How Reality TV Engages Viewers Online

The days of simply watching television are long gone. Today’s TV viewers are going beyond their scheduled programming to get their fix of their favorite shows. In fact, according to a report by Twitter, 38% of people are streaming episodes online, 76% are searching for more information online, and many seek additional content by engaging online and on social media.

More conversation on social media indicates more engaged viewers, and reality TV is seeing the most engagement. Nielsen reports that 67% of TV tweets are about reality shows, compared to 58% for drama programs and 49% for comedy. Live TV sees twice as much conversation as pre-recorded broadcasts, with 72% people tweeting when the show is airing as it happens.

But viewers aren’t only engaged during a live broadcast. In fact, 60% of people tweet about a show even when they aren’t watching it.

With all of that engagement on social and online, reality TV shows have the opportunity to capitalize on this second-screen experience, both during the show and in between episodes—or even seasons. This made me want to take a look at three reality franchises that aren’t just managing a digital presence, but have unique and effective strategies to make it work.

“The Voice”

Recipient of a 2016 Shorty Award for “Integration with Live Television,” NBC’s “The Voice” stands out, particularly on social. (After all, it was the most tweeted about program in 2015, according to Nielsen.) The show uses Twitter and Vine to post GIFs of the contestants and celebrity judges in real time. This content is extremely shareable, and when people see it, they’ll want to tune in if they haven’t already.

It isn’t just about what the show is posting—it’s also about the fans. Viewers can use social media to “save” their favorite contestant from elimination via Instant Save. This provides a huge amount of instant gratification for users and a really strong incentive to engage. Furthermore, the show posts unique content to its YouTube channel, including its Voice Digs Digital Exclusives, where viewers get a closer look into what life is actually like for contestants.

The show hasn’t forgotten about mobile. With “The Voice” app, users can build their own teams of talent and also use the platform to save their favorite singers. It’s this omni-channel approach that hits a home run, and entices viewers to engage via various outlets. On top of hitting its audience on multiple platforms, the program engages during the highly anticipated live airings in real time. It’s the ability to react quickly that sets them apart.

“The Real Housewives”

It all began 10 years ago in California, when Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Orange County” hit televisions across the nation. Now, with 11 seasons wrapped and additional series based in eight other U.S. cities and six in other countries, the “Real Housewives” franchise has become a reality TV legacy with a cult-like following. Bravo has taken a strategic approach to their digital content for the series, including all of the different “Real Housewives” shows and spin-offs. Original content includes photo galleries, quizzes and round-ups of moments from various series and episodes. The women also have blogs on the bravotv.com website, where readers can read their reactions to each episode the day after it airs.

When it comes to social media, Bravo is very active in the space. On bravotv.com, the network pushes to the women’s own social profiles quite frequently, often embedding their social posts within Bravo’s website content. This provides another avenue for viewers to connect on an intimate level. Also, each show has its own dedicated channels—allowing for more targeted messaging.

Check out this recent post on Bravo’s site for a better look at how this is done.

One of the most-anticipated episodes (or three episodes, in some cases) is the reunion show, during which host Andy Cohen reads questions from viewers on social media. But it doesn’t stop there; he also hosts “Watch What Happens Live,” where stars from various Bravo shows join his late-night talk show.

The party continues online afterward, where viewers can tune in to the WWHL after-show. This keeps the conversation going both on and offline about each series, even when it isn’t currently airing. (For example, he might have Kenya from Atlanta to discuss the latest episode of Beverly Hills, even though Atlanta’s new season won’t start for a few months.)

Bravo takes advantage of using numerous channels and social profiles to reach its audience, differentiating each of the “Real Housewives” franchises. They keep up the conversation continuously between seasons and have found new angles to engage their audience with Housewives-related content.

“The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”

The Bachelor series on ABC is another show that has taken a cross-promotional route to getting the word out and engaging with fans and followers. ABC keeps both “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” as separate entities online (as well as the spin-offs, including “The Bachelor Wedding”), each with their own section on abc.com and their own dedicated social profiles. While they exist separately, they do work together.

Using the shows’ social channels to support each other has helped increase visibility of their content and boost conversation about their show across the board. Not every Facebook fan or Twitter follower sees all of their posts, and not every Facebook fan or Twitter follower subscribes to both of the show’s updates. By cross promoting them, they’re able to cover all their bases and increase the chances for more eyeballs on the content.

For example, to promote the season premiere of “The Bachelorette,” “The Bachelor” posted a tweet and linked to its counterpart’s Facebook page where viewers can voice their opinion about which bachelor contestant deserves the first rose:

The website features bios of all the contestants, as well as articles and videos that feature sneak peaks and behind-the-scenes and recap content. 

Nostalgia is also a great way to engage with fans of “The Bachelorette” and “The Bachelor.” The shows have been around for more than a decade, making for plenty of blasts from the pasts to share on social in order to engage dedicated fans. Abc.com has also published a Where Are They Now? blog post to catch up with the winners and contestants of past seasons. That’s not all the show does to give back to fans. There’s also a Tumblr page dedicated to animated reaction GIFs from “The Bachelor” that viewers can share with friends across their social channels.

The season finale is the episode every fan anticipates. During the finale, “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” engages with fans and followers in real time on their social channels, which includes retweeting viewers’ part in the conversation and posting reactions to unexpected moments on the show.

The struggle for Ben is so real rn. 🌹 #TheBachelor

A photo posted by bachelorabc (@bachelorabc) on

The hashtag #BachelorNation started trending on social media before the current season premiere even aired—showing how these efforts can go a long way. Again, an omni-channel approach and keeping the different iterations of the show separate has amplified the social conversation around “The Bachelor.”

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Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the genre, reality TV producers and marketers know how to compel an audience to “get with the program” on various levels. And viewers keep coming back for more, even long after the season has ended.

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