So much for social TV apps

I’ve had mixed feelings about social TV. At best, the concept is applicable to some TV formats, like sports, news, and reality. But for a while now, we’ve seen a cottage industry of social TV apps grab headlines and then fade away. The apps – GetGlue, Viggle, IntoNow, Zeebox and Miso — are feature-rich, and very cool. But it’s not clear if they’re needed, especially when you consider the fact that we already have Twitter. Mark Walsh over at MediaPost writes:

The audience for each of these second-screen apps is tiny compared to Twitter. Viggle, for instance, reports 1.9 million registered users and about 550,000 monthly active users. According to comScore data, Viggle had 3.1 million visitors in January; GetGlue, 3.8 million; and Zeebox, 147,000. Shazam had about 10 million, but social TV use is only a subset of its function as a music recognition tool.

Twitter in December passed 200 million monthly users, up from 140 million in March. One in three people using Twitter tweeted about TV-related content in June, according to Nielsen data. As of January, Twitter had 39.6 U.S. monthly visitors, per comScore.

So what will become of these app? Well, Walsh predicts that we’ll see some consolidation in the market. The apps, after all, have some great features that allow audiences to take deep, immersive dives into content. But they lack scale.

What’s a brand marketer to do in the meantime? Well, just watch TV. Commercials that drive toward a hashtag are the norm.

But remember, there are limits. Social TV may be taking off on Twitter even if it’s stumbling with dedicated apps, but at a certain point there’s a limit to how many people want to watch TV with the crowd. More importantly, advertisers should know that social TV is most likely to move the needle around event television, like the Super Bowl or the Oscars. Just ask Oreo.

Walsh seems to think that this year’s American Idol will be another case study in social TV.

But before you go all in on a Twitter strategy for Idol, you should remember that Oreo’s experience also revealed what a low bar there is for this kind of stuff. Sooner or later, consumers will demand more. Or they’ll just ignore your brand’s social TV push.