Social Media and TV: frenemies?

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Love, lust, envy, intrigue, hatred, violent threats, networking: just another episode of Game of Thrones? Or just another day on social media? Both, of course.

As the cultural phenomenon de jour, Game of Thrones is commonly referenced in professional media chatter and all across social media. Its origins, in the far-off history of 2011, are in the foothills of social media development (Instagram started six months earlier), and so it has grown from slow burn TV series to hardcore worldwide following, to record-breaking icon, alongside the growth of social media.

I suppose they are the classic frenemy suggested in the title of our feature on social media and TV in this issue. But you only to have ask the question: ‘would Game of Thrones be Game of Thrones without social media?’, counterposed with: ‘would social media be social media without Game of Thrones?’ to see who owes who most in this relationship. You can be very big, and you can be very, very good but you cannot be global without social media.

Sure, social media plays a part in spreading the piracy threat to a marquee show and, sure, it has meant inventing a new release pattern (or rather it has dispensing with the pattern in favour of simultaneous release), but these are small black marks on the ledger compared to the wildfire word spreading about a show and the increased fan engagement of millions.

And now, as our feature reveals, that engagement can be measured – the uplift in social media activity for advertisers in series eight of Game of Thrones was in the 100s of percentage points. So, advertising on TV is certainly creating bangs for the bucks on social media and presumably those bangs, in turn, produce some bucks in the tills. As it used to be said, we never knew which 50 per cent of advertising spend produced 100 per cent of the resulting spend. Do we know what percent of social media spend or social media ‘engagement’ produces sales? The technology doubtless means yes, but there is a further price to pay in privacy.

Which brings us to the big divide in this debate, as in so many others today: generational. Caring or not caring about what’s said on social media, caring or not caring about how it got there and caring or not caring about how your profile is used to make it available for nothing, are attitudes often shaped by age. So, whether you call it the social media age, or the surveillance economy, time is on its side.


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