Americans rarely watch TV alone. While the average U.S. consumer watches more than five hours of television every day, on average, even those people sitting alone on their couch are often accompanied by their smartphones. And those small devices are far from static or deferential to what's happening on TV. Instead, consumers are avidly using second screens to supplement their viewing experience and get answers to questions prompted by the broadcast.
As a new report from Google shows, second-screen searches have quickly come to rise not just for television shows, but even the commercials consumers are watching. Questions related to sporting events, awards shows, even products featured in a commercial are spurring smartphone searches at a stunning rate. This activity is so common that it's actually helping marketers assess the efficacy of TV ads — phone searches are providing instant and relevant feedback.
But that's just one of the opportunities marketing can seek through second-screen searches.
The Rise of TV-Driven Search
According to Google, 84 percent of people with smartphones or tablets use those devices as a second screen when watching TV. Twelve percent use social media to follow discussions related to the TV show they're watching, but more than double that figure — 29 percent — are conducting mobile phone and tablet searches related to the shows they're watching. Sometimes, these searches relate not even to the show itself, but to commercials aired during those programs.
Google's report points to certain high-water moments in recent television history that show the influence of TV on second-screen searches. When the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX thanks to an interception by an unheralded rookie, mobile searches for that rookie's jersey number — 21 — exploded in the minutes following the event.
Targeting Consumers in Real-Time
The obvious implication is that second screens can function as a real-time source of brand promotion and engagement. Brands should be aware of the value of these real-time moments and have digital content and assets in place to accommodate the flow of searches and satisfy consumer curiosities. Ahead of televised ads, for example, brands should develop related content that is published online through numerous channels and easily accessible through online search.
Those searches can be facilitated through the use of hashtags, special keywords and other indicators that will help consumers find the content they are looking for. Social channels also need to be managed in real-time to seize upon the moment, but given that so much traffic comes through search, this channel should be the top priority.
Measuring TV Ads Through Smartphone Activity
You can also flip this process on its head and use second-screen searches to measure the value of TV ads. Analytics tools designed to measure search activity can shed insights on which ads are performing the best and during which TV programs. This can guide your TV ad strategy and provide valuable insights. Over time, second-screen searches can help optimize your strategy even as they drive tangible results to your digital properties.
The marriage of mobile devices and TV is a great opportunity for marketers, and smart campaigns can squeeze tons of value out of this blending of technology.