The Rise of Social TV

Now that the TV series Breaking Bad has finally drawn to a close, you might have noticed the hype around the latest media trend: Social TV. Between Twitter’s collaboration with high profile networks like CBS Network and Facebook’s weekly TV data reports to major networks, it seems like everyone is talking about the union of social media and TV.

What is Social TV?

According to Wikipedia, Social TV is defined as “Technology that supports communication and social interaction in either the context of watching television, or related to TV content.

During the weekend of the Breaking Bad finale, it was simply impossible to visit Twitter or Facebook without seeing any mention of the series. It seems like everyone was busy tweeting comments, checking in or posting status updates about the show. According to Nielsen, 10.3 million viewers tuned in to Breaking Bad’s finale which also happens to be their highest viewership in the series history. Twitter claimed to have 1.47 million tweets from 682,000+ uniques, while Facebook claimed that they generated more than 5.5 million interactions from 3 million+ users. These numbers mean that roughly 1 in 3 persons interacted on Facebook and 1 in 10 people tweeted about the show. It appears that social mobile use has greatly increased social interaction; water cooler conversations about TV content is now happening in real time via our mobile devices, tablets and computers.

Breaking Bad Facebook

According to Jesse Redniss, SVP of digital for USA Network, “Social TV is about using social media to continue television’s great storytelling through multiplatform content and a dialogue with fans. It’s a way to enhance the stories we tell, and social allows fans to be storytellers too—by telling friends how passionate they are and spreading the word.” Brands with strong affinity to the TV show and who are interested in social media advertising are more likely to ride on the social buzz of these productions by being positively associated with the social chatter around it. 

Who is leading the trend?

After their beta launch in May, Twitter released the TV Ad Targeting to all US advertisers, which allows advertisers to target people who have been exposed to their ads on TV with Twitter Promoted Tweets. These ads can include text tweets, videos and links to further reinforce the commercials. According to the beta test results done by Nielsen, it claims that TV Ad Targeting has led to 95% stronger message association and 58% higher purchase intent than TV ads alone. How it works is that in the TV Ads Dashboard, Twitter will detect people who have tweeted or mentioned the show at the exact timing where the commercials are also playing on TV. It will then target them with the Promoted Tweets as they are most likely to have seen the commercial. By synchronising both campaigns, it can potentially allow advertisers to better engage with the audience and increase the impact of the ads by constantly reminding them.

Twitter has also rolled out Twitter Amplify, a new advertising product which allows networks to embed short video clips on their Tweets in near-real time. The clips are then sponsored by advertisers will promote the tweet and run a short pre-roll ad before the video. Both the network and Twitter will get a cut of the profits. For example Twitter partnered with ESPN and Ford by bringing fans instant replays during the American football games. More recently, BBC Global News partnered with Twitter Amplify to provide the Twitter community with timely in-Tweet video clips that complements its global news gathering operation.

Twitter Amplify

Twitter has also partnered with Nielsen to establish Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings where they will deliver industry standard metrics to measure the engagement of the fans.

Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings uses four different metrics to determine which show comes out on top, including TV-specific activity and reach:

  • Tweets – how many Tweets were written about each show
  • Unique Authors – Unique Twitter accounts that have sent at least one Tweet about that episode
  • Impressions – The number of times any of those Tweets were seen
  • Unique Audience – The total number of distinct Twitter accounts that had at least one impression of one of the Tweets sent out about that episode

Despite Nielsen having determined that there is a causal relationship between Twitter and TV ratings, the most tweeted about shows are not necessarily the most seen shows on TV.  This illustrates that there is still much to learn about what exactly a Tweet means and there is still plenty of data and connections that have yet to be discovered. The potential value of the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings is that “it provides a pathway for an advertiser to turn audience energy into brand momentum,” according to Graeme Hutton, senior VP of research for ad agency Universal McCann. In particular, he said, it should be valuable in “developing brand-activation strategies, and highlighting potential new programming areas for brands which may have previously been viewed as outside their comfort zone.” Figuring out what the metrics mean could prove to be a game changer, allowing advertisers to take full advantage of Social TV engagement.

While it was a little late to the party, Facebook has its eye on the Social TV market as well. Recently, Facebook start sending weekly reports to major TV networks regarding the volume of fan engagements of their shows on Facebook in a bid to capture the market for real-time events like television series. Facebook’s inclusion of hashtags and trending topics is an attempt to harness social chatter. To calculate the chatter, Facebook creates a library of keywords for every shows, so as to filter out unrelated comments.

Facebook definitely has the bigger numbers with 1.15 billion users compared to Twitter with 240 million but Twitter has a head start. Facebook is trying to set itself apart from Twitter by proving that they have the larger and broader audience base and many of them have real profiles, unlike Twitter. This could be quite interesting as the conversation on Facebook are likely to be more representative of the general population. With all these initiatives underway, it certainly seems like Twitter is determined to hold on to its position of preferred second screen for TV viewers. While both parties have yet to dominate Social TV engagement, it would certainly be interesting to watch.

Posted in Social