How 'The Voice' Uses Twitter to Raise Ratings

6:40 AM PST 06/20/2011 by Shirley Halperin
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NBC

With a Web staff of 10 constantly updating 110 Web pages about the hosts and contestants, the NBC hit is closing in on "Glee" with user engagement.

If The Voice twisted the TV talent show formula, it damn near revolutionized the use of social media in the live viewing experience.

For every participant in the process -- contestant to coach to couch potato -- the show provides engagement in multiple ways: fans at home can tweet their favorite finalists and coaches (and often get a response), and the show’s stars can in turn rally the viewers for votes (and rattle each other); Finalists can solicit their followers for advice on wardrobe and hair decisions, while Voice producers can mine through an endless scroll of memes for comments on song selection, lighting and whether Carson Daly looks manorexic. It’s all ripe for the reading and in real time.

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“The kind of closeness, access and insider perspective that Twitter provides combined with a TV show is a really magical connection,” says Chloe Sladden, Twitter’s director of content and programming, who has been working with the show’s producers since February. “The Voice has been savvy about it from the get-go.”

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What has the show done right? A perpetual hashtag, for one, to “inspire tweeting and word of mouth,” says Sladden, who notes that as many as 70% of Voice tweets during the show’s first live episode included the #TheVoice handle, twice the industry average; Doing so will at least double the amount of activity and could drive as much as 10 times the tweets. The Voice has also been smart about providing access to their talent and reporting on Twitter trends during the live shows, all of which “hook into this sense of real time and urgency,” she says.

In addition, the show’s digital team, which numbers 10, oversees multiple Facebook accounts, NBC-housed blogs and scores of photos and clips submitted by the artists. “There are over 110 [web] pages constantly being uploaded and, at one point, we were delivering 200 videos a week,” explains Nicolle Yaron, a supervising producer on the show who’s also responsible for keeping The Voice’s social media hub, the V Room, humming, while the buzz is left up to special V correspondent Alison Haislip.

The strategy seems to be working. Yaron points to the show’s premiere, when it swiftly became a top trending topic for the night. “So many tweets came in saying, ‘What’s The Voice? I’m switching over from Glee,’ or from Dancing with the Stars. It helped propel our ratings, which increased every half hour.” Sladden also cites the numbers: 200,000 Voice-related tweets on the June 7 episode, putting the show just behind a rerun of Glee in terms of digital engagement. “For a freshman show with a new format, it’s great,” she says.

Talpa Media Group’s Sjoerd Demaret, who’s based outside of Amsterdam and wrote the 88-page “digital bible” that every territory is handed when they license the Voice format, witnessed the correlation firsthand when the number of Twitter users in his home country jumped 25% during the show’s first season run. “With the Voice audience, it’s about connect, interact and redirect,” he says, the latter referring to another key component of the plan: moving those clicks to commercial partners like iTunes or Sprint. “Broadcasters use social media to send out their message, but they don’t always pick up the message the audience is giving back.”

Read an extended Q&A with The Voice’s digital team after the jump

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