Rose Perry physically lives on the West Coast but her Twitter activities span all time zones. She is a lawyer and a sommelier but she’s also a power social media user, tweeting about the intersection of TV shows and alcoholic drinks. She marks her calendar with the East Coast and Midwest start times for several series, including Scandal, Empire and Game of Thrones. Then when the hour arrives, she pulls out her iPad and her iPhone and joins the fray–double-fisted. She live tweets a play-by-play of every emotion, every horror and every laugh-out-loud moment with a community of people who love to talk smack and trade theories on their timelines.
Perry is a member of Black Twitter and exemplifies the influence and reach of African-American users when it comes to reigniting the importance of appointment TV. A recent Twitter/Ipsos study found that users like Perry are hyper influential when it comes to pushing others to tune in. The same study found that African-American Twitter users over-index in live tweeting. In fact, about half of Twitter’s Black users tweet about a show or event they are currently watching, as opposed to 40% of users of other races.
“I like to actually interact with people who are watching the shows,” says Perry, 44, whose Twitter handle @vinocapisco is Italian for I Understand Wine and who doesn’t often take time off from tuning in. “I’m going on vacation soon, so [while on vacation] I will catch up on shows I haven’t watched yet so that I can tweet about them this fall.”
As more and more people stream and record shows– or view other content entirely–Twitter is helping keep some must-watch shows a real-time phenomenon.
“We hear that appointment viewing TV is dead and that no one is sitting around the TV Thursday at 8 p.m. to watch something,” says Julia Locklear, a vice president with Ipsos Connect, “but with African-American Twitter users that just isn’t true. The ongoing dialogue is so compelling that you have to be in front of your TV when Scandal comes on otherwise you have to stay off social media so you don’t run into spoilers…that means logging of at 6 p.m. on the West Coast which is not fun.”
There’s an important community aspect to it as well.
“It’s a social thing,” says North California resident Kennelia Stradwick, another power tweeter. “When there’s a big event it’s like ‘let’s tweet as family.’ It’s a community. It brings us together. With so much going on with politics and policing and so many things that can bring you down, certain shows are the one time we can just have a good time and watch the same way we would watch if we were together in a room.”
Raina St. Patrick is 2 minutes away from giving her brother a 2-piece to the dome! #PowerTV
— Kennelia Stradwick (@Kennelia) July 3, 2017
Early on, TV show writer and creator Shonda Rhimes and actors Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson embraced and encouraged fans to live tweet during Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder and Empire. With the influence of live tweeting, those shows shot up in popularity, which helped the parent companies increase their bottom line. They created a night of juggernauts in the ratings and on social media.
“African-Americans are at the lead of pop culture,” says Anna Everett, a professor of film and media studies and an associate vice chancellor at the University of California Santa Barbara. “Shonda Rhimes’ tweets changed everything forever. That was sort of the canary in the coal mine. The whole black community that rallied around Rhimes’ products and changed TV forever.”
Fast forward to now. With Starz hit show Power taking over social media every Sunday night and Game of Thrones sure to be the buzz all summer, the Twitter/Ipsos research provides some insights into what we can expect from future appointment TV.
Hyper social and highly influential
“African Americans create a lot of the conversation,” says Thomas Ciszek, a data analyst for Twitter. “A large amount of it is just Twitter users being incredibly clever and owning this content.”
In fact, according to the study, Black Twitter’s live tweeting and other social behavior is so ahead of the curve that it persuaded some 83% of other African American Twitter users to watch a program. Another unique aspect of black Twitter users is that about half tweet about a show or event they are currently watching, as opposed to 40% of other users of other races. Built into this social celebration of televised content is culture (46% celebrate diversity with their tweets) and community (59% of those users have actual, lengthy, detailed conversations – or threads – with others on the medium).
Black Twitter users are 1.5 times more likely than other users to exude social influence over what they are talking about, listening to or watching, per the study. And from the real human angle, consider that people like Perry told GenPop they spend 25 hours a week tweeting or preparing to tweet about TV. Then, consider Perry’s reach, multiplied by all the other power users who consistently tweet about a particular set of TV shows.
To boot, television and cable networks understand the importance and place social media measurements and reach into their press releases that are sent to media. Entertainment reporters often are given information about TV ratings plus a history of Twitter mentions and instances of trending Twitter moments.
According to Twitter, the top tweeted TV shows, globally, of 2016 include Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black and Empire. Meanwhile, Adweek reports that the most social shows of 2016-2017 so far include five shows that, anecdotally speaking, have large African-American viewing audiences, including Empire, Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, Love & Hip Hop, The Voice and This Is Us.
Making movies, not just waves
A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay is now making a movie starring Grammy winner Rihanna and Black Panther’s /Star Wars Lupita Nyong’o, all because of a tweet. Black Twitter showed its power when, earlier this year, people started discussing having a girl’s heist or Oceans 11 type of flick featuring their favorite stars. The film was inspired by a tweeted photo of the two stars sitting beside each other at a Miu Miu fashion show. That initial tweet was retweeted at least 31,000 times.
Netflix optioned the idea at Cannes and now? DuVernay of course took to Twitter to celebrate. Said DuVernay: “We deserve nice things.”
We deserve nice things. ✌🏾️ https://t.co/VlbKhLNDIv
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 22, 2017