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Navigating the TV Twitterverse One Tweet at a Time

Just a few months ago, Twitter began testing a "TV Trending" feature. And why wouldn't they? Over the last year, more and more people reached for some sort of "second screen" device while watching their favorite programs. According to Business Insider, 88 percent of consumers use mobile as a second screen while watching TV, many of whom are tweeting about the very show they’re watching.

Incidentally, Nielsen (the TV ratings company) has developed a rating system based on the relationship between show-related tweets and ratings for a particular show. Twitter, in step, has ad targeting features that enable marketers to engage directly with people on Twitter who have been exposed to their ads on TV.

As the Twitterverse and TV-land become increasingly symbiotic, more opportunities will exist for companies to place their brand in the context of popular shows. In fact, some of those opportunities are already here, whizzing by at light-speed, waiting for you to grab ahold. So hang on, 'cause we're going forward. Fast.

To illustrate how the second screen enables you to insert your product into the context of a popular TV show, let's use the wildly popular and edgy phenom Breaking Bad as an example. From background appearances of food products to cleaning products to automobiles and video games, not to mention a number of cringe-worthy foreground appearances by a well-known brand of RV, this is a show rife with paid product placement. Here in the future, however, you can get similar results for a fraction of the investment using Twitter. All you have to do is pay attention and apply a little creative thinking.

Take the series finale for instance—an episode which delivered 10.3 million viewers. Statistically speaking, you've got anywhere from 7.5 million to 8.5 million people with a second screen on their lap or in their hand watching the show, many of whom are actively using Twitter. This means the reach potential is well into the millions, provided one can strike the right chord in less than 140 characters.

In the last 15 minutes of the final episode alone, there are myriad moments during which a number of companies, if quick on their feet, could have sent timely, appropriately hashtagged tweets with the potential to reach a massive audience with a fraction of the investment of a product placement on the show itself.


Recall the night the lights went out at the Super Bowl when one clever cookie company sent the tweet heard round the world. This was more of a family affair for sure. Still Oreo managed to slip an alliterative and slightly suggestive tweet in at just the right time.

A short tweet that said: “Power out? No problem,” accompanied by a graphic that read: "You can still dunk in the dark."

"We had a mission control set up at our office...and when the blackout happened, the team looked at it as an opportunity," said Oreo Digital agency president Sarah Hofstetter about how they were able to pull off the social media stroke of genius.

The good news is this type of opportunity is available to any brand of any size, in the context of any of the most-watched television events known to man. Which brings us back to Breaking Bad.

Those who know Breaking Bad know the main character, Walter White, as a cancer patient who spends most of the series sporting his signature cue ball look along with a small to medium amount of facial hair. In the final episode, however, he's rocking a full head of hair and a full beard. And what's more, there's a lengthy exchange between Walter and another character about his "fine head of hair."

With a little ingenuity, a company that sells hair products, shaving products, hair styling services for men, could have cleverly crafted hair-related tweets along with the right hashtags to tie their comment in with the show. That's not the only scene, however. There were plenty.BreakingBad_breakfast

  • If you ever watched a season of Breaking Bad, I’m sure you saw more than a few breakfast scenes. Companies like Kellogg’s, Tropicana or Eggland’s Best could have taken advantage of this by tweeting healthy-eating related tweets or tweets about getting your day started of right (just like Walter White’s family does) with their brand’s breakfast food.
  • There are arguments about broken promises where one could insert a tweet from a florist about how flowers are better for apologies than bullets.

  • The moment where Walter opens fire on his enemies with an auto-run machine gun hidden in his trunk--- destroying a car, a house and everything in it---was prime real estate for anyone in the business of:

    • Auto Body Repair

    • Plaster Walls

    • Windows

    • House Cleaning Services

    • Remodeling

    • Construction

    • Used Furniture

    • Auctions

    • Security

    • Gun Safety

    • Insurance (Why Allstate's Mayhem never leveraged any of the destruction featured in the show is certainly a question worth asking.)

Speaking of characters, for extra fun, companies could use Twitter personas to tweet in the point of view of different characters in the story. Or even use the platform to sympathize with characters besides the main ones, like extras and guest stars.

If it is natural to do so, don't be afraid to invite participation in the story taking place on the first screen (TV)  using any and all available elements in a story as a second screen strategy. Is the show edgy? Slightly subversive? Funny? Social TV is the perfect context within which to push boundaries and stretch beyond the safe zone when it comes to promoting your business in creative and edgy ways.

The old "spray and pray" method of sending a message is no longer effective. As social media continues to melt down the barriers between the new and the old, more and more opportunities will arise to deploy marketing messages to audiences in real-time and within more relevant contexts.

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