Beyond PR

Oct 13, 2011

Social TV – it’s here, and it’s presenting new communications opportunities

Today’s post is penned by guest author Kevin O’Connor, president of User Insight.  In it he digs into social TV,  an emerging trend can be a goldmine for communicators, in terms of market intelligence and real-time opportunity.  

Kevin O’Connor, president of User Insight

Social TV has arrived.  It’s no longer a techy, futuristic dream – it’s a strong, ever-evolving player in today’s technology and media spheres. So what is ‘Social TV’ exactly? As it is used today, social TV is a broad term referring to technologies that support social interactions in the context of watching television or consuming TV-related content.Social media experts, Brian Solis among others, are asserting their belief that the four screens in people’s lives – the computer screen, TV screen, tablet screen and mobile device screen – will eventually converge for a completely connected television-watching experience. And, it seems that this convergence is upon us! In 2010, Forrester found that U.S. consumers spent equal time on the Internet as they did watching TV. In the same year, Neilsen reported that of Americans’ time spent online, 22.7% of it was spent on social networks, an increase of 43% since the 2009 report. Just 2 weeks ago, Youtoo, the first social TV channel launched, allowing viewers to join the commentary about some of their favorite shows and be on TV for a quick moment of fame.

No doubt about it, social TV concepts are wide-ranging and varied. In the hardware realm, there are streaming devices such as Roku, gaming consoles such as Xbox, and internet-connectable TVs such as Yahoo! Connected TV. In the software space, consumers have a wide variety of choices from content discovery applications and check-in applications such as IntoNow and GetGlue to social programming applications such as SocialGuide.

While there’s a lot of buzz surrounding social TV, many key questions remain unanswered. For instance, how will these concepts come together into marketable technologies? What do consumers want to see from the world of Social TV? To answer these questions and more, our team here at User Insight began a yearlong Social TV research project, titled “The Social TV Experiment” applying the best of what we do: user research.

This research focused on consumers’ behaviors to identify:

  • The viewers most likely to be avid social TV participants,
  • How viewers will most likely use a social TV tool,
  • Which features and functionalities will appeal to each type of social TV viewer,
  • What applications, interfaces and/or mediums will likely lead the pack as companies scramble to market social TV products and
  • How these products could be successfully marketed to the public.

Our research resulted in the identification of 6 social TV personas that we will share during our up-coming Social TV Event. For those unfamiliar with personas, a persona represents a cluster of users who exhibit similar behavioral patterns. The 6 social TV personas we identified each have unique behavioral characteristics and, in turn, feature and functionality preferences that product managers, developers, marketers and advertisers should keep in mind when entering this space.

As a seamless, intuitive user experience is the key to viewer adoption and the future of this emerging space, we will be incorporating users’ perspectives throughout the day of the Social TV Event conference via our research and also via user video footage. The opportunity for brands and networks to interact with viewers on all 4 screens and then receive feedback from them (think Old Spice ads featuring Isaiah Mustafa), is an exciting yet complex proposition. To learn more about this ever-evolving space from some of the pioneers, join the conversation at The Social TV Event online on October 20th. Visit to register.

About the author – Kevin O’Connor, President, User Insight

As president of User Insight, Kevin O’Connor is responsible for all aspects of the company’s client relations, with a focus on helping clients transform their companies into user-centered organizations. Kevin helped grow User Insight to a firm that today provides user experience research and strategy for 300 clients, spanning 25 different industries. Since January of this year, Kevin helped spearhead User Insight’s social TV research initiative, focused on understanding behaviors exhibited in users’ homes and how the social TV revolution stands to change how people watch, interact and consume TV content. Kevin has written articles on the topics of social TV and personas for both UX Booth and UX Magazine. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinUi.

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