Why the Facebook Status May Beat the Tweet for Social TV Measurement

By Michael Wolf • Forbes • Dec 18, 2012

Nielsen’s recent announcement they were working directly with Twitter to establish a social TV measurement had some sounding alarm bells for the broader social TV analytics space.  After all, when you get the biggest historical player in TV engagement measurement jumping directly into the social TV biz with the engagement platform itself, those not invited to the viewing party have a right to be worried.

But before we write off the social TV analytics space to the Wonder Twin powers of Nielsen and Twitter, let’s step back and ask this: Are tweets all that really  matter when measuring live social TV engagement?

(Notice I said live – most people recognize that sentiment measurement around TV shows continues around the clock, even if most seem to think Twitter is the de facto live TV social engagement platform).

I’d say no, and here’s why: As many have written before, Twitter is an eighty to ninety percent passive audience. What this means is that ten percent of Twitter users are putting their opinion out there, while the vast majority of others are largely retweeting them. Not to say that the Twitter hoi polloi does not live-tweet during shows, but the reality is that the overall synchronous engagement of  the broader population on Twitter is pretty small.

Not so on Facebook. Facebook adoption is much broader than that of Twitter, and actual usage is more regular (if not as rapid fire than that of a regular Twitter user). Translation: not only are many more consumers using Facebook, but a broader swath of these users are using it more regularly and actively.

Some will ask, but do they use it in realtime? Some do, yes. And while admittedly Twitter has a much more realtime audience, Facebook status updates during live shows are certainly substantial enough to be statistically representative of the general Facebook populace.

And  as for those for post-show (non-live) updates? In my opinion, post-show updates are just as significant in measuring sentiment even if they are not entirely synchronous, and any brand or network who wants a true read on sentiment can afford (and should) wait an hour or two.

Some social TV analytics providers such as Bluefin Labs and Trendrr do measure Facebook updates (public) in addition to  tweets. Is one better than the other? Maybe, maybe not, but in my opinion tweets as a measure of social TV engagement is an incomplete one given the smaller percentage of the audience that engages and the strong influence of a the Twitter super-influencers on these “down-tweeters”.

But while I believe the need for balance between Twitter and Facebook in measuring social TV engagement should provide some comfort to those who are not Nielsen, a danger remains for other social TV analytics providers: the ever-present danger the platform owner (i.e Facebook) gets into the analytics business themselves.

While Facebook public status updates are available today for measurement, what’s to stop Facebook from starting to sell access to sentiment measurement of its entire user-base to brands and networks themselves?

In they follow Twitter’s lead, nothing.

Michael Wolf is chief analyst with NextMarket Insights. He engages on both Twitter and Facebook.

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