Facebook has launched its first social TV analytics report with partner SecondSync, revealing for the first time the true scale of use of the social network as an armchair companion.
An impressive 80 per cent of the conversations analysed by SecondSync across the US, UK and Australia took place on mobile, the study found. “We are rapidly becoming a mobile-first company,” said Alex North, head of measurement at Facebook. “The fact that mobile has quickly become the first screen to a lot of people; it makes sense that people are engaging around TV in large volumes,” he said.
While 60 per cent of interactions, ranging from a post, to a comment on a post, to a like, are made during the programme, the rest take place before or after. “There is a misconception that Facebook is not a real-time platform but this report shows the volume of discussion going on in real time,” North said. This is no doubt intended as a note to marketers weighing up whether to spend with competing social networks.
A quarter of Breaking Bad viewers take to Facebook
Facebook chatter was found to be present across all genres of TV programming, including drama, competitions, documentaries, news and current affairs, films, daytime and sport. And coupling this data with Barb and Nielsen stats reveals that, for example, a whopping 24 per cent of the total TV audience for Breaking Bad tuned in to Facebook to comment on the show when the finale aired in the US on 29 September.
Working with SecondSync, a partnership announced last month, Facebook is now also able to establish the demographics of TV commentators. The report shows that Breaking Bad recorded an almost 50/50 gender split in its audience in the US, with most viewers aged from 13 to 34. The Sound of Music Live, meanwhile, had a large female skew and tended to be older viewers.
Although the numbers are impressive, it's by no means the entire population that take to Facebook to talk about TV, even if they are watching. The Walking Dead recorded the most unique user interactions in the US, around 3.6m people - more than 100,000 interactions per minute. The largest engaged audience in the UK was for the X Factor Final, with 876,503 people commenting about the show on Facebook. North emphasises the role that these commentators might have in encouraging others to check out the show.
The report also revealed that some TV viewers are still very much part of the desktop faithful. For news and current affairs programming, viewers tend to use Facebook browser on desktop, whereas mobile is more likely to be used by those watching entertainment shows.
What does this mean for brands?
So will brands and publishers be able to create real-time campaigns based around social chatter happening on Facebook? “It could be something that’s possible," North said. "As this is our first publication based on the SecondSync partnership, we looking forward to discussing data points and the implications, helping brands to leverage and use this information.
“The fact that people are engaging in such large volumes begs some really important questions about what it means to build a brand on mobile and how brands can leverage that level of engagement. It is something we’ve been asked about for a while."
Sentiment analysis wasn’t included as part of the study but North said this is something Facebook will potentially explore going forward. “We are just scratching the surface of the value of data and how it can be used by advertisers for reaching and engaging audiences, for driving a perception shift and maintenance of perception, and generating a physical outcome, a sale. These are all areas that need to be explored going forward."
North was appointed as head of measurement nearly two years ago, leaving a role in TV research, and says his job has developed a lot since then. “Over the past 10 years, the platform as a whole has evolved, particularly in the mobile space, but it is still relatively new.
"We have to continue to show clients the value of the platform and put partnerships in place with reputable third-party parties to show what Facebook can offer as part of the marketing mix. It is these independent measurement partnerships that help show the value of platforms in context of other media.
"As with any marketing platform, the challenges are the same - we have to know how many people we are reaching, how many people engage and how to get that ROI for advertisers."