Live TV: I Dream of Social Media


Surrounding us in our daily lives, social media is a driving force that is shaping everything we do.  News comes faster, conversations grow longer, more videos go viral, creating a wider and deeper sphere of interaction.  Social media goes beyond cyber space, changing the way industries work, especially television.  What once was talked about the next day with friends and family, live TV is now discussed moment to moment during the first time an episode airs.  With viewers getting more involved in live TV, social media is creating a bigger and better world for TV networks and shows.

With cliff hangers, plot twists, and other surprises, live TV does a great job of keeping their audiences hooked throughout an episode, and it also instills in viewers that dying-to-know feeling, they just have to know what happens next ASAP!  And there are always those OMG-did-that-really-just-happen moments that people absolutely must be the first to talk about right away.  Providing an outlet for the instant communication viewers to crave, social media gives users a way to connect, discuss, and create new topics surrounding TV shows, and it seems to be paying off for Live TV. mentioned that a Nielsen and SocialGuide study found that an 8.5 percent increase in tweets can equal a one percent lift in ratings, demonstrating that ratings are now tightly entwined with social media.  This means that for live TV to be successful, networks need to embrace social media, and they are doing just that.

Relying heavily on hashtags and Twitter handles, TV networks push viewers to discuss before, during, and after what’s happening in each new episode.  While flashing a show’s official hashtag or Twitter handle on screen during an episode welcomes viewers to get involved in social media, networks also incorporate madlib hashtags, which are clever conversation starters.  Consider the show “Pretty Little Liars” or #PLL, which was the most-tweeted cable TV show in 2012 and accounted for more than 52% of all Twitter activity on the day the show returned in 2013.  #PLL loves using madlib hashtags, which pop up on screen during dramatic scenes. found that in the episode “Dead to Me” that aired 2/5/13, #PoorSpencer appeared and gained over 22,800 mentions within a week.


Madlib hashtagging has become so popular that shows, specifically talk shows, are creating hashtag sketch segments.  Take Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which does a segment called Late Night Hashtags.  This past week Fallon tweeted asking viewers to post raps about sharks for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week using #SharkRap.  Within thirty minutes after Fallon’s tweet, #SharkRap became a world-wide trending topic.  By incorporating madlib tweets, viewers are not only encouraged to connect with Late Night through social media, but they are also lured to watch live to see if their content has made it on air.


Social media plays an even greater role for some TV shows, such as Andy Cohen’s “Watch What Happens Live,” which prides itself on being a show that’s all about live social media interaction.  Influencing the show as it’s being recorded, viewers respond to content, polls, and questions, which gives these viewers a sense of ownership.  It’s not nearly as much fun watching the show if a viewer isn’t interacting with a smart phone or tablet, nor is it as enjoyable to watch after it first airs for it takes away a viewer’s ability to participate.  By focusing on social interaction, shows like this perpetuate the need for live TV, which is exactly what networks want.

Another way shows and networks entice viewers to watch live is through having the actors on the show live tweeting.  Including actors’ tweets in the mix creates an intimate experience between fans and actors as they are experiencing the same thing at the same time, much like watching new episodes together.  Take how #PLL has their actors live tweeting pictures of their reactions during an episode.  It’s as if your BFF is sending you a snapchat.


Generating more publicity or dictating show content, the use of social media encourages viewers to watch live TV.  Whether it be because of hashtags, to have a virtual relationship with their favorite actors, or because viewers don’t want to see spoilers on their newsfeeds,  live TV is the major forerunner for how viewers screen TV today.


Social Media with a Cause

For businesses today, you’re either using social media or losing it in the great arms race.  Philanthropic causes are no different.  In fact, social media provides great value for philanthropy because it gives causes the opportunity to share their stories from the field, reach out to greater audiences, and gain more financial and volunteer support.   Social media has evolved the way philanthropy works, creating platforms solely based on the greater good.  Though Facebook and Twitter  are leaders in promoting a cause, a whole movement is popping up to make a difference and raise awareness.  With social media, causes are able to share, promote, and update their followers at a faster and more connected pace, creating stronger philanthropic relationships.

1. Mulu

Mulu ( provides a new shopping social network that helps a good cause, ranging from big to small, with your purchases.  Imagine a Pintrest-like site solely based on shopping that allows you to ask any questions and get feedback about products.  Users shop based off recommendations from close friends, celebrities, and their favorite fashion designers and retailers.  The kicker is that 1-10% of sales goes to a charity of the retailer’s choice, meaning  you as the buyer can make a difference while indulging in your favorite products.

2. acts as a personal social site for charities and those who want to do some good.  This platform connects people, their charities, and their friends in a network that creates a philanthropic presence online. allows users to post updates,  leave comments for their supporters, browse and follow charities of personal interest, and sync content with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Signing up is completely free, but the site offers helpful add-ons like personalization, performance tracking, and advanced data at fair costs for charities.  Teaming up with company Stripe, an easy payment API startup, charities are able to receive direct payments at a faster rate than other services, and unlike other charity-oriented sites, doesn’t charge any fees on donations, meaning 100% of donations goes to charity.

3. serves as a global community focused on making a difference through petitions, demonstrating that doing something as little as signing your name counts.  Users are able to browse topics of interest, such as animals, education, environment, health, human trafficking, and more to find a cause they care about.  The site allows users to find and sign petitions or create a petition of their own for a cause they feel passionate about.  To inspire users when they start a petition, the site provides a section called tips and guides, as well as another section called victories, which posts accomplishments that have come from petitions.  Another neat feature is that also helps organizations to create their own campaign, providing them with information and resources they need to be successful.

Though social media platforms with philanthropy in mind have evolved into its own social space, mainstream social sites like Facebook and Twitter still play a major role in philanthropic movements.  Take the Show Your Hearts Campaign, launched by Justin Bieber in 2011 with the support of other celebrities such as Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, and Lady Gaga (before she so rudely shut down her Twitter).  Show Your Hearts helped the Berry children who were partially paralyzed from a car accident that left them orphaned.  Bieber and other celebrities reached out to their fans on Facebook and Twitter asking them to text $10 donations for a profile avatar.  In a single day, the social campaign was quite a success, raising over $98,000.

Show your hearts

As inspiring as Show Your Hearts is, charity campaigns can still be successful without a celebrity motivating people to join.  Take the Amnesty International campaign, Trial By Timeline, which uses Facebook to make a point that freedom isn’t a liberty for everyone.   It’s eerie sentence-me sequence analyzes your Facebook content and comes up with charges based on what other countries consider crimes.  Going to unauthorized public gatherings, socializing with unrelated males if you’re a women, blasphemy, and being involved with media are just a few violations on the list.  Through Facebook, Amnesty International’s campaign has over 20k likes, reaching an audience worth impact. trialbytimeline

Awareness is one major pedestal that philanthropy uses to gain followers and donations, but there is one concern that arises when it comes to raising awareness through social media.  The argument is that Facebook and Twitter users only like or follow a cause because it looks good for their image, they don’t get involved further than a like.  Charity organizations call this idea slacktivism.  Though this may be a struggle for philanthropic causes, some organizations are using this concept to their advantage.  Consider the Unicef campaign, Likes Don’t Save Lives, which calls out slacktivists and encourages them to dive deeper into a cause more than just a Facebook like.

Unicef’s campaign makes a valid point that social media involvement needs to be more than clicking a button, but it’s not fair to completely condemn slacktivists for they do help campaigns bring attention to an issue, which is sometimes all a campaign needs.  Look at the Human Rights Campaign for LGBT, which made a post that asked Facebook users to change their profile pics to the HRC’s logo in red to show support for marriage equality while the Supreme Court was discussing DOMA and Proposition 8.  In a twenty-four hour span, according to, the HRC post encouraging people to upload the red equals sign avatar resulted in 78,000 shares and more than 25,000 likes, demonstrating mainstream awareness for a once little supported cause.  These numbers don’t include supporters’ posts encouraging their fans to do the same, like George Takei’s  red equal sign profile picture, which got 40,000 likes.


Social media has done amazing things for philanthropy projects through expanding awareness and fundraising opportunities.  An article from sited findings from a YouGov survey that showed 13% of people bought something after seeing it on social media, and that 5.5% are now donating through social networks.  Think that social media isn’t helping the cause?  Think again.  Social media is a leader in philanthropy.