Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on January 20th, 2015

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Social media and technology and it's impact on the State of the Union and TV viewing.


Live tweeting. This is not a new term or a new trend. By definition, Live Tweeting is the act of tweeting in real time while at an event or watching an original broadcast of a TV show, sporting event or newscast. Today, many get their news via live tweets. And the use of hashtags aides in following breaking news as well as allowing individuals to have real-time conversations with people around the world about sporting events, TV shows or political speeches.

Let's take a look at last night's State of the Union address. The TV viewing audience of the address was down in 2014, it is reported that ratings were down 20 million viewers from the 2009 address. That's not to say that the American people were not listening. They were simply following along on different mediums. The White House has upped their game to combat this by encouraging people to watch it via the White House website where supplemental facts and graphs would be available at the click of a mouse.  During last night's address, Twitter was on fire with tweets bearing the hashtag "SOTU". For me, it meant I could follow the Blackhawks game and the address by switching between TV channels and following both on Twitter.

The State of the Union is not onto something new here. Many TV shows and their creators and/or networks encourage live tweeting. It's almost impossible today to watch a live broadcast of a TV show or sporting event and not see a hashtag in the corner of the screen. Many networks or shows have dedicated Twitter accounts as well as Instagram accounts. Show creators can gather instant feedback on storylines and characters and interact with fans as they experience the event. Many sports teams use social media to enhance the experience of being at a live event or watching it from your home. Even the commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman says that Twitter and social media are responsible for success in gaining more fans.  Many teams engage with fans live during a game and I have even witnessed official team accounts engaging the night's opponent official account in a "friendly" banter.  The SuperBowl is approaching, and with that, it brings the use of two hashtags typically, one for the game itself and then "BrandBowl" for the commercials.

Social media and technology were once forecasted to be a TV killer. But instead, it has enhanced the viewing and allowed for real-time conversations. Sure today many do not watch TV or events on an actual television set. People are viewing via tablets, mobile devices, and computers. Viewership over differing mediums may make tracking ratings harder. But, with the use of hashtags and real-time live tweeting or sharing on Instagram, it adds another tool to the box. Showrunners or the White House can track tweets and statistics by hashtag usage and what is trending. Often times social media and technology are responsible for a surge in the audience size. Take for example "Breaking Bad", show-runner Vince Gilligan attributed it's success to Netflix, stating that the video streaming service saved the show. And, as binge-watching supported by technology in the form of streaming to mobile devices or on computers surged, the use of hashtags brought in more viewers. The use of hashtags is a great form of "word of mouth advertising". I know I can say that I have found many shows as a result of seeing my Twitter feed on fire while the show was airing or just after it ended. These types of live tweets made me say, "hmmm let's see what the fuss is about" and try out a new show.

I am guilty of live-tweeting and following events via Twitter and Instagram. I blogged about spoiler alerts in October as the fall TV season kicked off.  In that blog edition I discussed how spoilers today are a fact of life and if you don't want to be spoiled you are better off staying off any form of social media if you cannot watch your favorite show immediately when it airs. How has technology and social media changed the way you get your news or enjoy your favorite TV show?  Did you follow the State of the Union via Twitter or watch via the White House website?  Perhaps you followed new sites on Twitter in order to "fact check" the Presidents statements. Tell me how technology as changed your habits, for better or worse. And, if you're a live tweeter, maybe we will cross paths in a lively internet discussion about a favorite show, big game or breaking news!