughts/reactions of others and respond to each other. By 2010, TV outlets began adopting their own hashtags to promote TV shows and topics. The hashtags were used to promote TV shows ahead of airing to get people talking. To encourage talk about certain shows, Twitter handles associated with TV networks or TV shows will often retweet a user’s message with the associated hashtag. When a show airs, often times tweets using the appropriate hashtag will be shown on live TV to promote viewers to share their thoughts on twitter. Other times people can use twitter and the appropriate hashtag to ask questions of people on the air. This was a method Discovery channel used in 2013 for Shark Week.


“The Shark After Dark” show would recap the previous shows from Shark Week on live television with comedic commentary as well as tweet whenever the #sharkafterdark hashtag was used. Another show that allows viewers to engage in the show by voting through twitter is the singing competition “The Voice”. Users were prompted to tweet #VoiceSave with the artists name they wanted to save during the final elimination rounds.


This allowed viewers to engage with the show and effect the outcome by saving their favorite artist from elimination all while NBC and The Voice enjoyed the organic marketing.

Even though networks try to anticipate what the best hash tag is for TV shows or episodes, social media often has their own idea. When the TV show “How to Get Away With Murder” first aired, NBC used the hash tag #HowToGetAwayWithMurder in order to get the name of the show out to the public. However, in social media where the the number of characters matter, selecting the best official hash tag is paramount. When the show aired, two-thirds of people on twitter discussing the show used the official hashtag while the other one-third used the abbreviated name #HTGAWM. This defeats the purpose of the hash tag as people are no longer united under a unified category. If users of social media opt to create their own hash tags, the category becomes fragmented and the organic marketing generated wouldn’t be as strong as it would if everything was united under one hash tag. Now users have multiple hash tags to search through to find content instead of just just being able to search for one.

Web 2.0 is becoming such an integral part in how we watch TV that smart TVs integrate apps like twitter and the data derived from social media to work in tangent with the hardware. When the consumer tries to find a show to watch on their television, smart TVs can look at what shows are currently on air and trending on social media and will suggest those shows. If you have a Twitter account, you can even have your Twitter feed open on your TV and post to Twitter directly from the TV while watching watching your favorite show. The integration of social media however isn’t always appreciated. With the tight relationship between social media and television, often times the consumer pays the price in the form of spoilers.  Spoilers used to be prevalent Twitter but now web plug-ins and 3rd party Twitter apps are available that allow users to set filters so plots of shows or movies aren’t spoiled by those who may post in their Twitter feed.

Media consumption has been greatly affected by twitter and web 2.0 in the past decade. This new outlet for marketing and audience interaction will continue to evolve to capture greater market share and the opportunities seem to be limitless.

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