The big news in social media this week was Twitter's purchase of Trendrr. This is great for Twitter, which acquires great technology just in time for TV's new season. It is also, I would assume, great for Trendrr. (Congrats, guys!) But for the TV networks, producers, brands and agencies that are all still trying to figure out this thing that is "social TV," it risks becoming a step backward.
Twitter, just for the record, is awesome. It is a wonderful platform for marketing, listening and sharing, especially with text. The immediacy of the 140 characters, the ability to see and search trends through hashtags, and the personal involvement of many celebrities with their own accounts makes Twitter perfect for real-time reactions around TV.
But as great as Twitter is, it is only one of the platforms that comprise social TV.
Facebook, with many more users than Twitter, is a rich source of social TV conversation and information. People publicly "badge" themselves, for one thing, by "liking" TV programs. But Facebook more importantly provides a platform where friends and family share their viewing habits and opinions. The result may not be as publicly accessible and immediate as a trending topic on Twitter. But with more than a billion users and personal connections -- they are called friends, remember, not just followers -- Facebook has a tremendous power to affect social TV.
One of the biggest trends of the past year has been the rise of visual social conversation. More under-25-year-olds are choosing to create animated GIFs, add commentary to still photos and even shoot short videos to express their opinions in social media. The growth of Tumblr and Instagram reflect this new creation culture. And it is a big part of social TV.
Twitter reported that Miley Cyrus' performance at last Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards generated more than 300,000 tweets per minute. That's an amazing number. But Fizziology also found that there were nearly 1 million Instagram posts about Miley's performance that night as well. Those are individual posts, not likes or comments, ranging from photo memes to reaction posts to shots of the TV screen.
And with more tablets and smartphones capable of enabling this creativity, this trend will continue to explode.
Curation networks like Pinterest, creation networks like YouTube, check-in networks like GetGlue and even good ol' fashioned blogs are places where people are talking about TV too. Each platform caters to a slightly different audience and allows for a different kind of engagement. All are valuable in understanding audience opinion and behavior. Calculating ratings means measuring a binary decision, a 1 or a 0 -- did you watch or not? Social TV, ultimately, is hard because it is about not just audience size but audience opinions. And those opinions are being expressed across a wide range of platforms where apples don't always equal other apples. Looking at the total social conversation around a single show might mean reading a clever tweet from a die-hard fan next to an animated GIF made by a college student on Tumblr -- plus a status update on Facebook from mom about how excited she is that her favorite show is back.
In a blog post announcing its purchase by Twitter, Trendrr talked about how it has "analyzed data from lots of platforms" but that Twitter is "uniquely compelling" because of "its connection to the live moment."
"We think we can help amplify even stronger the power of that connection to the moment inside of Twitter," Trendrr's post said.
That, plus the notice that it will stop establishing new contracts for its Trendrr.tv analytics, suggests that Trendrr will be focused on curating and boosting Twitter's "apples" moving forward. Especially given Trendrr's own findings last month about how much more TV-related activity exists on Facebook than other platforms, that kind of focus on a single social network would provide a more limited view for networks and advertisers.