Speaking during the 19th annual SXSW Interactive festival on a panel called "Does Social Media Drive TV Ratings", Colin Helms, senior vice-president of MTV Digital Media, said a social media strategy will be effective for all content producers in the future, because "any TV show will be social, whether you like it or not".
He warned against TV campaigns just using social media as a "stunt", telling content producers to approach it from a long-term engagement perspective; "it's the unsexy stuff that counts," he said.
Also on the panel, Ellen Stone, senior vice president of marketing at Bravo Media, said that while social media can "enrich and enlarge a viewing exeprience," that conversation "has to be important, meaningful and relevant so viewers get something extra than they would get from just watching a show."
Tara O'Donell, who was hosting the debate, agreed that "social can extend the life of a TV show," but asked whether all networks should think about all linear viewing having a social component.
Holms said that a social media strategy would be effective for all content producers because "any TV show will be social, whether you like it or not." He added: "It's up to you whether you choose to drive that or not."
He stressed that social media needs to be leveraged differently for different kinds of shows.
"Social media is a broad ecosystem of tools, like Facebook and Twitter, which can be used for branding, marketing and content distribution, all leveraged differently depending on the show."
Stone agreed "Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest do different things" but messaging must be "fresh and authentic, and not too commercial" to be effective, she said.
She stressed that messaging for broadcasters must be "authentic, authentic, authentic".
We all know we want to bring new messaging to keep it fresh, but you have to know what your authentic voice is and who you talk to."
Holms said that getting the shows talent involved in social media is "the most effective way to engage" with the audience. He added that MTV is lucky because its talent "gets it", however admitted the company is "circling around the idea" of social media being writen into their contract.
Can you measure ROI of social?
O'Donnell asked the panel how they have been able to value return on investment from their involvement in social TV, commenting, "there is no silver bullet for measurement in the social space yet".
The panel agreed that it was "early days" for social media measurement. Susie Fogelson, senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy at the Food Network, explained: "When we look at rates, we are seeing terrific gains in time spent viewing. But although the correlation is there, cause and effect is harder to get out."
Stone argued: "Social is in such an early stage, what we are trying to do is embrace experimentation. And yes we want to see returns but at this point it is not about ROI but more about expanding community scale."
It is "really early days" in terms of social media measurement, agreed Holms. "We will get more and more measurements, but in the mean time it is better to have social media engagement than not."
David Jones, exectuive vice-president of marketing at Shazam Entertainment, was also on the panel, talking up how the content discover app can be used as a tag in TV ads, to make short form content long-form, and make a richer media experience beyond the ad. He said that there were 21 Shazam enabled ads at this year's Superbowl.
Social TV is a key theme at this year's SWSW, with a number of panels debating the subject.
Follow Sarah Shearman on Twitter: @Shearmans