By B. Bonin Bough • Forbes
“Social TV” is old news, but now it’s big news.
For years the term has buzzed around the television, tech and marketing industries, picking up steam as it’s become more and more popular with the proliferation of mobile devices. We’ve seen networks like NBC get in on the trend fairly early, a number of social TV startups (i.e. Bluefin, GetGlue and Viggle) rise, and study after study indicate that social TV is the wave of the future when it comes to consumers engaging with televised content.
Yet despite all of this, we haven’t seen any big players truly go all-in…until now. As you probably saw a few days ago, Nielsen and Twitter announced a partnership to create the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating” – an industry standard metric for measuring the conversation that TV shows spur on Twitter. The rating will seek to do more than just provide information about how many people have tweeted about a specific show, aiming also to tally up the number of people who’ve read each comment.
Right now the details are scant, as the rating isn’t slated to go live commercially until the fall of 2013, but you don’t need many more details to know that this is a game-changing partnership that will shape the social TV ecosystem. With this announcement, Nielsen and Twitter have jumpstarted a marketplace that was evolving quickly, but yet a force to be reckoned with. Now it is poised to go mainstream and transform TV for marketers, content creators, and audiences like never before.
Granted, there are already many powerful ways to measure activity on Twitter – Radian6, HootSuite and BackType to name a few. But this new rating is different – not only because it’s TV-specific, but because it’s been ordained by the TV measurement gods. And to many, it comes as no surprise that Nielsen joined with Twitter to do this. Just last year, Nielsen released a study showing that a whopping 70% of tablet owners and 68% of smartphone owners use their devices while watching TV.
Beyond that, it almost goes without saying that this news is extremely exciting for marketers, as it legitimizes the argument to pursue social TV initiatives with the confidence in measurement that only a Nielsen can provide, thus creating a real market for new approaches, startups and content in the TV space and allowing for new lanes of marketing innovation. Marketers and content producers that were on the fence are now going to be throwing their hat in the ring.
And it’s just the beginning. Once the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating rolls out next fall, I think the next holy grail for TV measurement will be within the field of sentiment analysis – that is, finding a way to really drill down on the meaning of the various conversations online, not just the volume (assuming Nielsen and Twitter aren’t working on this already). When you pair this type of qualitative insight, at scale, with the powerful real-time data that we all expect from the Nielsen-Twitter partnership, you unlock endless possibilities for more relevant and more timely consumer engagement. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or @boughb.