I just finished reading an article called Why #hashtags Belong on TV.

In case you don’t know what hashtags are, Twitter says “The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.”

Here’s a quote from the article:

With on-screen hashtags, networks are tapping into existing conversations. TV shows regularly appear in the Twitter trending topics during prime time. Special events, such as awards shows (#oscars) and sporting events (#sb45), are especially popular for live tweeting.

My comment:

Cable networks with smaller audiences like Bravo have been heavily promoting hashtags, and have gone so far as to have 15 – 30 second spots during commercial breaks featuring what was taking place in the Twitter stream during the commercial, as far back as 2009. And though it seems like it’s not a significant enough portion of America that uses social media at that level, the viewers who gather around those hashtags make much more of an impact on the shows with smaller audiences.

But it’s even deeper than that. A few short years ago, if network executives wanted to take the temperature of the market, they either had to

  • wait for the market to respond – usually in an unfavorable way,
  • organize in-take research such as focus groups, or
  • get third-party data from organizations like Nielsen’s TV Ratings

The one thing all these research methods have in common is that there is a time delay.

With hashtags, even if the segment of the market they’re measuring is small – they can now get immediate feedback. People will tell them how they feel about the show while they are watching.

Think about how valuable it would be to your business, to get access to real-time research on what your prospects and customers think about your product and services as they are using it. Think about how much faster you can improve your products, make changes, provide support, respond to, or even predict market trends.

We’ll come back to that momentarily. There’s another point we have to review first.

Through developing Twitter communities, Bravo is also developing more rabid fans – there’d be a furor if any of the Real Housewives shows were to go off the air unexpectedly. (Well, except Miami and DC. Boring incarnations – but again, guess how they figured out the market reaction.)

Twitter is how they found out what the viewers were thinking. And don’t think Twitter doesn’t know how powerful the hashtag is for TV.

Hashtags give the television industry a tool they didn’t have before – a real time barometer of what’s happening. It’s likely an inexact measure, sure. But a real time feedback loop is a tool to be reckoned with, one that was not available to businesses before, and isn’t on the radar of most business owners today.

Think about how you can use hashtags to enhance your business research – or in the case of a tweetchat, community – today.

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