The two-screen tipping point

August 31, 2011

Marketing, Public relations

Image credit: Trendrr and Mashable

We officially hit the two-screen tipping point Sunday night. And if you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who was on Twitter at that time. Newly-pregnant Beyonce’s live performance on MTV’s Video Music Awards generated almost 9,000 tweets a second. But there are two stories here. Of course, Beyonce’s baby bump. But also that MTV took advantage of an event they knew people would be passionate about and harnessed the conversation around its brand through its promotion of the hashtag #VMA during the awards show.

So what does this tipping point mean for brands? Well, if they’re not thinking about how to capitalize on the two-screen phenomenon, they’re missing a huge opportunity. An opportunity with which you could be helping them.

Let’s take a step back and talk about two screens for a second. The concept is simple. It’s the idea that people don’t just interact with one screen anymore when it comes to their TV and entertainment, and while its especially prevalent among millenials, we see it across all generations. Because of this transition, we’re starting to see changes in our regularly scheduled programming. For example:

- The Rachel Maddow Show has developed an iPad app designed for use while watching the show. Users can talk with other fans and share their opinions on the issues Rachel is discussing as they watch. It’s sort of like interacting with a UStream interface while watching the show on your regular TV.

- Awards shows have been early adopters of this trend. We already talked about the VMAs. And if you weren’t tweeting while watching the Oscars earlier this year, my guess is you will be next year.

- Then there’s new TV shows like The Voice, America’s Got Talent and Suits that actually include Twitter hashtags on the screen while the show is going on. Howie Mandel has actually shared what he’s seeing happen in real-time on Twitter. And Suits actually poses written questions on the screen during its show with the hashtag at the end of the question.

So how can brands make two-screens work for them? The answers to that question continues to evolve. We’ve seen TV stations embrace the opportunity. But if you’re a company that advertises on Suits or The Voice, the rules are different, right. And a call to action in commercials may be overlooked, since fewer commercials are being watched these days as more of us forget how we ever lived life without DVR.

My thought — and it’s just a thought — is that brands should be looking for opportunities to facilitate the two-screen conversation online. If it’s a show about healthier living, then a food or workout brand could pay to lead/guide the conversation online via that show’s hashtag. Not pay for a sponsored tweet on it, but to actually facilitate conversation. IMO, that’s a much more valuable, concrete way to make connections than a TV commercial.

Long story short…With the proliferation of smartphones, tablet love and peoples’ inability to focus on just one thing at a time anymore, if companies are not thinking about how to make the two-screen experience work for them, then that’s really just a shame.

I don’t know about you, but I always worry about starting a race slow and then trying to catch up. The rabbits have already run out to an early lead and shown what works well and what doesn’t. Now it’s time for brands to make their move.

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Paul_Gaspais YW! #business