Building Engagement with the Second Screen

Building Engagement with the Second Screen

Using the Second Screen

Photo Credit: LGEPR CC

Media and content producers are increasingly turning to the second screen in an effort to get viewers and/or readers engaged with their content. In this age of short attention spans, measuring how many people are actually watching a particular show or reading a particular article doesn’t carry the same weight as someone who is directly interacting with the content. Advances in tablets, smart phones, and other devices are making it incredibly easy for the content producers to engage and interact with their fans. What does this mean and how do I start building better engagement with the second screen? Read on.

The Hashtag and the Second Screen

You’ve no doubt been watching a TV show and you’ll see a hashtag appear somewhere on the screen encouraging you to join the conversation. A hashtag looks something like this: #Survivor or #Dexter. Twitter was the first social network to employ the hashtag feature and has since rolled out to other platforms including Facebook. The hashtag allows fans to listen to and join conversations that are happening around a particular hashtag, by simply conducting a search using said hashtag. Below is an example from the 2013 World Domination Summit:

As you can, you don’t need to use a hashtag for just TV. You can use it for your seminar, on an ad you’re running, a business card, etc. in an effort to increase engagement. The hashtag also functions as chat topic, allowing others to participate in a conversation defined by the hashtag. For instance, #custchat is a regular chat that garners a worldwide following.

Using the Second Screen for Live Interactions and as a Virtual Living Room

Second screen interaction isn’t limited to just hashtag functions. Survivor’s Jeff Probst “Live Tweets” during the east and west coast airings of Survivor. The cast of ABC’s Scandal also are known to watch with fans (even during reruns) and interact with them via Twitter. This provides fans not only access to the stars, but also serves as a focus group of sorts for the networks, providing instant feedback for what the viewers are watching and getting their opinions. Gone are the days of having to wait weeks for any sort of feedback with regards to a show.

Journalists and other writers are also encouraging interaction with their readers, by hosting chats or answering comments left with their articles. People may read an article on their table and then respond right away to a question posed in the prose.

Text to Win and Gamification

The second screen can be used for gamification. Gamification is another new buzzword that shows the progression of technology. Gamification is a way of rewarding someone for doing a certain task. For instance, many people use the Foursquare app, checking in at venues during their travels and earning points for those check-ins. They also will occasionally earn badges they can proudly display on their profile.

Content producers are using this concept to get people to engage with their content. The San Diego Padres give points for doing certain daily tasks related to the team and by using a certain hashtag. As an example, they’ll give you 50 points for tweeting about the Padres using the #Padres hashtag. If you’ve linked your Facebook account to their system, any posts you make on the Padres fan pages earn you points. You can then redeem the points for prizes and experiences.

Even radio stations are getting into the engagement act. They’ll encourage you to text to win concert tickets or other prizes. Listeners can also answer poll questions by texting. CBS’ Big Brother is notorious for their text poll questions, charging a $1 per text entry when it’s just as easy and free to enter online. Yet people still text to vote.

Using the Second Screen for Extended Content

Traditional magazines and newspapers are flat. Their ads aren’t dynamic nor interactive. However, when publishers can take the same magazine or newspaper and make a digital version, readers have access to digital content, videos, and highly dynamic and engaging advertisements that are measurable. Many publications offer a discounted or free subscription to the digital version of their magazine to those who subscribe to the printed version. Again, this builds engagement with the reader as they’ll have access to content that isn’t possible in the printed version. Take a look at Wired magazine. Their digital version offers a ton of interactive features that are incredibly engrossing and engaging for the reader.

If you’ve been watching the 2013 season of Food Network Star, they encourage viewers to use Yahoo’s IntoNow app to sync with the show, offering behind the scenes video, polls, chats, and other pieces of content that make the show all the more engaging and done in realtime as the show runs.

Some producers have developed custom apps that supplement the content. For instance, the SciFi channel’s Ghost Hunters has developed their own app. Showtime has created an app for Dexter where fans can engage with the show and other fans.


With the Nielsen company starting to track social media activity around brands, TV shows, and other content, we’re going to see increases in the way we can interact with the produced content. Not only are the content producers banking on people consuming their content, they’re relying on people to engage with it as well.

As it stands currently, engaging fans and consumers through the channels demonstrated above illustrates the power and the importance of the second screen, especially as more and more people embrace technology and their smart devices. As technology continues to advance, marketers are going to be less reliant on traditional media as more weight is going to be given to the actual engagement and interactions of the audience with the produced content. And the second screen gives these content producers the opportunity to accurately measure what’s working and what’s not by engaging directly with the masses.

What say you? How do you engage with your audience? Do you think you could use the second screen to build rapport?

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