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What is it about The Walking Dead that keeps fans coming back week after week? Is it because fans love seeing mankind’s resourceful, persistent survival skills during times of crisis? Or is it because we like to watch Rick and Darryl blast away zombie brains from afar with unprecedented accuracy?

Today, through social TV,  it’s possible for TV networks to answer these questions. They can dig deep into their shows, figure out what captivates audiences, and implement those insights into future programming. And, in turn, marketers can use this information to make their ads, product placements and partnerships more targeted and relevant.

Much of this is due to the rise of dual-screening (when users tweet or post about their favorite shows while watching them). Through services like Bluefin Labs, the MIT-based social TV research company recently acquired by Twitter, TV show writers can monitor this dual screening–using social media metrics to form insights that will help them better their current and future shows.

Perhaps the most ambitious Social TV project is Bluefin’s TV Genome. As Bluefin says on its website, building a technology to listen to everything people say on Twitter, Facebook and other social media venues is relatively easy. But connecting what they say to the events that inspired it–a funny line in a sitcom, a touchdown pass, a brand’s sponsorship–is not. They plan on using deep machine learning so that their technology can understand the context of people’s comments.

With new insights and tactics being implemented and measured each day, social TV is a broad and exciting field full of valuable learning experiences and potential big wins for brands and TV networks. For now, Twitter seems to be dominating that field.

Subscribe to our RSS feed to catch part two of this series–about how Twitter is practically showering in exclusive social TV data as other social media giants are still waiting to get their foot in the bathroom door.