Facebook, Twitter, Television, and the Second Screen

facebook at the oscarsLike many of you, I watched the Oscars Sunday night with laptop and iPad wide open for a vast majority of the event.  Why watch it by yourself when you can watch it with so many “friends”, right?

It’s one of the big trends to emerge over the last few years.  People have a better experience watching live events such as the Oscars while simultaneously listening to feedback from the crowd.  Follow the right people — or run the right search on Twitter — and you can have a fun, second screen experience.

Some of the first returns are in — in the form of research studies.  And most suggest that the second screen experience isn’t just a fad, but perhaps a fundamental shift in how people watch television.  We’re all becoming a little ADD when it comes to watching TV.  The only thing the brilliant Mike Judge got wrong in this video below is that we use a second or perhaps third device to overload our brain while being entertained.

Notice also that the second screen “live TV” experience today is primarily considered to be a Twitter experience — not Facebook.  Facebook is the bigger, more dominant social network in terms of usage and global adoption.  And according to Mashable, it had roughly an 8-to-1 advantage over Twitter in terms ofOscar 2013 social interactions.  So why is Twitter the alleged #1 social network for live events?  A few reasons:




  1. Edgerank — News Feed real estate is and remains to be cherished by Facebook Users.
  2. Shelf life of a Tweet vs. Facebook Status Update — Tweets come & go during live events. Wait a second, and your screen is replaced with another dozen tweets or more depending on how many people you follow.
  3. Virality — Say something clever on Twitter, and millions of people might be exposed to it.  That isn’t really possible on Facebook.
  4. Discoverability — Social chatter takes place on Facebook, but is happening on Users’ Profiles, Pages, and to a lesser extent in Groups. Twitter’s simplicity makes the chatter there appear to be more “alive”.
  5. Decorum — Facebook has emerged as the place for being careful about what you share. It has become our lifestream, a record of our lives.  Twitter on the other hand is the record of our reactions. Twitter is where you let loose.

I’m reminded of feedback I got from my wife during football season this year. I’d watch my favorite team play big game after big game. I’d have a cocktail or two, then take my frustrations to Facebook. After a few weeks of this, my wife said to me,

“You know, you should probably watch what you put on Facebook during your football games.  You’re getting annoying.  Heck, I want to block you.”

Originally, I was blamed her. Then I thought about it and was horrified — am I really annoying during football season? Then I checked out my profile and came to the realization that yes, she was probably right after all.  Then I realized that the appropriate venue for my “fandom” was probably Twitter more than Facebook.

On Twitter, I say whatever the heck is on my mind, knowing full and well that at least a quarter of my Tweets could get me in trouble later.  But that’s what someone who Follows me gets — my unvarnished thoughts about whatever is happening at the moment, delivered 140 characters at a time.  Facebook has the opposite effect.  I edit myself there, because I really don’t want to hurt my friends, colleagues, and closer circle of acquaintances.

Finally, Facebook isn’t much of a player in live events primarily because of how data is shared with users and developers — as well as its current user interface.  The Ticker isn’t a terribly effective way of displaying people’s thoughts about a live event, nor is that really the purpose.  Edgerank weeds out a lot of things our friends say — if we haven’t communicated with them much.  People we follow post real-time updates on Twitter and do so with increasing frequency.  The feedback loop is stronger there.




And because Facebook remains extraordinarily protective of status update data, it’s hard to say if Facebook could be a major player in the real-time second screen.

But how often is that really, truly important?  The Oscars, the Super Bowl, maybe a season finale of a particular hot TV show, a transcendent news event.  For the other 350+ days a year, Facebook remains kingof the watercooler.  I think that was the point of Facebook’s recent insistence that it is indeed a major player in the second screen debate — although mentioning it just before the Oscars might have been poor timing.





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