The Rise of 2nd Screen Viewer Engagement: Implications for Advertisers

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The first time I heard the term “second-screen viewing” or “second-screen viewer,” I rolled my eyes. Hello…we have been watching TV and eating, reading, doing homework, “studying,” emailing with clients, etc. for as long as the TV tray has existed.

But what we haven’t experienced for decades is the ability to track what viewers are doing while they’re watching. Are they playing Candy Crush and sort-of watching CSI or are they watching The Voice and following the singers virtually as they sing on screen? In other words, are they tuned out or hyper tuned in?

Thanks to social media (and our inherent need to share), we’re now able to pinpoint just how engaging our shows are. And, more importantly, we’re able to capitalize on this engagement with ads.

But just how much second screen viewing is actually happening and what’s the potential for second screen engagement?

In 2012, Nielsen reported that 40% of smartphone and tablet owners used their devices while watching TV. In just 2 years, that number has increased to 80 percent! So as advertisers and “official engagement engineers,” how do we capitalize on this?

Thankfully, technology has given us the ability to track the real-time interactions happening across multiple networks, platforms & devices and associate those with what’s happening on TV. And they’re not mapping back to to the TV guide to determine when something’s airing. It’s way more sophisticated than that –  companies like Bluefin Labs (now a part of Twitter) have technologies to determine what’s on TV in conjunction with real-time conversations on Twitter and Facebook.

All of that aside, engaging with TV viewers is now not just an opportunity, it’s a necessity. But what does this mean for advertisers?

  1. In-depth knowledge of your target audience. Gone are the days of shot-in-the-dark intuitions around where your target audience is and what they’re talking about. To engage in the second screen, you have to KNOW what shows your audience is watching, when they’re watching it (live or DVR?), and what networks, hashtags, etc. they’re using while viewing.
  2. Live Interaction. Okay well that’s sort of a given. With social, you need someone manning your account basically 24/7. But if you want to engage with TV viewers, you must also watch along with them – otherwise how would you know what they’re even referencing in their #scandal tweets?
  3. On-the-fly Content Creation. Brands always struggle to find the perfect balance between getting content approved before it goes live and creating content that leverages real-time conversations. But with the second screen, this balance is even more important. You can’t wait until the second commercial break to promote a tweet about something that happened in the first two minutes of a TV program. So you either need to be able to predict a few content areas and have the ability to adjust based on the show OR you need the ability to create images and associated text with an “ask for forgiveness, rather than seeking approval” mentality, forgoing the approvals process.

How do you engage with brands and/or TV shows while watching the tube?