Social TV: Can Daytime Soaps Better Use Social Media to Stay Alive?


Everywhere you look these days there's an article about the phenomenon of "Social TV". Fans logging into Facebook, Twitter, Get Glue and other social networking platforms to dish about their favorite series with online pals has become highly important to a television program's success. It has also played a factor in affording several on the bubble series reprieves. Could the Social TV craze have played a factor in General Hospital's recent pardon by ABC?

According to TV Guide, GH being picked to stay on the ABC airwaves, as the Mouse House decided to gut The Revolution, helped the 49-year-old sudser top the site's Social Power Ranking. Almost a week after the news was broken by Deadline, GH is still the No. 1 television series on TV Guide's list.  Speaking of Deadline, their piece on The Revolution being cancelled, a Good Morning America spin off temporarily taking its place this summer and General Hospital reportedly living to see its 50th anniversary on April 1, 2013, remains the site's most commented on post.

None of this comes as a surprise to diehard soap fans, who witnessed #GeneralHospital and various characters from the series trending on Twitter in the weeks and months leading up to the announcement. We already knew GH was one of the most buzzed about shows on the web, but the question is, what can General Hospital and other soap operas do to turn their Social TV currency into actual ratings?


According to a report in Ad Age, it isn't always easy to turn tweets and "likes" into ratings gold. For every Super Bowl XLV, which netted 4,000 tweet per second during the game's final moments—and was also the most watched TV event in history—there's a Glee or Gossip Girl, which, although they consistently rank at the top of Social TV tracking sites like Mashable and Trendrr.TV, tend not to make nearly as significant showings in the Nielsens. Recently Glee reached No. 2 on Trendrr, yet for the same week in question, it was No.77 in the Nielsens.

Of course this could easily lead to the old debate of how reliable the Nielsen ratings system really is, but as of this point in time, it's those numbers that ultimately decide if a show stays on the air —  not Facebook impressions or recommendations on Klout.

One positive trend analysts have noted, is that Social TV is encouraging diehard fans of a show to forego the DVR in order to watch live again.

From Ad Age:


In fact, after years of declines in live tune-in, Twitter, Facebook and some mobile startups appear to be luring audiences back to appointment TV. While DVRs unglued us from TV schedules, the desire to tap into the tweets, posts and check-ins in real time may just bring us back.

"If you look at the tweets about a TV show, a huge proportion come from when the show is airing live, not an hour later," said Robin Sloan, who works with Twitter's media-partnership team. During awards shows such as the Oscars and Grammys, Twitter has seen viewers complain that those events aren't aired live on both coasts. To appease U.S. fans forced to swear off the internet for a month to save from British tweeters' "Doctor Who" spoilers, the BBC decided to air the show on both continents on the same day.

This particular trend could prove most beneficial for the four daytime soap operas currently in production—GH, Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful—as they are ranked on the Nielsens by Live Plus Same Day viewing, meaning if a soap opera watcher doesn't view a DVR'd episode within a 24-hour timespan, it doesn't count towards the soap's ratings. If any medium should be utilizing social media to encourage live viewing, it's daytime soap operas!

So what are the daytime suds doing to encourage fans to watch live? General Hospital's executive producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati both joined Twitter earlier this year. Most of the soap's popular cast members are also on the site. There's an official General Hospital Twitter handle with over 24,000 followers. On Facebook, the GH page has over 785,000 "likes".

Days of Our Lives has two Twitter accounts, one managed by NBC and the other by Corday Productions. NBC's DAYS account has over 45,000 followers, while the one managed by the production company has around 19,000. The official DAYS Facebook page has a little over 500,000 "likes".

Daytime's No. 1 soap opera, The Young and the Restless has roughly 33,000 followers on Twitter. Almost 740,000 Genoa City lovers have "liked" the sudser's official Facebook page.

Of the four soaps currently airing in daytime, Y&R's sister sudser The Bold and the Beautiful has made the least impact on social networking sites. B&B's Twitter profile is followed by just a little over 12,000 fans. The fashion sudser's Facebook page has 215,000 "likes".

By comparision, The CW's insanely buzzed about-yet-low rated, teen soap Gossip Girl has almost 1.6 million Twitter followers and over 3 million "likes" on Facebook. That means that essentially Gossip Girl's entire audience (an average of 1.64 million total viewers during the 2010-2011 TV season, according to Nielsen) follows the soaps every shocking plot twist on Twitter!

From the looks of things, the daytime suds could all benefit from much more aggressive Social TV campaigns. The fact that the median audience for daytime soaps skewers over 50 likely accounts for much of the disconnect between the millions of viewers who still watch daytime dramas and the soaps' comparably flimsy Social TV numbers. Shows like Gossip Girl are targeted at teenagers and young women, who use social networking sites at a much higher rate than older TV watchers.

According to a Pew Research Center study from 2011, of the 13 percent of adult Internet users who are on Twitter, 18 percent are aged 18-29. Fourteen percent are aged 30-49. Only eight percent were in the 50-64 age range and just six percent were over 65. The study went on to say blacks and Latinos were more likely to use Twitter.

Okay, that's enough information overload for one post. Here's a few things I think the daytime soaps could do to get their Social TV numbers up and by correlation encourage more live viewing:

10 Responses

  1. Profile photo of Camp is not a sustainable model
    Camp is not a sustainable model

    -Passions did a the best with Social Media. They use to have a Beyond The Scene where sometimes entire scenes that were cut or didn’t make it on air were put on the Web. So Daytime could do that.

    -Taking Classic clips or classic episodes and putting them on the web would also work well for each Daytime Drama to remind viewers why they fell in love with the soap in the first place and open up a whole new crop of viewers to the past.

    -A special thing I have thought of would be to have this segment on-line after each soap has aired called “In-Character.” This would be between 1 to 5 minutes of an actor or actors in character breaking the 4th Wall and speaking to the audience (reality TV style) and trying to explain, justify or share their thoughts on the drama that preceded with their character in the just-aired episode.

    Imagine Days having Kate and Stefano both talking to the camera’s separately about the break-up of their marriage and both telling their points of view just like you would see on say “The Real World.”

    Kate would be sitting in chair with a tissue talking to the audience about how much she loves Stefano and is not going to give up on their marriage and explaining to the audience why she made the mistake of sleeping with Ian and then beating herself up at the same time for doing it. Then you would cut to Stefano going on about how much he loved Kathrine and how this betrayal is unforgivable. You could be flipping back between two actors when the segment called for it.

    The audience could then sound off in the comments section as the actor or actors in character-would close with a question “what do do you think?”

    That would be my ideas.

  2. Profile photo of Tahanee

    It would be awesome if Frank or Ron live tweeted episodes, like cliffhanger Fridays. Lisa Locicero already live tweets, but it would be great if more of the actors did.

  3. Profile photo of Edna Barefoot
    Edna Barefoot

    I want to know why Nielson ratings matter. They never rate anything to match any other counting. They don’t even count 60+. Don’t they know there are a lot of older people who watch TV. Hey my mom is 89 & watches all day & into the night. I’m 60 & watch sometimes all day & night.They are like the guys who rated movies. I always watched if they said not to. Nielson ratings are the same. If execs really want to know the ratings then ask the viewers. Not just a few but everyone. Figure out a way!! Just check out followers on FB & twitter. Far more than Nielson. Nielson seems like another way to fill someones pockets. Why do so many people buy into anything. Didn’t TV survive before Nielson. OLTL did lots better in all ratings than the crap that replaced it. ABC didn’t really need Nielson to tell them that. Just ask the public.

  4. Profile photo of modmaja

    I love your thoughts/insight on this subject! Live tweeting has absolutely helped make these shows appointment television for me–GH in particular.

    I think some shows/actors are definitely implementing this kind of thing more than others, but it seems much more often/more successfully to be coming from individuals. I think they would be smart to get more organized with their social media content, especially if they can keep aspects of it more genuine/personal than a big media push usually is. As a fan I would be totally up for any/all of the ideas you brought up.

    I also think the online experience [in its various past forms as well] in relation to soap watching has long been a key part of how many fans engage in these shows. While it isn’t true for everyone, I simply don’t know that many people in my own life who watch soaps regularly the way I do for many primetime shows, so any connection or conversation I might be interested in having is going to happen online. All of these shows could/should be taking better advantage of this.

  5. Profile photo of ConqueringBlue

    I’ve begun live tweeting myself during Days of our Lives and GH in recent months, which has made me more apt to want to watch the show live. I noticed you mentioned Gossip Girl a few times, another show I tend to live tweet during, but I think the major buzz surrounding that show in particular is the controversial Chuck/Blair/Dan triangle. Most of the tweets are people arguing back and forth over which couple is better lol Which reminds me of the Sonny/Brenda/Jax days of GH, where GH fans were debating heatedly over which man Brenda should end up with on GH boards and forums all over the internet. I really think at this point GH should take advantage of the already rabid Liason and Jasam fans and create a redhot triangle between the three (adding John McBain into the mix as well).

    Also, another idea is for more “characters” from the soaps to create twitter handles. There are a few really entertaining Vampire Diaries related twitter users, i.e. TikisGrandad (who was in ONE episode from season one but who is hilarious to follow), and coolauntjenna or Jenna Sommer’s Ghost lol I remember there was once a twitter account for the character of Matt, which was kind of fun to read, I think more “characters” should have Twitter accounts, and they could mention posting something on the actual show. Doesn’t Laurie from Cougartown have a Twitter account too that she was talking about on the show? I could totally picture Spinelli having one and posting to it regularly. And Johnny’s could be nothing but complaining about how that evil Sonny Corinthos once again got away with murder

  6. Profile photo of Smitty

    I really think the soaps just need to take a look from successful primetime shows. I think you are right on the money that the lead actors on all the soaps should be tweeting/during the shows. Especially when a big storyline for them is going on. I would then suggest that the young adult/teen actors should be using twitter.

    I think you are spot on with the Y&R bringing back Fen and Summer they should bring back the Glo by Jabot house and have them incorporate social media. They could even SORAS Reed and have two of Victor’s grandchildren working for the rival company. That wouldn’t make him happy at all. Nikki could be encouraging her grandkids to do it (since she’s involved with Jack). There’s all kinds of possibilities.

    AS far as B&B I think they could have Thomas or Steffy start an online blog about their everyday lives. This could be incorporated in the show to run parrallel to the storyline. Steffy could be blogging about her martial woes or Thomas could be blogging about the new “hottie” in town Caroline 2.0. With B&B focusing more on the young adult cast I think it’s very important they have these young stars on social media. It’s only 25 minutes of a show so the stars live tweeting this show could do it easily. It’s quick and fast.

  7. Profile photo of Smitty

    I will say this…not all actors should be tweeting though. I’ve seen Michael Muhney appear on message boards/tweeting stuff that just shouldn’t be tweeted. The actors have to be able to take the good with the bad and he’s a prime example of who you don’t want tweeting on your show. Take someone like Christian LeBlanc and he does well. That’s just my opinion.

  8. Profile photo of Miry

    Brilliant Jamey, just brill!
    Love everything that you suggested and I think that the networks need to hire you as their social media consultant b/c you DEFINITELY have some amazing ideas that I think would totally work.

    My one suggestion: I think that the soaps should have a character’s storyline on their youtube or soap website. For example, I watched all of Luke’s (ATWT’s Van Hansis) storyline on a youtube channel (LukeVanFan???) and those videos got 250,000 hits OFTEN. Imagine if a soap were to have someone upload those types of vids on their own page with commercials & promos for the show, etc. embedded in those vids. I watched all 300 & something (just plucked a random number from my head, heh) epi’s of Luke’s story (Nuke!!!) and a few ads wouldn’t have stopped me. I loved it & it even made me want to watch the rest of the show to see what was going on with the other characters that I saw in his storyline (for example, I always hated Dusty, but I started warming up to him when he and Noah started to bond).
    I think that DAYS should do this with Will’s storyline. The gay storylines on the web ALWAYS get the most hits b/c ppl ALL OVER THE WORLD are interested in them (Hell, I FLOVE me some Christian & Olli and DeRo– before they killed Roman!). Days should be the one getting these hits/internet traffic, not some random person who posts those vids (no offense! I appreciate what those ppl do!! lol, that’s the only way I watch many of those shows, esp. when I am away or I cannot stand to watch the whole thing!), b/c maybe they can generate some revenue and we can keep our shows for another year or two. Or maybe moving soaps online would be a more viable option (screw you Prospect Park!) if ppl are already used to viewing these things online.
    Anywho, I justt think that soaps are definitely missing out & the internet is a wasted opportunity for these shows’ survivial.

  9. Profile photo of ConqueringBlue

    Miry, I absolutely agree that soaps should find a way of profitting off of putting many of their storylines online. I watched the entire Otalia story from GL on youtube, and those videos were also getting hundreds of thousands of views. If the networks would stop pulling these videos for copyright reasons and would find a way to profit off of it themselves (like you said, put some ads before each video, I doubt it would stop people from watching) they might be able to make some serious money off of it. Especially soaps, who don’t release DVDs the way primetime shows do, so there’s no way for the fans to see these couples’ stories in their entirety without finding it online.

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