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How Twitter is saving TV

The Voice judges Keith Urban, Delta Goodrem, Seal and Joel Madden.
As Seal, Joel et al were warming up their vocal chords for The Voice's live show on Monday night the Twitterati were warming up their thumbs, perhaps unaware that they were about to join one of the most successful social media campaigns in Australian history.
Tweets boasting the show's hash tag (#TheVoiceAU) were already starting to fly back and forth long before its 7.30pm start, with the more socially engaged of the shows 2.2 million viewers warming up for a night of heavy Tweeting.
The Voice wasn't their only engagement; there was #masterchef, #theblock, #mediawatch, and #qanda, and all in real time! Pleas for multiple screens, devices, and hand massages were beginning to flood the Twitter feed.
Of course, they were joking. Twitter devotees like nothing more than sharing their views on a night of quality television with thousands of like-minded viewers, while longing for re-tweets, new followers, and, the Holy Grail: a Tweet published on TV.
If video was enough to kill the radio star then TiVo, YouTube and IQ, should have been able to kill off free-to-air TV. Instead, TV programs are embracing new media, the social kind, and using it as their greatest weapon.
The Voice has been the most successful of them all. It is proving that watching TV is no longer just about watching TV. It's social TV — it's about getting involved in the conversation.
"People want to be participants rather than just viewers, and to participate you have to switch on the TV, which is good news for the networks," says social media guru Tommy Tudehope.
In an age where piracy, YouTube channels, on-demand video, and recording devices like Foxtel iQ allow viewers to watch their favourite programs at their leisure — threatening ratings — programs are, more strategically than we realise, using Twitter to get their viewers back on the couch and making us watch our favourite shows when the networks tell us to.
Of course, they're doing this with differing degrees of success.
Masterchef has done well to attract viewers among its online foodie following, Q&A's competitive snarky tweeting has been popular among politically minded Gen-Ys and media types for a while, and Lateline is experimenting with nightly "guest tweeters".
But through driving a positive conversation and supporting that on screen, The Voice is doing it better than anyone, and it's no doubt helping the ratings.
Attracting tens of thousands of tweets per show and trending almost as soon as the opening credits roll, it's no accident The Voice's social media strategy is going gangbusters. They're following a strategy developed with the help of Twitter's own marketing team and honed since Holland's first incarnation of the phenomenally successful franchise.
"Twitter contributes to the ratings simply because it's one of the platforms that keeps the buzz around the show alive and have people talk about the show," says creator of the show's digital bible, Sjoerd Demaret of digital agency Talpa Productions.
"Others notice there's a lot of activity (trending) around The Voice and if they want to join the conversation they need to know what they're talking about... meaning they have to watch the show."
And if Twitter can't be completely credited with saving ratings, at least it's helping the industry in creating jobs. Congratulations Fuzzy, The Voice's social media host whose role it is to monitor tweets, read them out, and remind us to keep them coming.
Demaret is also quick to point out we haven't yet reached the final destination of online integration and TV. With second screens, in-screen tweeting, and user-controlled scrolling feeds on the way, TV is about to become a whole lot more social. Viewers are going to have to get used to multi-tasking, that groove in your couch is going to get that little bit more worn in, and the networks are breathing a sigh of relief.
Elizabeth Burke is The Weekly's youngest writer. Click here to follow her on Twitter and here to follow The Weekly.

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