As I work on this blog post, I’ve got a clear view of two screens – my laptop and the TV. This is a common occurrence at my house, and many others across North America. A majority of Americans are now commonly using TV and the Internet at the same time – Nielsen has reported that number as high as 60%, and there are plenty of reasons why. Some people are multitasking, scrolling through their reader or catching up on work while they watch. Some are complementing what they’re seeing on the TV with what they’re doing online—looking up that Law & Order: SVU guest star on IMDb or checking their fantasy football scores while they watch the game. But a significant number are incorporating social media into their TV use (myself included), and our numbers are growing.

The impact of social media on TV is significant. In an interview last year, media scholar Henry Jenkins theorized that social media is making people return to watching television in real time, a practice that’s been on the downward trend, thanks to the popularity of time-shifting technologies. Not only does real-time watching help viewers to avoid spoilers, it also allows them to talk about the shows their watching with others who are having the same experience. There’s a window of time after an episode airs when it’s still considered relevant and appropriate conversation for most people. This is especially true for what’s often called “event TV”—the Oscars, the Super Bowl, political debates or speeches—which lend themselves to in-the-moment chatting. Social TV means you’re watching with other people—even if those people are spread out all over your time zone or the world. For many people, talking about TV is one of the most enjoyable parts of watching it, and social media is making this easier than ever.

Popular Tools for Social TV Viewing

When it comes to talking about TV, a number of tools have emerged, looking to capitalize on the trend and provide social networks dedicated to TV or general media consumption.

GetGlue

GetGlue, launched in 2008, is the leader in the field. It allows users to check-in to the media they’re consuming, awarding them with virtual stickers. Once users have collected enough virtual stickers for the TV, music and movies they’re watching, they can have physical stickers mailed to them. GetGlue has also partnered with both Foursquare, for location-based check-ins, and DIRECTV, to allow users to check-in from their TV sets.

Miso

Miso hasn’t been around as long as GetGlue, having only launched in 2010, but does present some solid competition. Like GetGlue, it’s integrated with DirectTV, but unlike GetGlue, it focuses solely on TV. Also unlike GetGlue, they’re looking past check-ins to content, recognizing that gamification is only one reason for users to use social TV tools. With an eye on content as a long-term strategy, Miso may be poised to grow.

Tunerfish

Tunerfish comes from Comcast, and bills itself as a “social discovery engine.” Despite providing a host of social gesture options and a promised robust recommendations tool, Tunerfish is lagging when compared with GetGlue and Miso. With relatively few users, the social network is suffering. After all, if your contacts aren’t there, what’s the point?

Twitter

And let’s not forget Twitter. Plenty of viewers are turning to their existing networks for TV talk, and Twitter is my tool of choice. I can follow my favorite shows, their creators, and their stars, see what my existing network is saying or follow hashtags devoted to particular shows to get a broader view of what Twitter users are saying. This is working for me so far, but I wonder if I’m missing something by not using a tool like the ones described above.

 

Do you incorporate social media into your TV viewing? If I’m only using Twitter and not one of these other platforms, am I missing out?

 

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