The Power of Influence on TV Shows
It’s easy to take the wrong path when it comes to television, ratings, and marketing via television. Though it once made sense to focus on the demographic for a particular show (and the accompanying ads), the intense focus on demographically-based Nielsen ratings may be waning, as much has changed in the way viewers watch television and how they respond to it. Rather than worrying about who’s watching a show at its weekly scheduled time, today it may make more sense to focus more on what people are saying about that show online.
The Old Way & New Way in Television
For years, Nielsen ratings were the major influencer of which television shows maintained their spots and which shows were canceled. The shows with the highest ratings enjoyed the most security. This meant the show you and your family loved could be canceled if the ratings were low, even if you and thousands of others had become loyal fans.
Today, however, not having the highest Nielsen rating doesn’t necessarily mean the death of a television show. Viewers don’t just tune in using their television sets these days. Instead, many watch via smartphones, computers, tablets, and other devices. And as people have turned to non-traditional means of watching their favorite shows, social media has become more influential in judging which shows are worthwhile.
Part of the reason the Nielsen ratings are so much less insightful is the fact that enjoying television shows extends beyond simply watching them. Many viewers spend time engaging in other ways, not only during their shows, such as by looking up information about the actors online, but also by talking about their favorite shows on sites like Facebook and Twitter long after an episode has ended.
Consider, for example, that shows like Two and a Half Men and Vampire Diaries have millions of fans and followers (29 million Facebook fans for Men, and 15 million for Vampire). Their Nielsen ratings, however, are not as high as a “hit” show might have had in years past. This means that networks have to consider more than just Nielsen ratings when gauging popularity.
Why Influence Matters for Television
The show Community serves as a good example of the power of influencers on television content. In 2011, the show’s third season, Community was given the death knell; cancellation was imminent. But its online audience rallied, and the show was given another shot for the 2012 season, premiering in February 2013.
On the night of its season four premiere, there were two Twitter trending topics related to the show: #sixseasonsandamovie and #savecommunity. Many of its fans wrote blog posts (or even created blogs) to stop NBC from making what some called “its crazy decision” to can the show.
Influencers stepped up to the plate to save Community for a 3rd and 4th season:
- Donald Glover, one of the show’s actors, who also has a following as a comedian and rapper, created a public service announcement to keep the show on the air for its 3rd season. It went viral.
- Bloggers like Mandy Kilinskis used their blogs to spread the word about Community.
- Viewers like Catherine Boyd became top advocates for the show.
The blog post, How to Save Your Favorite TV ShowFrom Cancellation, explains how some fans have saved their favorite shows. The writer recommends contacting critics and TV bloggers who have influence over viewers. These individuals are in a position to get their readers talking and spreading the word about the show across the Internet. It’s a perfect example of the power of influence marketing, and a lesson brands – television and other – can’t afford to ignore.
Aligning Brands to Television Buzz
If you’re a television show, these lessons are paramount for understanding how to reach and engage with your audiences. And if you’re a brand who’s traditionally advertised on television shows, you may want to rethink they ways you promote your product or service.
The old days of reaching a massive, demographically-targeted audience via television may be coming to an end. Instead, consider reaching out to the influencers who care about certain shows and who can amplify your brand messages to their followers.