What It Is
SocialGuide aggregates the more than 100 million comments on Twitter and Facebook made about roughly 24,000 unique TV shows as they air and links them to its TV listings. Unlike the listings from your satellite or cable TV provider, SocialGuide displays program listings alongside viewers' comments in real time and sorts them according to their buzz factor. Registered users can look at streams of comments from their friends, all of cyberspace, those in their ZIP code or other areas, and add to the conversation about programs as they air.
How It Started
Founder Sean Casey had a background developing web applications for media companies and as a former staffer for sites including iVillage.com, where he worked with Erika Faust, SocialGuide's senior vice president of business development and marketing. Casey came up with the idea for SocialGuide based on his friends' TV-related Facebook and Twitter comments. He inked an R&D deal with Tribune Media Services to see if there was something to the idea of "social TV," a tool that linked TV listings with social media in real time. Casey self-financed the company for the first year and a half. In February 2011, SocialGuide received $1.5 million in first-round funding.
The Business Case
According to Nielsen, Casey says, 60 percent of TV watchers keep a second screen--a smartphone, iPad or laptop--close while watching the boob tube and are increasingly tweeting as they watch. "This is the audience networks want to keep," he says, because they are the most engaged in the programs and most likely to bring new viewers to the shows. Advertisers also want to be linked to the shows that have the most engaged viewers. "We are starting to see networks put the hashtag at the bottom of the screen to get people to tweet about their shows, and I think that trend is going to continue," Casey adds.
Why It's Taking Off
Other sites aggregate Twitter and Facebook comments about TV, but they only do so using hashtags and other obvious searches. According to Casey, the SocialGuide algorithms target consumers, networks and advertisers to collect the "other 89 percent" of comments those sites miss.
In June the firm launched free iPhone and Android apps that Casey hopes will drive viewers on their couches not to hit the "guide" button on the remote, but instead to use their phones to see what's on. The company also wants to license the intelligence behind SocialGuide's listings to cable and satellite TV companies to replace their current static offerings. In August SocialGuide launched a similar product for movies, and this fall introduced a data product that allows networks and marketers to analyze who their followers are by specific episodes of specific programs.
Margaret Littman is a journalist who covers small businesses, travel and all manner of other topics, with a sweet spot for anything relating to stand-up paddling or Music City. She is the author of the Nashville Essential Guide iPhone and Android app and many travel guidebooks. Her work has appeared in many national magazines, and she is the editor of Entrepreneur magazine’s Start It Up section.