“Social Media And TV Audiences: Has social media improved the relationship between TV programmes and their audiences?”
A study outlining the link between social media and popular television shows. Exploring different social media use by various television shows and how it engages with their audiences. Research into why people like to share their views on television shows online. The impact audiences think social media has on their viewing experiences with a questionnaire on basic social media use, along with a more in-depth focus group focusing on popular TV show, ‘The X-Factor’ and why using social media has become a key part in their experiences of that show.
In this dissertation I will be debating whether social media has improved the relationship between television shows and their viewers. I believe that social media has allowed viewers to get more involved with their favourite shows by being able to tweet their opinions on a show. I also think that social media has created a way for audiences to get closer to the show as they are able to ‘follow’ what a show does outside the viewing hours and are able to get more out of their viewing experience by seeing extra content that they wouldn’t of been able to see without having social media.
“Back then there were still only three television channels in this country. Today, with satellite technology, there are hundreds available from around the globe. That diversity has inevitably led to a certain amount of fragmentation, as well as huge variations in quality.” Anthony, A (2013)
We have come a long way from only having 3 channels on television and now there is a lot of choice when it comes to viewing, from Freeview television to subscription services such as SKY, BT Vision & Virgin Media. There are also different ways we can view television, from the different devices such as tablets, laptops & smartphones and online catch up services like BBC iPlayer, All 4 & ITV player. You can also subscribe to services like Netflix and NowTV where you can watch series after series to get your television fix.
It could be argued that Twitter has changed television. Twitter is known for using hashtags to enable conversation about a certain topic, just by clicking on that hashtag, you become involved in the conversation. Television shows are taking advantage of this by displaying on-screen a hashtag they want you to use to talk about their shows. This is so fans can easily go on Twitter and see what others are saying about the show, chiming in themselves. (Hunt, 2014)
“Twitter is the new way to talk about what happened on television — and in real-time. Viewers no longer wait until the show is over to voice their opinions; now they discuss their favorite comedies, dramas or reality shows while they air, and on Twitter throughout the week.“ (Twitter, 2015)
Facebook is seen as another social network that has changed television. Most television shows now have Facebook pages, where the show can post backstage clips; interviews with show characters or contestants and ‘sneak peeks’ of the next show. This allows fans to get excited about the upcoming episodes and can keep them interested in the show in the wait for the next episode. Facebook works as a great promotional tool for networks as when someone likes a page on Facebook, all the friends of the person who liked it, can see on their news feed that they have liked the page. This in turn could encourage them to visit the page and like it themselves, meaning that the cycle continues.
Keith Hindle, chief executive of digital and branded entertainment at FremantleMedia, the production company behind ‘The X Factor’, ‘Britian’s Got Talent’ and ‘American Idol’ has said that ‘the level of social engagement that shows drive has superseded TV ratings as the most important indicator of content’s success.’ (Cited:Williams:2015)
Meaning that in this social media age, a television show’s success is measured in how much engagement on social media it has, rather than the television rating.
He then adds ‘A huge amount of time went into, before a second of content was shot, what the digital engagement was going to be across all the platforms.’ (Cited:Williams:2015)
This means that companies are starting to think about what the reaction is going to be on social media before they start shooting anything.
“A few years ago, the only things that mattered was ratings. Now, what matters more is the level of engagement around the content.” Hindle (Cited:Williams:2015)
The Internet and social media can also now make sure that fans never miss an episode of a show. The social media aspect of it, is that the show can make sure they remind fans when the show is on either through a Tweet or a Facebook status. They can also tell you where to find the episode to watch online when you have missed it being on television as you can now use online services to catch-up on shows.
Through this dissertation I hope to explore fandom and how they stay engaged with television on social media. I also hope to find out the effect of adding ‘second-screen’ content to co-inside with television shows and what this means for the future of television and social media integration.
Years ago we used to only talk about television with our families and friends. In this era we can talk about television with anyone we want to with just a click of a few buttons.
I believe that television has firmly integrated with the Internet but has this integration improved engagement and the relationship with its audiences?
2.0 Literature Review
2.1 Social TV
Social TV talks about audience engagement in the time between each television episode. Proulx & Shepatin describes the wait as a ‘bridge’ between episodes and that posting online content “is the fuel that is pumped to loyal television series’ fans in-between broadcast episode airings keeping the TV show top-of-mind and buzzed about.” Proulx & Shepatin (2012:137)
People now share their opinions on everything via social media. This is why social media has become a good tool for television producers because it is a new and free way for them to get feedback on their shows. Television programmes now encourage audiences to talk about them using a hashtag they have made themselves because they want feedback.
“This allows producers, writers, and marketers to help connect the tail of the conversation for the upcoming one – thus maintaining (or increasing) overall levels of chatter about their shows” Proulx & Shepatin (2012:138)
Viewers using social media creates a ‘feedback loop’ for television. Whilst viewing numbers are measured by the ‘Nielsen’ system, a system designed to measure audience-viewing figures; social media has allowed television networks and producers another dimension to consider because they can gauge opinions of their shows and not just the number of people viewing. Proulx & Shepatin have stated that they call this the ‘social rating.’
This ‘social rating’ allows producers and networks to see tweets per second, volume of show mentions, amount of posts and conversations between fans, which you wouldn’t get by just seeing viewing numbers. Social media allows live opinions as usually the television networks and producers get the numbers after the show airs. Social media creates raw data as it shows the rate of when viewers engage, they can see what points in their shows gets the most tweets and most posts and what people like or hate about the show .The Nielson rating shows just who views the show but it doesn’t show what they think about it so social media has become a free and easy way for networks to understand the viewer’s opinions of the show.
‘Nowadays, there’s a need in the market to understand the impact of social on driving the amount of people that watch TV, so that a TV broadcaster as a marketer can understand how to engage with social media in order to get more people to what their program.’ Gibs (Cited:2012:16)
Social media is now an important part of life for most people and broadcasters need to be able to learn how to incorporate that in their shows for prime audience engagement.
‘Bridge content energizes it’s viewers, helps spread the word, and aims to increase program tune-in as a result’ Proulx & Shepatin (2012:137)
Television programmes have realised that they need to engage viewers between their shows to keep them interested and to keep them hyped about what’s going on in their programmes. Shows such as ‘Hollyoaks’ & ‘The X Factor’ post ‘behind the scenes’ content so that their audiences can see what goes on when the show is off air. For ‘The X Factor’, the audience gets to see what their favourite contestants and judges are doing when the cameras are off them. They also post exclusive interviews, which are only published online so that it brings extra traffic to their site for these exclusives. ‘Hollyoaks’ post videos on their website that show how certain stunts were created and the cast talk about how their characters react to how certain storylines are going.
‘TV networks today have the Web- along with the publishing, distribution, and amplification power of social media.’ Proulx & Shepatin (2012:137)
Television shows aren’t just ‘television’ shows anymore; they have the web to post content on. Social media makes sure that this content gets distributed to fans quickly and make sure it gets spread around to everyone that wants to view it.
‘A study of over 1,500 TV guide.com users revealed that, overall, people are more likely to use social media to talk about a television broadcast before and (most heavily) after their favorite TV show airs. This is especially true with serial dramas, where television viewers become deeply immersed into the actual broadcast content – and are much more likely to share their feelings at the end of the show versus during.’ (Cited:2012:137)
Fans use social media to talk about shows however, this study suggests that fans are more likely to talk about shows before or after the show airs as they are too deeply involved in the show whilst it is airing.
‘TV networks that are clued into this pattern are able to add a little ‘content kick’ to the ineria of the organic conversations that are already taking place about their shows. This allows producers, writers, and marketers to help connect the tail of the conversation about the pervious episode to the head of the conversation for the upcoming one – this maintaining (or increasing) overall levels of chatter about their shows’ Proulx & Shepatin (2012:138)
Television shows know when to add dramatic moments, moments worth talking about and moments that will get a reaction, into their programmes so they can get the most ‘buzz’ on social media. They add climatic moments to the end of a show or just before a commercial break which also adds to the social media ‘buzz’ as viewers will be tweeting what they think is going to happen next.
The Great British Bake Off isn’t a show that you would think would get a lot of social media buzz as it isn’t primarily targeted to the age group that uses social media the most.
In August 2014, contestant Iain Watters caused a twitter storm after he chucked his Baked Alaska in the bin because it had melted. He was then eliminated from the show; however it was shown on the programme that fellow contestant Diana Beard had ‘deliberately’ taken his Baked Alaska out of the freezer and this had caused it to melt. The episode sparked such outrage that hashtags such as #JusticeForIain and #BinGate were trending worldwide as they felt that Iain should be reinstated in the show. The hashtag #DirtyDiana was also trending as they believed it was a ‘dirty’ tactic to get ahead in the competition as at this point Iain was seen as one of the favorites. This also in turn sparked a number internet memes such as Diana seen holding a spoon and a baking bowl with the caption ‘Just cooking up a nice batch of sabotage’ and another with a series of close ups on Diana’s face with captions of ‘That’s a nice ice cream’ ‘It would be a shame’ ‘If someone’ ‘melted it’. There was also memes of an outraged Mary Berry, a ‘Bake Off’ judge saying ‘ice cream lives in the freezer’ and pictures of Iain and the bin with the hashtag #BinGate.
The storm on social media meant that it was discussed at great lengths on the news and life style type shows because it was a key talking point amongst the public.
Social media played an important part of how this show was perceived, even by people who didn’t watch the show, as fans were tweeting how outraged they were and people who didn’t watch the show could click on hashtag #JusticeForIain, on Twitter to, follow the story and get a clearer understanding of what actually happened. The Great British Bake Off team claimed that it was due to how the show was edited that made it look as if Diana had deliberately sabotaged Iain’s dessert, but in fact she had only left it out of the freezer for a short time.
The show had to address this matter because of the outrage on Twitter over the event which proves that social media engagement can sometimes give shows more problems through publicity as viewers can freely express their opinions online.
2.2 Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Interactive Audiences?
Fans play a big part in how successful a television show is on the online world. Fans use online communities, especially Twitter, to find other people who like certain television shows so they can talk about the latest episode, who their favourite characters are and what they think will happen in future episodes. Television shows have realised the impact of social media on fandom, which is why they now encourage viewers to use hashtags so it gets fans talking to each other. It works well for both fans and television companies, fans are able to trace other fans of the show by clicking on these hashtags and know that they are part of the same ‘fandom.’ Television companies use hashtags as a way to see how their show is doing, they can see whether fans like the way that the show is going or not.
“If the current media environment makes visible the once invisible work of media spectatorship, it is wrong to assume that we are some-how being liberated through improved media technologies. Rather than talking about interactive technologies, we should document the interactions that occur among media consumers between media consumers and media texts, and between media consumers and media producers” Jenkins, H (2006:135)
Jenkins makes the point that although current media environments allow fans views to be exposed whereas before they weren’t able to, it’s not all about the technology being used that makes fans more free to interact with shows. It should be about interactions between people that watch television shows and the people that create the content. Although social media has improved interactions, people were still interacting about shows before social media, by talking about shows between friends and family. However, social media has now allowed interaction between television companies and their viewers, which didn’t used to happen.
The British soap ‘Hollyoaks’ is a good example of a television show that has understood the impact of social media on fans. Their twitter account to live tweet alongside the show and create internet ‘memes’ and pictures using stills from the programme and adding funny captions to them. They also use Snapchat to snap pictures of the up-coming E4 ‘first-look’ episode. Then they encourage fans to tweet about what they have seen on Snapchat to create extra publicity for the next episode. On Fridays they have a hashtag of #HollyoaksFanFridays where they ask fans to send them pictures of themselves pulling different faces of either their favourite characters or reacting to a particularly shocking event and then the ‘winner’ gets a picture of a cast member pulling the same face. This will get fans excited as they get a chance to have a picture with one of the cast. Plus Hollyoaks will get publicity for their show because if enough fans do it, it’ll get trending and people who perhaps don’t watch Hollyoaks will be interested by the hashtag and click it to see what it is about. The Hollyoaks twitter account tweets like a typical fan as it helps to create a bond between the fans and the show. Hollyoaks uses a variety of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr & Instagram as they help the show to interact greater with their fans. This is a clever marketing technique as some fans may be more active on some social media than others and this way it encourages fans to talk about Hollyoaks on a variety of platforms. Hollyoaks use hashtags to gain excitement about announcements by fans to then hope to get it trending to get more publicity. For example, the hashtag #HollyoaksSpringTrailer was created to announce that the trailer for their spring episodes is going to be available to view at 4pm on Monday 30th March 2015. Fans can tweet their excitement of the trailer using that hashtag which then can be read by their followers. The same hashtag was then used the trailer had aired and fans discussed what happened in the trailer.
Fans are important to soaps because as Jenkins, H (2006:138) says “fans inform each other about program history or recent developments they may have missed. The fan community pools it’s knowledge because no single fan can know every single thing necessary to fully appreciate the series.” Although soaps thrive without their fans, fans make sure that soaps are talked about and people that haven’t watched the soap from the beginning can appreciate it still. For example, a lot of Hollyoaks fans for example wouldn’t have been old enough to watch every episode from the beginning so they rely on the knowledge of other fans to inform them.
“A Large group of fans can do what even the most committed single fan cannot: accumulate, retain, and continually recirculate unprecedented amounts of relevant information…participants collaboratively provide all with the resources to get more story from the material, enhancing many member’s soap readings and pleasures.” Baym (Cited:2006:139)
Fans on social media often fill in other viewers on what’s going on when the official pages can’t. Groups of fans often are the one’s spreading a story of what’s going on in a television programme or informing other fans on what people have missed. Often without these fans, some other people’s experiences of watching television shows wouldn’t be as an enjoyable experience as they enjoy the interaction between other viewers. Social media has helped fans to express their opinions and interact with other fans that they may not know in ‘real-life.’
“The practices of fandom have become increasingly enmeshed with the rhythms and temporalities of broadcasting, so that fans now go online to discuss new episodes immediately after the episode’s transmission time or even during ad-breaks perhaps in order to demonstrate the ‘timeliness’ and responsiveness of their devotion.” Hills (Cited: 2006:141) Social media and online technologies have allowed fans to express themselves immediately. This contrasts with the times when fans could only express their views through phone calls or mail. Fans can now immediately tweet or post a Facebook status about storylines or their favourite contestants on programmes like The X Factor, and thanks to Twitter they can even talk to people that they don’t know about their opinions. As Jenkins (2006:141) says “Where fans might have raced to the phone to talk to a close friend, they can now access a much broader range of perspectives by going online.”
“As fandom diversifies, it moves from cult status towards the cultural mainstream with more Internet users engaged in some form of fan activity.” Jenkins (2006:142)
An example of ‘fandom moving towards the cultural mainstream’ would be the The Brit Awards 2015. There was an award for ‘British Artist Video Of The Year’, which encouraged viewers of the show to vote for, who they thought, had the best video. To cast a vote they had to tweet the hashtag that was related to the artist. (#CALVINHARRISBRIT, #EDSHEERANBRIT, #MARKRONSONBRIT, #ONEDIRECTIONBRIT, #SAMSMITHBRIT) The Brit Awards were broadcast on ITV who encouraged fans of the artists to express their fandom on Twitter to make sure their favourite won the award.
“It would be naïve to assume that powerful conglomerates will not protect their own interests as they enter this new media market-place, but at the same time, audiences are gaining greater power and autonomy as they enter into the new knowledge culture.” Jenkins (2006:136)
Jenkins also believes that the companies behind television shows and the social media accounts are still looking after their own interests. For example, by encouraging fans to use hashtags on twitter and other social media sites to express their opinions, it gives television shows a free and easy way to ‘drum’ up more publicity. However, audiences have greater control of what they do now and especially with how they express themselves on social media, so if they didn’t like something they saw on a show they could still use the same hashtag but to spread a negative message.
2.3 Virtual Culture
Online communication is seen as revolutionary, never before could you talk to people via your computer or find strangers that had the same interests as you. However, as with every revolutionary idea, there are some people that believe it is doing more harm than good.
“Backlash towards these technologies has begun already and some decry the loss of personality that often accompanies the mediation of communication via computer; other lament the amount of time taken away from face-to-face interaction by technologies that require expertise, undivided attention, or even appear addictive.” Jones (1997:07)
Some people believe that communication via computers makes people who engage in it, have a lack of personality. When they communicate in this way they have no way of getting their personality across with just their words. They believe that it is taking away from face-to-face communication as people are choosing to use their computers to talk to others. They argue that the technologies required for communicating needs constant attention, which is why people are spending less time communicating face-to-face. Social media sites can be accessed anywhere due to having Internet on mobile devices, this is why some people become addicted to online communication as they constantly have access to it.
“The internet does not create independent social spaces per se, as it relies on an existing communication infrastructure and is integrated into current economic processes in the telecommunications industries. Is it any surprise that most people use the telephone system to access the Internet via modem, or that the promise of high-speed connections comes via existing cable television installations?” Jones (1997:08)
Jones argues that the Internet hasn’t created new communication technologies entirely as for the Internet to work it requires telephone systems and cable TV, all of which existed before the Internet. He says that it relies on already existing communication infrastructure and the Internet is being integrated into processes that were already made before the Internet existed. Although this is from an older book we can still use this in the modern day, as the Internet still requires you to have a telephone line to be able to plug in the modem box. Social media is just an extension of an already existing form of communication but you are able to expand your audience through social media.
Jones (1997:09) thinks that the Internet has ‘dual potentialities.’ He firstly argued that ‘it could re-create community as we had once know it’ meaning that it could re-make a community as it was in times before new communication technologies. It could bring people together and allow for them to communicate with each other whereas they perhaps wouldn’t have done before the Internet. He also argues that ‘it would not merely “get us all together,” it would do so without our having to do expend much effort, since it would overcome space and time for us, and it would also enable us to communicate with one another.”
He believes that the Internet creates an opportunity for people to come together without physically doing so. It creates a virtual space where people can go and talk to each other without them having to make the physical effort. He thinks that the Internet would make the community better.
“It was to result in a community free of the constraints of space and time, and so free us to engage with fellow humans irrespective of geographic proximity and the clock, and it would construct that community from communication, rather than inhabitance and being, which do not guarantee communication.” Jones (1997:10)
Jones also argues that the Internet has created a better community because it allows people to communicate without constraints of space and time. It also allows free engagement so you can talk to someone regardless of where they live or their time zone. However, he does argue the Internet creates a virtual community that could be seen as a better way of creating communication than through real life.
2.4 Online Belongings
The Internet provides a space for fans to share their views and opinions, some preferring cyber communication to real life communications. Ferreday (2009:101) describes that these people think of the Internet as ‘Home’ because home is seen as a ‘private space’ or ‘as the site of belonging to a larger cultural or family group.’ These people feel like the Internet and their social media profiles, are their own private space where they can express what they want and do as they please. They also feel as if they ‘belong’ online because they find people with similar views and opinions that they perhaps don’t have in ‘real-life.’
“Home refers not primarily to a space, but to a state of mind; being at-home implies that the subject feels at home, not that home itself is a fixed space. To be at-home in cyberspace, then, one must construct a self that can feel at-home.” Ferreday (2009:101)
To be at ‘home’ in cyberspace people construct themselves to feel ‘at-home.’ This may be that they finally feel like they can be themselves online whereas they couldn’t in ‘real-life.’ They feel like they are finally being accepted for who they are and this is why they get the feeling of being at ‘home.’
Ferreday also believes that the Internet provides a place to ‘speak out about one’s day-to-day experience’ and also allows users to ‘escape from the constraints of the ‘real-life’ home.’
Miller (1995:Cited:2009:108) thinks that listing what a person likes online is ‘an essential factor in constructing online identities.’ He says by a person listing their favourite books, music and comics, for example, and by sharing links to websites that they find interesting, they ‘work to construct a sense of community through an appeal to shared tastes or experiences.’
“Homepages involve a fantasy of becoming visible, of establishing an individual voice within the Internet community.” Ferreday (2009:108)
This argument is that a person’s online profile or ‘homepage’ is a way of becoming noticed, where they haven’t been before. These profiles allow them to have their voice to get noticed in the Internet community. If we look at this in terms of social media and television, a person can talk about a programme and display any view they like because they have their own profile. From talking about their opinions they gain interest from other fans with either similar or dissimilar views because they have used the Internet to make their presence known.
“The notion of being at-home in cyberspace is always intertwined with questions of identity.” Ferreday (2009:124)
A person can appear to be comfortable online and to have found their voice but there is always going to be a question over their identity. We don’t know if people are being real or false online. So in terms of audience interaction in television, we don’t know if the person is being influenced to say their opinion on a television show because of their online friends or, if, it is their true opinion. They may have built up an online identity that means they are hiding their true self from the Internet and from fear of being judged by the Internet they pretend to be someone else.
2.5 Understanding Digital Culture
“A fundamental characteristic of convergence culture is the move towards cultural objects and information being increasingly consumed or experienced across several forms of media, and on a variety of devices.” Miller (2011:82)
To ‘converge’ is to come together, to meet or to become similar. Social media has allowed television programmes to ‘meet’ with the Internet and allows the content to be experienced and consumed on more than one form of media. Convergence has also created new technologies for television programmes to be viewed on different platforms, whether that is online, on social media, or on applications for viewing on tablets and smartphones.
“On the one hand, convergence can be seen as a producer-driven experience that crosses media sectors and conduits, the other hand can demonstrate that convergence is also a consumer-driven process, seen largely as an extension of fan culture.” Miller (2011:84) Convergence can be seen as television producers wanting to get their content everywhere, across as many different networks and platforms. It can also be seen as fans and consumers wanting to spread content because they like it and want other people to see it. Miller (2011:84) uses an example of an advert being broadcast on television that a fan sees and likes, so they decide to record the advert and upload it to Youtube for fun. He then suggests that the same person or another fan could create a Facebook fan page of the advert, which could then be ‘liked’ by other fans of the advert or by the friends of the fan page creator. Other friends could be on their mobile phones, tablet or laptops and choose to watch the advert. Convergence allows content to be spread from one platform to another and shared between friends and fans almost immediately.
“The experience of the object has spun out of the exclusive control of the producer…Contemporary audiences seek to engage with media increasingly on their own terms and, as Jenkins suggests, will seek out new information, alone or in collaborative groups, in order to enhance their enjoyment of the product.” Miller (2011:84)
How viewers enjoy content that is produced isn’t in control of the producers anymore. Producers will put content out there in a hope that viewers will share it but in a social media age viewers can share what they want, when they want. Viewers will find things about programmes that they like, whether it be a certain scene or pictures of characters and they will share them through their social media accounts because it allows them to enhance their reputation of being a fan.
Giddens (1991:Cited:2011:188) argued that in pre-modern social settings, time and space were connected as activities between people that were living in the same time and same place. He believed that in a pre-modern society, when people engaged with each other they had to be in the same time and place. However in late modernity, Giddens (Cited:2011:188) argues that ‘Time has become effectively separated from space in terms of social action with others’ This means that people no longer have to be physically together in the same place and time to be able to interact with each other. This is where virtual communities are formed as people can engage about the same things without having to know each other or be in the same country. This also means that these communities can discuss their opinions of television shows on social media with anyone without having to physically be with them because they can do it all online due to there being no boundary for interaction.
Giddens (Cited:2011:188) also suggest that social institutions and relationships have become disembedded because of the separation of space and time. He also argues that human interactions are governed by abstract systems. He suggests that abstract systems are in place so that people that don’t know each other or will never meet in person can have trust-worthy dealings even though they are separated by long distance. This applies to digital communities as these systems mean that viewers can interact with people and feel safe, as some people would worry that their information could get into the wrong hands when talking to people they don’t know online.
“As people occupy localised common physical spaces less frequently, communication technologies have begun to take over as the space of community.” Barney (Cited:2011:190)
Online communities are becoming more frequent and because of that fewer people are physically meeting up for physical interactions.
“Life will be happier for the online individual because the people with whom one interacts most strongly will be selected more by commonality of interests and goals rather than by accidents of proximity.” (Cited:2011:191:Licklider et al.:1968:Cited in Rheingold, 2000:9-my emphasis)
People online can freely express their opinions and have a greater bond with people that have similar interests than people they know in ‘real-life’. This means that when it comes to television shows, some fans seek online communities to talk about their favourite shows and to find people that like the same characters or artists and can talk about why they like them. Whereas when watching a show with family, each family member can have a different opinion and this is why they want to talk online to people that have the same interests.
“Community members can choose their level of involvement in the community itself. One could be an intensive member, a frequent poster, or ever a moderator. And contribute a lot of time and resources to the greater good of the community, or could be a casual member, infrequent poster, or even a ‘lurker’. All have their place and are accorded varying degrees of prestige within the community itself on the basis of their involvement. No one is obliged to contribute more than they want to contribute.” Miller (2011:192)
Members can choose to contribute as much as they want and no one makes them post anything if they don’t want to. Although there are a lot of positives to online communities there is also a worry that people are spending too much time online.
“One of the earliest worries was that Internet use in general, and engagement with online communities in particular, is a distraction from real-world relationships and communities. This is based on the logic that time spent online would potentially cut time spent offline with families or other members of the community.” (Cited:2011:192:Barlow, 1996, Lockhard, 1997; Nie, 2001.)
Whilst people feel like they can engage more in online communities there is a worry that people are distracting themselves from reality by engaging too much online and not enough time having human interaction.
“Social network sites such as Facebook encourage and support networking practices by placing more prominence on friends and links to others than on any content being produced by the author.” Miller (2011:204)
Social media promotes the idea of sharing things that they like with friends. They want people to make friends through their networks. They place the focus on your other friends sharing links and posts rather than anything being published by the original author who in turn helps the television networks get their content spread between fans.
3.1 Design of study
The purpose of my research was to investigate into people’s social media and television habits to see if there was a relationship between them. From my survey I hoped to discover what people think to social media use in relation to television shows and whether they think it is a good idea or a bad idea to use social media in that way. I made my survey on an online survey site called SurveyMonkey and then shared it via Facebook and Twitter. Conducting the research in this way allowed me to gain a view from people that actually engage regularly in social media use.
I also designed an online focus group, which was created and conducted on Facebook. I designed this in order to collect richer and more detailed data on my topic. I shared the group on Facebook and Twitter.
Both my survey and my focus group took an interpretivist approach drawing primarily on qualitative data. However after gathering my results some quantitative data was produced by generating statistics to describe the data that was collected.
“Qualitative research is useful for studies at the individual level, and to find out, in depth, the ways in which people think or feel” McLeod (2008:Simply Psychology)
I picked research that would give me qualitative data because my outcome was to find out how people feel about social media use and television.
The participants for both my questionnaire and focus group were recruited on my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, However, I found Facebook to be more successful as it is more personal and I could target specific people. I used twitter because it allowed my survey to be shared quickly amongst my followers. They in turn could retweet the link so that their followers would see it and hopefully participate in my survey. However, one problem with Twitter is that people post more tweets than Facebook statuses so I had to tweet the link of my survey more often for it to be noticed.
I also got my mother to share my survey, on Facebook, because she was able to target a different age group than I was able to. The age range between my 498 Facebook friends is mostly 18-25 whereas my mother’s Facebook age range between her 86 friends is mostly 36+. By sharing the questionnaire between both Facebook accounts I was able to target a more varied age range so that I could see whether age was also a factor in social media audience engagement.
I also did the same method of sharing for my focus group as The X Factor is a family orientated show and by sharing it with my age group and by my mother’s age group I was able to target the audience that The X Factor is tailored for. I also shared it on Twitter using hashtags relating to The X Factor, either by the programme name itself or by names of groups that have been on The X Factor that have a big fan community (#Stereokicks, #1D). I also went onto the official The X Factor Facebook fan page but as I couldn’t find an admin to contact to post the group for me, I decided to post it on existing statuses in a hope that it would attract the fans of the show.
3.3 Complications with the research
When I first posted my survey I had noticed that one set of questions needed altering, as it wouldn’t allow participants to select more than one of the same answer. However, I soon noticed after I took a trial survey myself that I couldn’t select the answers so I went back onto survey monkey and rectified my mistake.
I also had a problem with recruiting people for my The X Factor focus group. I had shared it through Facebook on two different accounts and also shared it via twitter hashtagging #XFactor so that fans could find it online and join if they wanted to. However, after two weeks of creating the focus group I still hadn’t had anyone join the group or answer the questions. From a discussion I had with two friends they asked whether the focus group was the same as the survey I had posted a few months ago. I think this is why I hadn’t got any responses originally as people had thought it was the same as the survey. I then shared it via Twitter again but this time added hashtags related to acts that had been on the show in a hope that fans would see the link and join. I also found The X Factor’s Facebook fan page and tried to find somewhere to contact the admin so that they would be able to share my focus group via a status. There weren’t any facilities to do this so I posted it on existing statuses on their fan page. However, that didn’t generate any extra participants for my focus group. In the end I invited people to join that I had seen talking about Britain’s Got Talent on Facebook as the shows are similar in their format and though that if they watched Britain’s Got Talent, they might watch The X Factor as well.
What is your gender? (See Fig1)
88.68% of the participants were female and 11.32% of participants are male.
Please specify your age group: (See Fig2)
51 of the 53 participants answered this question. Two people chose not to declare their age and this could be due to age being a sensitive issue and some participants may not want to disclose this sort of information. 56.86% of the respondents were in the age group 18-25, 1.96% were between 26-35 and 23.53% of participants were in the 36-45 category. The age bracket of 46-55 had 13.73% of participants whilst no one between the ages of 56-60 answered the survey but 3.92% of participants who were older than 61 did. I had expected the majority of the participants to be between the ages of 18-25 because that is the age bracket that use social media the most. Therefore, there was more chance of my survey being seen by younger people. However, the age group 36-45 had the next highest number of participants. This could be due to the fact that my mother, who is around that age, shared the survey on Facebook and it would have been seen by a majority of her friends who are also in that age range.
Which of these social media devices do you own? Choose as many as applicable (See Fig3)
The iPhone was the most popular device with 75.47% of participants owning one. 64.15% of participants owned the next highest owned device, which was an iPad. 31 participants owned a laptop and 20 owned a Smart TV. MacBooks and Smartphones were the next on the list with 18.87% owning a MacBook and 22.64% owning a Smartphone. Other Tablets (Not an Apple or an Android) were next with 6 participants owning one. Apple TVs and Android Tablets had the same numbers of people owning them with 9.43%. There was also an ‘other’ response that said they owned an iMac. From these results we could say that there was a correlation between Apple devices and social media usage because the top two owned products were Apple devices. We could also say that there is a correlation between social media and devices you can use whilst on the move. Some of the devices that had the most owned were also devices that you can use whilst on the move and although, laptops/MacBooks and Smart Tvs/Apple TV were popular they didn’t have as high numbers as devices that you can use whilst not having to be near a Wi-Fi connection or plugged in.
What social media do you use? Choose as many as applicable (See Fig4)
Everyone who took part in the survey uses Facebook regularly whilst Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram was the next popular social media with 37, 35 and 34 participants using them respectively. Pinterest was next with 30.19% of participants using it, whilst Tumblr and Foursquare were significantly less popular with only 3 participants using the former just 1 person using the latter. In the ‘others’ response two participants said that they used WhatsApp. There could be seen to be a connection between audience engagement and social media with these answers as the top answer of social media that participants used the most were Facebook and Twitter which are social media where you can post comments on what your opinions are on a show. Although you can also do that with Snapchat and Instagram, you also have to either take a picture or video or post a picture or video and then you can add your comment to it whereas Facebook and Twitter you can instantly type what you want.
What device(s) do participants watch television on? Choose as many as applicable (See Fig5)
51 participants answered this question out of 53. Smart TV had the highest number of participants that watched television on it with 52.94%, however I do think that perhaps participants got confused between a Smart TV and a normal TV as in the question ‘What social media devices do you own?’ 20 participants owned one but when it came to this question 27 participants watched television on a Smart TV. iPad was the next most popular device to watch television on with 37.25% of participants and laptop closely followed with 17 participants which meant that 33.33% of all participants watch television on this device. iPhone was next with 21.57% of participants. MacBook had 9 participants, which meant that it had 17.65% of participants watching on this device. Apple TV had 9.80% of participants watching television on that device. Android tablet, other tablet and smartphone all had 2 participants watching, which meant they all had 3.92% of participants watching television on those devices. On the ‘Other’ responses all of the 8 participants said that they watched on a normal television. From these results I have found that although iPad was the 2nd most popular device to watch television on, high numbers of participants liked to watch television on their laptops and MacBooks which, to me, shows that participants like to be mobile with their devices as you can move laptops and MacBooks around but they also like to watch on a screen that is similar to the size of some smaller televisions. iPad being the 2nd most popular has shown that screen size has something to do with what device they like to watch television on as iPhone didn’t have as many people watching television on it.
What type of television shows do you enjoy watching? Choose as many as applicable
Comedy was the most enjoyed program type with 44 participants; this meant that 83.02% of all the participants enjoyed comedy programs. The next most popular genre was Entertainment with 81.13% of all participants. Drama, Documentaries and Reality all had similar numbers of participants enjoying them with Drama having 66.04%, Documentaries having 64.15% and Reality having 60.38%. There was a dramatic drop in numbers in the genres that were left after those 4. The next most enjoyed program was Sports with 26.42%. Horror and Sci-fi/Fantasy had same amount of participants that enjoyed watching them, which was 16.98% each. Wildlife had the least number of people enjoying watching out of the options provided, with 15.09% of participants. Two participants also provided answers in the ‘Other’ response. One of which was Cookery and the other response was Soaps. I, however, think that Soaps could fit into the drama category.
Social media enhances my enjoyment of television shows (See Fig7)
10.87% of those participants strongly agreed with the statement and 50% of participants agreed with the statement. 28.26% of participants disagreed with the statement and 10.87% strongly disagreed with the statement.
I do not feel fully immersed in a show if I engage with social media while watching television. (See Fig7)
50 participants answered this statement. 26% of those participants strongly agreed with this statement and 48% of participants agreed with the statement. 22% of participants disagreed with this statement whilst 4% strongly disagreed with this statement.
Certain types of television shows lend themselves to simultaneous social media use. (See Fig7)
51 participants answered this question. 19.61% of participants strongly agreed with this statement whilst 60.78% of participants agreed with the statement. 19.61% of participants disagreed with this statement with no participants strongly disagreeing with the statement.
Television shows encourage social media use. (See Fig7)
52 participants answered this statement. 28.85% of participants strongly agreed with this statement and 48.08% agreed with the statement. 21.15% of participants disagreed with the statement and 1.92% strongly disagreed with the statement.
From these statements I can say that the majority of people think that social media enhances their enjoyment of shows but more people feel that they are not fully immersed in a show if they engage with social media while watching television. The majority also thinks that certain types of shows lend themselves to social media use and that television shows encourage them to use social media whilst watching.
4.2 Focus Group
(Focus Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1080258372000764/?pnref=story)
For my focus group I asked four questions relating to entertainment show,
‘The X Factor’.
‘Why do you feel that social media is an important part of your interaction with
‘The X Factor’?
Is there something about the programme that lends itself to social media? If so, what?’
One participant said: “Social media helps viewers to interact and voice their opinions about the show, following The X Factor page allows people to keep up to date. Social media has a lot of sway and power to alter things about the show.”
Another response was “I suppose the voting aspect gives it a social spin as its all about who people like, being a talking point to finding out who other people like too. So this comparison of interests can just as easily be crossed over into social media including Facebook and Twitter.”
Two of my respondents agreed with each other that trending topics on Twitter and Facebook are ‘easily accessible’ one; to find out about which contestant is the most talked about on The X Factor and two; to allow people to interact with others about what they think about The X Factor.
“How do you interact with ‘The X Factor’ on social media? Can you provide an example of a time when you engaged with ‘The X Factor’ on social media?”
One participant said: “I share things that I find interesting and relatable. People sometimes create memes based on The X Factor and I then share them on social media using hashtags to spread them and allow for other people to see them. Sometimes clips of the show are shared or highlights of what has happened, also by having The Xtra factor it allows for an audience to engage.”
The participants all agreed that they used social media to post whose performances they liked and also whom they wanted to win the show.
One of the participants added that in recent years she has changed from sharing things using just social media. “I tend to use the app as I don’t want to spam people with my views so I simply vote on whoever I like on there.”
How does using social media whilst watching The X Factor influence/change the way you interact with the programme?
The majority of my participants agreed with each other and said that if they see people on social media talking about the show they ‘feel more obliged to post about it’ themselves. They also said that if they agree with other people’s opinions they are more likely to retweet or favourite a tweet on Twitter or share a status with friends.
One respondent said that “In recent years I’ve used their app as another form of social media as it allows me to come the ‘fifth judge’ and I get to vote yes or no to acts as they come on and I get to see the percentage of people who agree with me afterwards.”
Another participant said. “As a result of using social media and watching the show, people are joined together with people who have a common interest and this allows for discussion. Especially as a younger viewer I am more aware of sites The X Factor uses to engage with their audience and the judge’s share behind the scenes stuff it makes you feel a part of it. If you can’t watch the show with your friends, social media works as a way to interact and voice opinions. Sometimes shock of who’s gone through.”
If social media were no longer used as part of engagement with the programme, would you still engage with The X Factor in the same way?
Most participants thought that although they would still engage with The X Factor, the social side of watching it would decrease and won’t be as interesting. “It won’t be as interesting if you can’t see others opinions on it.”
“Without social media it’s harder to engage into the show as I like to see other people’s opinions on the contestants and judges comments.”
One participant said, “I would probably view it differently as usually when I watch the show I check what people are tweeting seeing if they have similar views and posting anything I think or engage with. It has become an integral part of how we view the show. We want to talk about what they’re wearing, whether we think it’s the right song choice etc.”
5.0 Critical Analysis & Discussion.
From my research I have found that those who were 18-25 used the most social media as I had at least one respondent in each social media category compared to the other age groups that had some categories with nobody using it. From my results I can take that younger people tend to use more social media. 100% of 18-25 that took part in the survey used Facebook and 86.21% used Twitter. These are the two major social media people use to engage in television shows, as these are the two that you can have conversation on. If we compare these numbers to the age group that had the next highest amount of respondents, 36-45, 100% used Facebook and 50% used Twitter. From these results we could say that Twitter is more popular amongst younger people and are more likely to engage if a television show asked them to use a hashtag to talk about a show. Although Facebook now has hashtags available to search, they are primarily used on Twitter meaning that when television shows talk about hashtags, they are expecting it to be used on Twitter.
Type of Device
47 participants own an iPhone or an iPad and 41 of those participants answered the statement ‘Social media use enhances my enjoyment of television shows’ and out of the 41 people 25 people strongly agreed and agreed that it does enhance their viewing experience. However out of 45 participants that owned an iPhone or an iPad, 32 of those strongly agreed and agreed that they do not feel fully immersed in a show if they engage with social media whilst watching television. This could prove that iPhones & iPads are more of a distraction from television, as by spending a lot of time on these devices, they aren’t paying attention to what is happening on the show.
However 36 out of 45 iPhone and iPad users think that certain types of television show ‘lend themselves to simultaneous social media use’ which could mean that iPhone and iPad users feel that television shows encourage them to use their devices to use social media whilst watching their shows.
Type of Television Show
The types of television shows that people enjoy can also have an effect on what they think of social media use. Those who watched enjoyed watching entertainment shows had 34 participants strongly agree or agree that certain types of television shows lend themselves to simultaneous social media use. Entertainment shows like ‘The X Factor’, ‘The Voice’, ‘Britian’s Got Talent’ encourages audiences to tweet or share their opinions with friends on Facebook, about the acts they have on the shows. Judging by the results entertainment programmes have worked in encouraging viewers to use social media whilst watching their shows. 33 participants who watched entertainment shows also either strongly agreed or agreed that television shows encourage social media use. This could be down to the nature of the show they enjoy watching, as entertainment shows do tend to encourage social media use more than others.
Those who used Twitter mostly watched entertainment programmes and also 62.07% of the 29 participants out 35 strongly agreed or agreed that social media enhanced their viewing experience. 74.28% of the 35 participants also strongly agreed or agreed that television shows encourage social media use.
Those who had Drama as one of their favourite types of television shows, also had high numbers of those who strongly agreed or agreed that certain types of television show lend themselves to simultaneous social media use. This could be because some dramas really encourage social media use, like for example, Hollyoaks. So because some dramas really encourage it this is why these participants felt that some television shows lend themselves to simultaneous social media use.
Type Of Social Media
Participants who strongly agreed or agreed that they didn’t feel fully immersed in a show if they used social media while watching television, had the same number of participants that used Facebook. However, not all respondents used Twitter so it could be argued that people feel more distracted by Facebook because it is a more personal social media and would be distracted by what people post about their lives rather than being involved in a television show.
From my focus group I can gather that ‘apps’ play a big part in how they engage as the majority of participants said that The X Factor app allowed them to be the fifth judge and comment alongside the judges on television.
I also found from the focus group that Facebook and Twitter gives The X Factor a ‘social spin’ and they like to use it as it is easily accessed to find out who is popular and doing well on the show when perhaps they aren’t watching it. This means that Facebook and Twitter can also be used as a catch up tool when you’re not sat watching programmes and from people’s statuses, comments, tweets, retweets and favourites, you can easily pick up what is going on.
They also said that their experience of The X Factor would be different if they didn’t have social media ‘open’ during their viewing. They said it wouldn’t be the same experience without Facebook and Twitter, as they couldn’t see what other people’s opinions were.
From my focus group research I can draw an overall conclusion that viewing The X Factor isn’t just a one-screen experience and that it requires all elements of social media to make it a good viewing experience.
From the literature review and the research I conducted, I believe that social media has improved the relationship between TV programmes and their audiences.
I do, however, think that on certain types of social media, the level of audience engagement is greater. I think Twitter is tailored more to television audience engagement, as it is a social network that attracts strangers to talk to each other about their interests. Television shows also tend to show hashtags they want you to use when talking about their shows and hashtags are more of a Twitter characteristic.
‘Showing a hashtag at the beginning of a show results in a 63% increase in the proportion of tweets about the programme including the official hashtag.’ Windels (Cited:Hootsuite:2013)
Tedford (2015: Social Media Insider) has stated “If you want to know what people think when they watch TV, just check Twitter.” Which is a statement I strongly agree with as I believe that whatever kind of show is on television someone on Twitter will be commenting it and even if you didn’t watch the show you can get an insight of what happened, which in turn could make you want to watch the show yourself.
From my literature review I found that social media is like one big community for fans of shows as it provides them with a space to talk freely about their opinions. They feel like they can talk about their opinions openly as opposed to ‘real-life’ where they might get judged for thinking in a certain way.
Social media has also helped ‘bridge the gap’ in between television show episodes by posting extra clips, backstage exclusives and interviews. This means that audiences can feel like they are engaging with the show even when it’s not on air. Audiences can feel more involved with shows because they get to see things through social media that they wouldn’t of otherwise seen on the main show.
“One of the best ways to appeal to fans is to share special or exclusive content with them via Twitter. Whether it’s a red carpet premiere or an end-of-the-season table read, sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes Tweets help establish your voice and identity.” (Twitter, 2015)
“Today, we have information that identifies the characteristics of a piece of content as if it were a living person. We can tell its life story, down to who appeared, in which episode, and even how popular the scenes were during the first broadcast.” Dawes and Dixon (2014:The Guardian) From social media content working along side television content, we can build a bigger background picture of characters on shows as if these characters are real people. This shows how well the mix of content works together and it gives the viewers a bigger picture of what is happening.
Television shows can also get closer to their audiences by seeing what they write about their show online. By using hashtags on Twitter they can track what people think about the show easily. Producers can see whether or not that, their audience likes or dislikes a particular character. This can then influence future shows as the producers will want to give more screen time to the characters that are causing the most social media buzz as it will hopefully create more publicity for the programme.
I also think that social media only improves the audience’s engagement if they are interacting with the show whilst it is live, as by ‘second-screening’ it creates another experience to viewing which you don’t get by tweeting after the show has aired.
“Viewer engagement lends itself to live shows given social is based around what is happening now, though real time social media opinion can be delivered via live continuity around the shows or in promo airtime to even greater effect for a snapshot of the live social engagement. Even better is for original formats where viewer/social engagement social is ‘baked in’ to the programme core which then assures, as it is an integral part of the format, that the interaction is represented and showcased in a full and developed fashion.” Bowers (Cited:The Guardian: 2013)
From my survey I have found that the majority of audiences do think that social media enhances the way they view television shows. The focus group results back up this view by saying that their experience of ‘The X Factor’ is made better with social media.
I also think that the future of social media and television is more integration with live television, making shows more interactive for audiences. We are starting to see this by apps being used by ‘The X Factor’ where you can now vote for free if you download their app and also there was a feature this year where you could use the app to vote on what song a contestant was going to sing. I think that they will develop apps further to allow audiences to have nearly complete control on what they are going to see on live television. I think most shows will make second screen viewing almost a necessary thing, as it will prove a fundamental part of most shows. I think that most, if not all, television shows will display the hashtag they want audiences to talk about their shows on at the beginning of shows. Whilst we’ve seen that some shows do this now, I think that more shows will see how displaying hashtags for themselves can give them an idea of how their shows are doing so will encourage audiences to do this.
I think the future of social media and television integration will allow audiences to have the most control over shows rather than the producers. Audiences have the power to get things trending on social media and producers will rely more on what audiences think and change their shows based on the opinion of the audience, as they want it to stay talked about.
“It’s clear that social activity has an impact on success. It has the potential to drive audiences back to linear viewing, increase viewer engagement, amass new audiences, and boost ad revenue.” Dawes and Dixon (2014:the Guardian)
If I were to do this dissertation again I would research further into the types of television shows people watch and the level of engagement. I think that people’s level of engagement on social media depends on the type of show that they watch and whilst my survey did touch on this a little bit, I would conduct focus groups asking whether the genre of show they watch effects the way they talk about it on social media.
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