Facebook and Twitter have always had a back-and-forth struggle for user attention and interaction, but that struggle has become even more contentious in an unlikely way. Each platform is positioning itself as the dominant social TV network.
15% to 17% of television viewers are using social networks in real-time to discuss shows they are watching at any given moment, and an even greater number of people are using Facebook (83.7%) and Twitter (66.9%) in some way while watching television.
Twitter has been known as the social TV platform, but Facebook is not far behind. The prize is potentially huge media dollars and valuable partnerships with the biggest mass marketing platform--television. There's a lot to gain for both Facebook and Twitter, but there's also a lot at stake as advertisers look to extend what they're doing on television into conversation beyond the TV set.
Facebook has not let Twitter sit comfortably in its dominant social TV position. It recently started providing weekly analytics and engagement reports to broadcast companies around the world to showcase the likes, comments and shares being generated by TV shows. It also launched hashtags earlier this year to encourage users to join public conversations around trending topics, which are often TV shows. Facebook is evolving to be more TV-friendly.
Twitter hasn't set idly by. It developed a social TV Twitter rating in partnership with Nielsen to legitimize it as a social TV platform with analytics to support media buying and planning because it shows not only how many people tweeted but how many people saw the tweets. It acquired social TV analytics platforms Bluefin Labs and Trendrr. It's formed partnerships to stream real-time video content with media companies like ESPN and the NFL. Twitter also offers TV Ad Targeting that allow advertisers to target ads to people who saw their commercials on a TV show. With an IPO around the corner, Twitter has a lot to gain by showing the potential for social TV on its platform, and it's doing everything it can to be successful.
The Conversation is Different
Facebook and Twitter both have a lot of conversation going on when it comes to social TV, but the conversation is different. Facebook claims greater numbers of social TV interactions, but interactions include anything, meaning likes, comments and shares are all taken into account. These features are not available on Twitter. Twitter on the other hand is counting tweets and retweets, which show a deeper level of engagement than a 'like.'
Facebook, does however, have a few things Twitter doesn't. It has a massive user base, and it has deeper demographic information, which will make it a very formidable contender down the line.
Social has Made Real-Time TV Relevant
Social media has made it almost a necessity to watch TV live again in order to avoid any spoilers and to be part of a real-time cultural discussion. Social is less of a distraction from TV and more of a complement to it. In fact, Nielsen found that Twitter, in some cases, can boost TV ratings.
Facebook and Twitter want to be synonymous with social TV, and they're doing what they can to do just that. Now, we see where the battle goes from here because things are just getting started.