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What's the hash? Why hashtags for TV shows matter

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 24, 2014 at 12:22 pm •  Published: June 24, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — During fresh episodes of "Pretty Little Liars," the marketing and publicity teams at ABC Family huddle in a conference room to tweet live with fans.

So do cast members and the show's producers from where and when they can — and the dialogue often pays off.

Nielsen's Twitter tracking division said "PLL" is the top-tweeted show and ranked No. 1 for the week of June 16-22.

"From a very top level perspective we talk about Twitter being the new water cooler," said Danielle Mullin, the network's vice president of marketing.

While some critics argue the second screen experience of looking at a device while a show is on serves to distract viewers, networks see nothing but an upside.

Some insight into hashtags and while watching TV:

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HOW HASHTAGS WORK FOR VIEWERS

Hashtags make it easier to filter and search for a topic. Liz Myers, in the TV Partnerships division at Twitter, said viewers "don't have to be mutually following somebody or digging around."

Sometimes hashtags are straightforward with a show's title (#TrueBlood.) Other times they're used as conversation starters and are episode or scene specific. (The hashtag #TobyIsBack aired in a recent "PLL" episode when actor Keegan Allen's character returned from an absence.)

Myers said hashtags "can pinpoint moments, drive voting (on a competition series), create content" and offer insight into how to later talk about a show.

ENCOURAGE LIVE VIEWING

If DVRs are helping people watch TV shows at their leisure, live tweeting may provide an incentive to tune in when it counts, in real time.

"The more people who talk about it, the more people watch," said Jenn Deering Davis, co-founder and chief custom officer of Union Metrics, a company that analyzes social media use.

And it could bring in new viewers by "creating impressions for those who aren't already talking about the show to see that conversation and hopefully change the channel," added Myers.

Mullin said she believes tweets can "play into this phenomenon of FOMO — fear of missing out. When you're on Twitter and your entire feed is people talking about something, if you're not watching you start to feel left out."

REWARDING VIEWERS

Networks try to reward viewers for their tweets. Not only will they retweet fans' tweets from show accounts but sometimes air tweets on-screen live, in reruns or during promos.

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