Facebook Pulls Ahead of Twitter in Social TV Battle, But Can It Win the War?

When it comes to harnessing the social TV market, Facebook and Twitter are continuing to battle it out. A recent report shows that Facebook may be pulling ahead in this fight. Produced by both Facebook and SecondSync, a firm that works with social media television analytics, it provides a first look at the wealth of data Facebook is capable of providing on user interactions surrounding television shows. However, experts still wonder if certain characteristics of the social network hold Facebook back in this arena. Doubts aside, it is clear that social TV is becoming increasingly important not only to social media giants, but also to marketers and advertisers.

“Watching With Friends”: The SecondSync Report

Titled “Watching with Friends,” the whitepaper produced by Facebook and SecondSync offers anonymous user data on TV show interactions broken down by a variety of metrics, including demographics, device, type of interaction, and genre. Key findings include:

  • 80% of TV “chatter” on Facebook came from mobile devices. As mobile increasingly becomes the avenue through which Facebook user’s access the social network, this measurement comes as no surprise.
  • 60% of interactions occur while a show is airing, while 40% happen later. This means that while engaging on social media is clearly valuable while the show is airing, marketers have a real opportunity to continue that engagement post-show.
  • Likes made up 67% of interactions. Not only were likes the most common type of interaction, but they also offer the added benefit of catalyzing the most interaction after a show airs.
  • Comments made up 21% of interactions. Comments were the place where the most conversation about a TV show took place.
  • Stand alone posts made up 11% of interactions. Posts were also most highly correlated with TV consumption in real-time, meaning that as users are watching, they are posting.
  • Shares came in last at 1% of interactions. Unfortunately, user interactions surrounding TV shows did not include much sharable content.
  • Ages 18-24 and 25-34 were most likely to engage in TV-related interactions. Each age group came in at 30%, showing that young adult users are dominating TV-related interactions on Facebook.
  • Significant portions of a show’s TV audience are interacting on Facebook. For example, during the series finale of Breaking Bad, there were 4,477,454 interactions on Facebook surrounding the show. This translates to 22% of the total audience.
  • The genre of the show determines when engagement will spike. During dramas, for instance, interactions are more frequent during the end, while reality competitions see an increase in engagement during performances. The graph below shows where interactions peaked during three popular TV events.

Source: “Watching with Friends: How TV Drives Conversation on Facebook,” SecondSync, February 2014

Facebook vs. Twitter: The Battle for Social TV

Despite the impressive numbers in the above report, Facebook is still facing some hefty competition in the social TV arena: Twitter. Facebook argues that they stand out from Twitter due to the sheer size of their user base – as Business Insider states, the amount of users Facebook has “makes it a TV-sized mass medium all by itself.” During primetime hours (8-11 PM), up to 100 million Americans are logging into Facebook. Only about half as many viewers (44 million) are watching TV on the fifteen largest broadcast and cable networks during the same time period.



While Facebook certainly has the benefit of sheer size, Twitter also has a few key advantages when it comes to social TV. First, Twitter is a much more conversational platform than Facebook, and its interactions are structured in a way that allows conversation to take place between friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers. The use of hash tags is more widespread on Twitter, contributing to this conversational environment. For example, the above photos show how TV interactions are more often promoted by brands themselves on Facebook, whereas users are generating a conversation surrounding TV shows on Twitter.



Second, Twitter boasts a younger audience than Facebook. Not only is the younger demographic more actively engaged with TV on social media, but it is also a coveted demographic by marketers. Finally, Twitter is very well known for its high level of real-time interaction surrounding TV shows, more so than Facebook. Rory Maher, an internet analyst from Hillside Partners, states, “The perception remains that Twitter essentially has a lock on real-time communications around TV viewing.” All of these factors have positioned Twitter as the clear winner in the social TV battle.

Why Do Facebook & Twitter Need Social TV?

Why do Facebook and Twitter care so much about social TV? You may be surprised to hear this, but TV advertising is still the largest market, taking in about $70 billion per year. By harnessing the TV market, both Facebook and Twitter will be able to grow their advertising revenue exponentially.

In fact, experts argue that taking hold of this market is the only way that Facebook and Twitter can continue to grow alongside shareholder’s expectations. Not only is Twitter coming close to reaching $1 billion in revenue, but Facebook also closed out 2013 with over $7 billion in total revenue. This means that in order to continue growing, they have to harness the only other media category that handles clients with $100 million budgets: TV.

Why Does Social TV Matter for Marketers?

Last but not least, what does all this mean for marketers? The data acquired from Facebook and Twitter on TV viewing and social media use can be used for:

  • Better insights: Social TV data is critical because it allows marketers to better understand who their audience is.
  • Campaign optimization: Through these insights, marketers can optimize their advertising campaigns to maximize effectiveness.
  • Cost-effective ad purchasing: Understanding when certain ads are most effective will allow marketers to make advertising purchases that are more cost-effective.
  • Real-time change: With real-time data comes real-time change. Marketers may be able to use social TV data to improve their advertising campaigns in real-time for immediate results.
  • Social media integration: Data has shown that when networks and advertisers incorporate social media content into their broadcasts, they are able to engage more effectively with their audience.

How do you think social TV will change the landscape of TV and digital marketing?

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Elizabeth K

Elizabeth Kent is a recent graduate with an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University. She earned her B.A. from Smith College with a major in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in Jewish Studies. Elizabeth recently relocated from the Boston area back to Western Massachusetts, where she spends her free time volunteering with a local non-profit organization. Elizabeth has worked as a writing tutor, archival intern, research assistant, and retail associate. Her interests include studying pop culture, kittens, and making meals with as little cooking as possible.

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