Where Twitter and Facebook Fit Into Social TV
When you’re thinking through the future of social-plus-TV, it’s important to keep an important point in mind: Facebook and Twitter aren’t the same. And that difference has huge implication for their role in socially-driven TV ads.
Before getting to TV, let’s talk through the difference between the networks themselves. In a nutshell: Facebook is a network built around social ties, while Twitter is, to a large extent, a socially-driven content platform.
That’s the best explanation of why, if you’re like me, your Facebook feed is comprised mostly of people you know personally (and may even like), while your Twitter feed is full of pundits, celebrities, brands, and media outlets—in other words, people you’ll likely never connect with personally, but whom you’d definitely like to hear from. Or why your Facebook profile has so many personal fields, from relationship status to religious views to your gender, in your own terms; while Twitter’s profile form asks for a name, location, website, short bio—and not much else. And while it would be strange to invite you to friend me on Facebook just because you’re reading this column, I’ll openly invite you to follow me on Twitter right now.
In other words: Twitter is designed around sharing and receiving information and ideas; Facebook is built around cementing personal human ties (and sharing and receiving information and ideas in the process). Or, in Wikipedia’s words: “Facebook is an online social networking service” while “Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service” (emphasis mine).
That distinction goes to the core of the companies’ official language. Twitter describes itself as a business that “helps you create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” As for Facebook: “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Twitter is talking about instantaneous blogging; Facebook, about staying connected.
Inevitably, this distinction I’m describing has huge implications for data. If Facebook is a network focused primarily on human connections, it’s going to have extremely powerful information about how you connect with other people—information like when you’ll break up or, at the other extreme, what your wedding date might be. That’s not the kind of information you see being retrieved from Twitter. Twitter will, however, be very likely to have extremely powerful information about how you consume content around brands, information, and ideas—all based on who you follow and what ideas you share.
Which brings me to advertising data, and to social advertising around TV. Since its inception, TV advertising has been measured as a one-to-many medium: brands shoot a message into the millions, and then use ratings to understand how many potential consumers engaged with the brand. But at the same time, TV has served an entirely different, largely unmeasured role: that of being the world’s greatest ad-driven social glue. And so while TV is bought and sold based on ratings that calculate a TV ad’s audience reach, the brand impact of water cooler conversation about ads and Super Bowl parties goes (relatively) unrecorded.
From there, it’s not hard to see diverging social TV advertising paths for Facebook and Twitter. Twitter’s one-talks-to-many content model fits right in with the one-to-many content model of TV—and of the current TV ad measurement. And Twitter is taking the lead on becoming an online extension of TV advertising, from Nielsen/Twitter TV Ratings to using Twitter to re-target TV ads. (Facebook’s longstanding involvement in OCR is a different story—but I’m not talking about using Facebook to compare online metrics to TV; I’m talking about using Facebook to extend offline TV online.)
For now, Facebook seems to be falling behind in social TV. But we’re still in the infancy of translating social data into sales data. When the industry really starts to crack that piece of the puzzle, Facebook will be in a position to provide a kind of TV engagement data that never existed before—essentially, it will be able to capture and leverage not just reach data, but “water cooler” data as well. That, to my mind, is the real opportunity for Facebook in TV going forward.
Of course, the dichotomy I’m describing may not be permanent. Facebook’s foray into trending topics puts it in Twitter’s company of offering one-to-many social media content. Meanwhile, Twitter’s recent redesign is hoping to make Twitter a lot more personable. A lot could happen in the future of social TV. However the future of social TV ads turn out, I’ll update all my friends and followers – on Facebook and Twitter.