Tech Savvy Researcher Feature: The “Second Screen” and the expansion of mobile networking

By December 6, 2012Mobile, Social Media

“OMG Walking Dead!”

Yes, that was the most common post in my Facebook Newsfeed during the last airing of the hit AMC show. The hit show that I’ve never watched. But maybe now I will – a 500-friend recommendation is not too shabby.

But the focus in a report recently put out by Nielsen on the climate of social media in 2012 highlights not so much the show, but the fact that clearly a significant portion of the viewership were online-networking while watching it. This “second screen” concept has become an increasing focus of media research – a buzz-term, if you will. It denotes the act of using a smartphone or tablet to network while watching a television program, in order to make it a more social experience. According to, the report describes over a third of Twitter users as watching while tweeting; and, social-network choice be damned, 38% of American smartphone users and 44% of tablet users have their devices at the ready while watching.

The usage is indicative of a trend – mobile devices are becoming the most popular vehicle by which we engage in our most popular online habit – social networking.

The report found that nearly half of social media users (46%) check Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest most often using their thumbs rather than a mouse, and on a 4-inch screen rather than 15. In fact, PC usage is slipping while smartphone and tablet use grows. According to, 4% fewer Americans bothered to log onto the net using their PC at all this year.

Despite the fact that I am among the mobile masses, thumbing through newsfeeds to learn about who won Dancing with the Stars, I find myself reeling toward a reason why. Beyond of course the egotism and convenience for frequency that bind us to the combo of social media and mobile devices, what trend exists to make usage skyrocket so significantly in 2012?

I don’t have to speculate far. The answer lies in the same thing that draws me to my favorite restaurant every Friday: Apps.

These well-designed, yummy little touch-of-a-finger shortcuts to our online social world keep us coming back time and time again throughout our day.  Admit it, it is nowhere near as satisfying to navigate via web browser to Facebook or Instagram as it is to press Facebook’s ubiquitous “f” or, my personal favorite, Instagram’s tiny vintage camera. But shortcut icons aside, the sheer convenience, availability, and user-friendly design cater to the evolution of our social networking habits. According to, the mobile app audience saw one of the most significant strides in the Nielsen report, jumping 85% in usage since 2011.

The implications of this growth for marketers are still evolving.  Clearly the usage trends continue for smartphones and tablets. And while about a third of users find social networking ads more obnoxious than other ads on the net, there is still power in the opinions of friends and, perhaps more interestingly, in our own opinions – a quarter of users say they would pay heed to an ad shared by a social network “friend,” and another quarter confessed that they don’t mind ads based on their own profile information.

After-all, I myself have been convinced by Facebook friends to catch up on episodes of The Walking Dead, that I’ll probably view on my Netflix app.

Don’t worry, I’ll let everybody know what I think. 

Find the full Nielsen report in the LINKS section below.
Do you “mobile” more often these days? Let us know how you do your social-networking in the comment section below.

The full Nielsen report:

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