BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- People watching "social shows" like "Dancing with the Stars" or "The Bachelor" on television and simultaneously sharing their views on Twitter are more likely to be committed to the program and shop online, according to new research from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.
Marketers have feared that social media distracts viewers from commercials and minimizes their impact. But this research found the opposite. "Social shows" are more beneficial to advertisers because commercials that air in those programs generate more online shopping on the advertisers' websites.
The international marketing research firm Nielsen estimated in 2014 that 80 percent of U.S. television viewers simultaneously used another device while watching television, often live tweeting to share their views, for example. The trend has led scholars to coin the term "social TV."
"Participation in online chatter about a program may indicate that viewers are more engaged with the program," said Beth L. Fossen, assistant professor of marketing at Kelley. "Online program engagement may encourage a loyal, committed viewing audience. And media multitasking may decrease the ability for the viewer to counterargue or resist persuasion attempts, increasing ad effectiveness.
"We find that advertisements that air in programs with more social activity see increased ad responsiveness in terms of subsequent online shopping behavior. This result varies with the mood of the ad, with more affective ads -- in particular, funny and emotional ads -- seeing the largest increases in online shopping activity.
"Our results shed light on how advertisers can encourage online shopping activity on their websites in the age of multiscreen consumers."
In the study, Fossen and her co-author, David Schweidel of the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, sought to determine how the volume of program-related online chatter is related to online shopping behavior at the retailers that advertised during the programs.
In addition to their findings that social shows benefit advertisers by encouraging online shopping activity, Fossen and Schweidel also found that increases in online chatter about a retailer lead to increased traffic to the company's website in the first five minutes after the advertisement appears.
They also found that ad timing affected online shopping. Ads airing near a half-hour interval -- such as 8:28 or 9:02 p.m. -- spurred more online purchases than ads aired at other times. Commercials airing earlier in the evening generated more web traffic than those airing before the late-night news.
Fossen and Schweidel studied the online shopping activity of 100,000 active internet users, which they paired with data on commercials for five retailers and nearly 1,700 instances of advertising on 83 prime-time programs during the fall 2013 television season. They considered online traffic and sales on the retailers' websites, prime-time advertising, social media comments mentioning the TV program or the advertiser, and characteristics of both the program and the advertising.
The research article, "Social TV, Advertising and Sales: Are Social Shows Good for Advertisers?," appears in the April edition of the INFORMS journal Marketing Science.