Writing for the Second Screen

Kyle is watching a streaming news service when he sees that 33 people in 24 states have died from vaping and legal changes are being proposed. That’s a surprise for him — and it’s confusing, too. Even though the numbers are higher than he thought, he wonders why people are focused on vaping when traditional cigarettes kill plenty more people every day. He grabs his phone and Googles his questions as he watches.

That’s the second screen. An EMarketer study found that more than 70% of American adults use a second screen while watching TV. Nielsen reports that only 12% of respondents to their survey said they never use a second screen. Most use their phones, but some even use a desktop.

What are they doing with their second screens?

  • Getting more information or clearing up confusions. We see this often for clients with newsworthy topics. When their topics are in the headlines, clarification questions spike in their searches.
  • Texting friends. Nielsen says that 41% of these conversations are about the show.
  • Using social media. We’ve had good results for some clients by joining social media chats on their topics.
  • Checking out products they see on TV. This can be a follow up to an ad, but it can also be exploration of a product featured on a show or mentioned in a news report.
  • Shopping. Nielsen says that 35% of the people they asked said they’ve shopped for something after seeing it on TV. EMarketer found that 20% of their respondents actually bought a product.

So you should probably show up on the second screen.

Optimize for the second screen

Don’t leave it to chance. When we see a client showing up in second screen behavior in their analytics, we make sure to have answers to the common questions. For Kyle, our imaginary viewer, we might have content like this:

  • Is vaping dangerous?
  • What is causing vaping deaths?
  • Is smoking is worse than vaping?
  • Is vaping worse than cigarettes?
  • Is vaping a public health issue?

Of course, the angle we’ll take would depend on what goods and services are being offered. A doctor’s website can provide clear answers to health information questions. A parenting site could offer specific information on vaping among kids. A substance abuse clinic could examine the practice of nicotine-free vaping.

Myths and misunderstandings

In our experience, a lot of second screen questions are based on a serious lack of information. If you want to help second screen users, don’t skip the most basic questions. Bring up myths and misunderstandings, too. Don’t worry that you’re dumbing things down. Respect the people who realize that they need information and take action to get it.

Focus on clear answers to basic questions, as well as responses to myths and common confusions. Simple, factual information will appeal to search engines as well as being helpful to your visitors.

Calls to action

Second screen users may not be your regular readers. Make sure you have something on the pages you build for them that encourages them to read more. Ideally, you should also have a call to action that introduces your goods and services.

Strong answers to basic questions can also gain high quality links to your website. Email webmasters who are covering timely stories and point out the second screen resources your website is providing.

Who is going to create that content and promote it? If it’s not the best use of your time, contact Haden Interactive.

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