Twitter TV

In the run up to its pending IPO, Twitter’s moving into TV in a big way.

On October 9th, the company announced a partnership with Comcast wherein users tweeting about Comcast-associated TV shows (like NBC’s ‘The Voice’) would be served up a ‘See It’ button that would facilitate quick click-through to content consumption.  The hope, for Twitter, is that this sort of  “Twitter as content discovery vehicle” idea will eventually be adopted by other content distributors as well.

Additionally, Twitter, in partnership with longtime TV ratings tracking company Nielsen, recently released its first ‘Twitter TV Ratings’ metrics as well.  Numero uno?  The most tweeted about show?  ‘The Walking Dead’ for its Season 4 premiere episode.

Read more about the ratings, their value and their impact on WIRED here, though I will frequently allude to the WIRED piece below.

What’s it all about?  Well, advertising revenue (duh).

Twitter makes money drawing eyeballs to Twitter.  Twitter knows that nothing does that more consistently or intensely than TV.  TV is one of the last remaining places of cross-cultural, cross-political, cross-socioeconomic common ground and consciousness in American society.  Everybody watches TV, everybody talks about what they’ve seen on TV and, more and more, everybody tweets about it as well.

As I recently wrote about, just for the recent finale of ‘Breaking Bad’, Nielsen SocialGuide showed that 600,000 Twitter users posted 1.2 million messages.

So, here’s what we know:

  • Twitter (and advertisers) want you to Tweet more and more about what you see on TV
  • Twitter (and content partners) want you to click-through to consume content via Twitter
  • Twitter can gain more and better advertising with more and better data on how users are tweeting about TV
  • Twitter (and advertisers…and content partners) don’t care whether your tweets are good or bad…they just want your attention (the old ‘any news is good news’ principle)

Given that, here are five predictions for the future of Twitter & TV…in fun TV show title form!

#1. ‘The Big Bang Theory’ of Exclusive Content

Offering ‘never before seen’ EXCLUSIVE!!! content is nothing new.  Extras like on-set interviews, deleted scenes and actor commentary have been trotted out by studios to incentivize customers to buy Blu-rays of movies they may already own on DVD for years now.  And, y’know what – it works.  I predict that studios will be picking up scraps off their cutting room floors in an effort to produce more and more exclusive content to stimulate click-throughs via Twitter.

For instance, imagine, you tweet about ‘The Voice’ as you’re watching it.  And ad pops up directing you to ‘See It’ now.  You’re already seeing it!  So what?  Why click?  Add some exclusive content to that offer…an Adam Levine interview or a preview of a new Christina Aguilera song…now that’s something worth taking an extra two minutes out of your life for.  Not my life, but, hey, to each their own.

#2.  The Expansion of Fake Grass-‘Roots’ Tweeting

Everybody involved in TV tweeting – Twitter, content companies and advertisers – will have a stake in the performance of TV-focused Twitter advertising.  Twitter to trumpet the success of their ad platform.  The content companies to prove how smart they were to advertise on Twitter.  Advertisers to justify their buys.  One way to goose those numbers is through fake grassroots tweeting (a.k.a. “astroturfing”).

According to PR Week, as many as 20 million fake Twitter accounts maintain a brisk and booming business in ersatz Twitter traffic.  What?  Mainstream brands are above that sort of thing, you say?  Not according to Forbes, who named among brands accused of purchasing fake Twitter followers Pepsi, Mercedes-Benz and Louis Vuitton…as well as (wait for it….) 50 Cent, P. Diddy and a real old-school G (O.P.), Newt Gingrich.

#3.  Brands ‘Get Smart’ on Twitter TV Data

Twitter provides a fairly large, yet fairly simplistic data set for marketers.  Sure, there are millions of tweets, but what do they mean?  And who is tweeting them?

One of the key pieces of information that, currently, it is hard to separate from all of those tweets is sentiment (are the tweets about a TV show positive or negative?).  Also difficult to parse in a meaningful way are demographic metrics like age and gender.

As WIRED points out:

In other words, we may know that a lot of people are tweeting about a show, but are they watching it? And, if so, are they enjoying it? Who these tweeters are and how they feel about, say, an episode of Scandal isn’t something you can determine from knowing that there are nearly 713,000 tweets about it.

Metrics like age, gender and sentiment are still only the beginning. There’s still a lot of other data — and combination of data — embedded in the world of Twitter for networks and advertisers to mine, even if analyzing it may prove the bigger challenge. “It’s complicated,” said Clark Fredricksen, vice president of research firm eMarketer told WIRED. “On the one hand, you have the internet, which is the most accountable, measurable media channel in history, compared to TV, which is arguably the most difficult channel to measure.” In other words, social media provides an embarrassment of riches that viewership numbers don’t. We just need to figure out how to read it.

Brands will increasingly invest in more sophisticated analytics to extract more valuable insights from all of that Twitter data.  It’s a great time to be a data scientist.

#4. ‘Arrested (Mobile App) Development’

It’s also a great time to be a mobile app developer.

Twitter is, by and large, a mobile experience.  According to Twitter’s own blog, sixty percent of the company’s 200 million active users log in via a mobile device at least once every month.  So, the majority of folks who elect to ‘See It’ via Twitter will largely be clicking-through to, or bounced into, a content provider’s mobile app.

Assuming that TV-focused Twitter advertising is modestly successful, those apps are going to have to beef up in terms of sophistication and feature set to handle the traffic and usability demands.  Mobile video apps will have to increasingly make content easier to stream, simpler to find and more elegant to navigate than ever before.

#5. Twitter Users Will Be ‘Mad Men’ (& Women)

Yes, in my title for this section I’m alluding to a show that celebrates the Golden Age of advertising…to illustrate how much people are going to hate TV-focused Twitter advertising.  Because they will!

According to a 2012 study by Insight Strategy Group, published here in MediaPost, “nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they ‘hate’ when a company targets them through their social networking profile, and 58% agree that social media marketing is invasive”.

I have another statistic for you.  Here’s how much Twitter and content providers and advertisers care about that: 0.0%.

They don’t care.  Because, by and large, especially when it comes to the ever-morphing runaway train nature of Twitter conversations, any conversation – positive or negative – is valuable conversation.  It’s all good, just as long as the tweets, positive or negative, keep flowing.  So, even if users hate TV-focused Twitter advertising, as long as they’re generating thousands of (measurable) tweets about it, everybody (measuring) those tweets is going to be happy.

As WIRED points out in their article, essentially all Twitter traffic, positive or negative, falls under “the more the better”.  Especially while sentiment scoring is still in its inaccurate infancy:

Some say “any press is good press,” and perhaps all tweets are good tweets. Even if everyone’s talking about how terrible or WTF a show is, if the volume is high enough it might cause people to tune in just to see what all the fuss is about. It’ll be especially interesting to see how this plays out in the new arrangement between Twitter and Comcast. Based on the screenshot examples released by the cable provider, it appears the Twitter cards will at least initially be attached to tweets from the official show Twitter feeds, but if/when the cards are attached to random users tweets, you might see an update that reads “Tonight’s #GreysAnatomy was the worst ever!” followed by a card asking if you’d like to watch it now.

In a blog post announcing the gambit, Comcast Cable’s head of business development Sam Schwartz used the example of seeing friends tweeting about Sharknado, which got a lot of tweets even if many of them were mocking (or at least ironic). “If I had only seen an ad about a sharks-meet-a-natural-disaster movie, frankly, there would be little chance that I would tune in,” Schwartz said. “However, all these tweets pique my curiosity, I click on the See It button in one of the tweets, and then use it to set a reminder to watch the movie later that night.” So maybe love it or hate it or love-hate it — it really doesn’t matter just so long as there are eyeballs.

So, what do you think about TV-focused Twitter advertising?  Will it drive huge ‘Numb3rs’ of video views?  Will it make the ‘Suits’ at Twitter and Comcast look brilliant?  Is this a ‘Revolution’ in social marketing?  Could it help vault Twitter to be ‘King of the Hill’ for social advertising?  Or, will Twitter and Comcast end up looking like ‘The Crazy Ones’ in the end?