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Social TV

Twitter, TV and the One Direction effect

Around this time last year, we did a fun little project around pancake-related tweets on pancake day. The biggest driver of tweets over time was a hashtag game, around #replacebandnameswithhashtags.

But the biggest driver of activity was this relatively innocuous tweet;

The impact was pretty clear; a massive spike in activity as it was retweeted and replied to;


(The secondary spike a short while later was the result of his girlfriend also tweeting about pancakes.)

I've been doing a few projects around tracking Twitter mentions and conversations around various topics, and it has become something of a joke – if there is a massive, inexplicable spike in tweets, the first thing to check is whether one of One Direction happened to say something related. And I'd say that as often as not, if no other explanation is apparent, then that is what it turns out to be. We call it the One Direction effect.

Another topic I've been watching (along with many others) is the interaction between Twitter and television. Just over a year ago, a Twitter spokesman said that 40% of tweets were about television during peak TV hours – a huge volume.

What would happen if the two collided? This week, we found out, thanks to SecondSync's analysis. They tweeted;

So, how much of a difference did it make?

This much.


To put that into context, in last week's round up they also mentioned the Graham Norton show;

The top show on Friday night’s leaderboard was the final episode of the current series of The Graham Norton Show, which attracted 16,551 tweets, the most it has recorded for an episode in 2014. The most popular guest on the show was Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, mentioned in over 5,600 tweets, while a peak of 506 TPM was reached in reaction to Ellie Goulding’s live performance. Overall, 75,646 tweets have been recorded for the eight episodes broadcast in this series.

So, the most tweeted about programme on a Friday night generated sixteen thousand tweets. But a single tweet from a One Directioner alone (during a repeat – not the live broadcast) generated nearly fourteen thousand – in a very intense burst.

This is their analysis of twitter volume over time – for a particularly popular (in Twitter-terms) episode of a popular show, in its original broadcast.

Note the difference in scales to the chart above.


Television gets a lot of attention when it comes to discussion of Twitter and their share price/market value.

Funny how One Direction don't get as much attention. I wonder what would happen if they started posting exclusively to Facebook?

"Social TV" measurement

Last week, I mentioned an announcement of a partnership between Twitter and GfK (a research firm) in providing an "offical" measurement of TV-related conversations on Twitter. This comes on the back of similar partnerships with Nielsen (for the US) and Kantar (for the UK.)

This is an area that I've been watching for a while — a couple of years ago, I did some analysis at work around online mentions of TV programmes, comparing volumes of mentions to TV audience sizes. I then spent a fair amount of time prototyping and then building my own little Twitter-tracking application which would plug into TV listings to create an ongoing measurement of TV programme mentions on Twitter. I ended up shelving the project for a number of reasons — not least because a company called SecondSync were doing something very similar (but as a proper business, rather than just a coding hobbyist project.)

What has been clear to anyone paying attention to the world of television is that a few different trends were all colliding;

The rise of social media. People talking to one another online about (among other things) television.

Twitter — the ideal platform for this kind of conversation for a number of reasons;

  • Public — most tweets are visible to anyone who wants to see them (as opposed to Facebook's 'semi-private' nature — much of what happens on Facebook is only visible within limited social circles, either to friends of the poster, or 'friends of friends.')
  • Searchable — put a keyword into Twitter's search, and you can see anyone's tweets mentioning that keyword. Hashtags make this very easy to do, encouraging public content to become part of a public conversation.
  • APIs — Its reasonably easy to plug into Twitter's data feeds and automate the searching process. Which means that its fairly straightforward to count mentions of keywords and see the volumes of mentions.
  • Real-time: Twitter's design focusses on what is happening right now (as opposed to "interesting things your friends have shared", which has been Facebook's focus — with a lot of their innovation revolving around figuring out the most "interesting" stuff to put at the top of your news feed.
  • Marketing — Twitter have made a concerted push to position themselves as the de facto platform to talk about television. (Zeebox were looking like they might replace them because they were focussed on just talking about TV, but I don't think the idea of only talking about TV has really caught on.) And, as this analysis by my colleague Mat Morrison shows, Twitter gets a lot of news/media attention for its size.

So, despite a much bigger audience, Facebook has been kind of left out of the "social TV" conversation — we don't really know what other people are talking about, we don't know the scale of conversations around particular topics, but we do know that while Twitter can be viewed as a network of conversations tied together by common hashtags, there is no way to connect a conversation I'm having on Facebook with that of, say, a teenager in Taunton or a mother in Middlesex that happen to be about the same thing, at the same time. Unless we have mutual friends, those other conversations might as well be happening on MySpace, as far as my experience is concerned.

Last Thursday, Facebook made an announcement;

Today we’re announcing an international partnership with SecondSync, a social TV analytics specialist, intended to help clients understand how people are using Facebook to talk about topics such as TV.
The first output from this partnership will be a forthcoming white paper, Watching with Friends, showing how different types of people use Facebook to talk about TV across a range of programs in the US, UK and Australia.

Interesting for a number of reasons;

  • Apparently Facbeook have been privately sharing some numbers with TV networks in the US, but this is the first time we will get a proper look at what is being talked about on Facebook – not brands being 'talked about', but 'natural' conversations. (There was a very limited tool some years ago that was apparently hacked together in Facebook's early days, but seems to have long since been forgotten.)
  • The fact that its beng done by a firm used to doing it on Twitter would suggest that there should be a degree of comparability between the figures. At the very least, it should give us an idea of the difference between programmes that are talked about on Twitter, Facebook – or both. In other words, we start getting a proper idea of 'social TV' – not just 'Twitter TV'.
  • The fact that its being done by a firm based in the UK should be good news for those of us in the UK media industry.
  • The fact that its also being done outside of the UK indicates that SecondSync have been developing their business/technology. Which is nice to hear (although a little frustrating on a personal level…)
  • Some visibility into Facebook conversations should give us (that is, researchers/media types) some better idea of what is actually going on, outside of our own circles or brand pages we are involved in.
  • Which, in turn, should tell us a bit more about TV audiences and viewing behaviours.

Twitter and GfK announce TV measurement partnership

Twitter and GfK have announced a partnership to "introduce GfK Twitter TV Ratings in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The new service will provide insights into the frequency and reach of messages from Twitter users associated with television programs and campaigns."

Those watching the "social TV" industry will recall the deal Nielsen announced with Twitter at the end of 2012 (I wrote about the deal and implications of this kind of measurement for my work website at the time.)

And those wondering why the UK wasn't included in the deal may want to cast their mind back to last August, when a similar partnership between Twitter and Kantar (with SecondSync providing data) was announced.

The big question from my point of view is about how this "reach" measurement is being measured.

Will it be based on inflated counts that assume that every follower sees every tweet, and doesn't account for the fact that people might follow more than one person who tweets about a programme?

Or will it be based on actual data from Twitter, who presumably have the ability to know how many people actually see each tweet (given that they have to do the work of putting it in front of them.)

Sadly, I'm expecting the former…