Don’t count Facebook out of the Social TV measurement game

How Facebook can eclipse Twitter to become the currency of Social TV conversation

How Facebook can eclipse Twitter to become the currency of Social TV conversation

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If you’re anything like me, your Facebook and Twitter feeds are often filled with comments (and spoilers) from friends about what they’re watching on TV. Thanks to the growing ubiquity of “second screen” mobile devices, sharing a real-time reaction to a game-winning goal, a favourite reality competition or the latest election results through social media is just a few quick finger taps away. According to Nielsen’s latest US Cross-Platform Report, 44% of 18-24 year olds and close to 50% of 25-34 year olds are using social networking sites on their smartphones while watching TV.

Beginning with next Fall’s TV season in the US, Nielsen will be rolling out the Twitter TV Rating to provide a standardized measure of live TV conversation occurring on Twitter — and there’s a lot of it. In a 2012 Year in Social TV Infographic, Bluefin Labs reports that ~95% of the 874 million public social media comments made about TV telecasts happened on Twitter.

SEE ALSO: The definitive collection of Social TV Infographics on Pinterest

According to the Nielsen release, “The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating will serve to complement Nielsen’s existing TV ratings, giving TV networks and advertisers the real-time metrics required to understand TV audience social activity.”

But of course, tweets are not all that matter when measuring live social media engagement with TV shows. So this begs the question: Why has Twitter, not Facebook, become the de facto currency of real-time television conversation dubbed “Social TV”? 

It goes without saying that Facebook chatter is much more representative of the general population. Many more people use Facebook in real-time and engage with the platform more actively. Yet, Nielsen is forging ahead with Twitter super-users as the measure of social TV engagement. Here’s why…

Twitter data is public by nature. Whereas almost all tweets are publicly accessible, posts on Facebook remain largely private. Most people choose to make their Facebook status updates and content viewable to only their friends. Social TV analytics companies can only measure what they can access. As a result, the small percentage of public Facebook updates surrounding TV shows represent an insignificant portion of measurable Social TV engagement.

I have no doubt that Facebook has a desire to be at the Social TV measurement table, instead of just on the menu. It’s in their best interests to provide access to a larger data set of TV-related conversation so that it can be heard by networks and advertisers, versus just barely being seen. After all, Facebook is keenly focused on tapping into advertising dollars that have traditionally been allocated to the television line on the media plan.

How Facebook can become a player in social TV analytics

For starters, Facebook must expand their Insights product to begin to aggregate TV-based conversation volume and sentiment across the entire user base — not just the subset of public status updates and comments made on posts published from the official Pages of networks or shows.

In parallel, a key metric must evolve to better reflect viewer conversation related to TV programming. Today, networks have access to the number of ‘People Talking About’ their shows through Facebook Page Insights.

As a meaningful Social TV metric, People Talking About This (PTAT) falls short:

  • It does not capture TV-related conversation from personal status updates unless people remember to officially mention, or @ tag, the Page (which is unlikely)
  • The metric also includes activity that is not related to people actually commenting about TV shows. For instance, when someone likes a Page or shares/likes a Page post, these actions are included in The Big Bang Theory’s 398,596 PTAT number (see screenshot above), along with actual comments

Facebook can significantly impact the Social TV analytics space by providing data that represents a complete view of real-time TV conversation and sentiment. If I worked at a network, I’d be chomping at the bit to have access to a Facebook Insights dashboard that gauged minute-by-minute viewer engagement before, during and after shows were broadcast. Providing not only the amount of viewer comments and sentiment by geographic markets or consumer segments, but also identifying specific moments in the show that resonated with the audience.

On top of that, Facebook has a prime opportunity to use an algorithm to provide viewers with Trending TV Topics — think Twitter’s Trends, but incorporated into your Facebook feed. Trending TV Topics on Facebook would feature the hottest TV chatter of the moment, but with an element of personalization. Tailored for you based on the Pages (shows) you like, your location, what your friends are watching on Netflix, engaging with on GetGlue or, in the future, actual real-time viewership from set-top boxes.

This wealth of data could then be provided (or licensed) to a measurement provider like Nielsen or Bluefin Labs to augment the tweet, providing much more balanced and valuable insight into Social TV activity.

The benefits

For starters, networks would have an improved ability to understand broader audience engagement and TV show affinity. In turn, this data could be used to drive greater tune-in, boost loyalty, optimize marketing promotions, and grow ad revenue. On the other hand, advertisers could better evaluate the social media value created around their commercial placements or product integrations. These findings could help to inform which shows or genres drive more social conversations about a brand, in turn improving the return on traditional ad buys.

With the implementation of a feature like Trending TV Topics, we could see dollars shift to promote unique second screen content as a “trend” while shows are airing (similar to how Twitter offers Promoted Hashtag Trends). Not only would broadcasters be able to create relevant news feed exposure at scale, but they’d also begin to understand how Facebook can bring in additional viewers and boost audience engagement. This feature would also allow for the integration of organic Facebook trending topics into live telecasts, giving Twitter a run for its money by making Facebook a more integral companion to TV viewing.

From an advertiser standpoint, offering large advertisers the ability to insert sponsored stories into what people are talking about right now presents countless opportunities. Marketers would be able to tap into brand-relevant moments, like the Patriots winning the SuperBowl, to distribute relevant and customized content that (hopefully) creates stronger emotional bonds with consumers.

And that’s how the combination of Facebook and television has the potential to become so very powerful.

When and how do you think Facebook will put a more robust view of social TV data in the reach of networks, brands and agencies?

Eclipse Photo Credit: Claudio © on Flickr

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