UK social TV analytics firm becomes first to delve into your Facebook data

UK social TV analytics firm becomes first to delve into your Facebook data


A UK company has become the first to analyse realtime Facebook interactions, revealing that most TV show-related conversations happen on mobile platforms, 60 percent happen during the show itself and 864,006 more of you got vocal about last year’s X-Factor final than MP Anna Soubry’s public takedown of UKIP leader Nigel Farage on Question Time. Shame on you.

Facebook has, out of necessity, been a little slow to the marketing-hungry live media social analytics game compared to some of its competitors. Twitter Chief Media Scientist Deb Roy, for instance, has been tracking public reactions to TV shows on Twitter since his company BlueFin was acquired by the microblogging platform a year ago. The word “public” is key here — for Twitter, gathering and sorting public opinion was straightforward. For a social network like Facebook, with all its multitude of privacy layers, it’s not quite so simple. The Facebook-SecondSync collaboration was announced two weeks ago, and now the analytics company has released a white paper revealing how that privacy was maintained, and its initial test findings.

“We have a lot of experience mapping conversations on social networks and developed key terms to search for on Facebook,” Andy Littledale, Managing Director of SecondSync, told “We have a complex process of generating these key words. We take TV listings and use natural language processing to pull them out. There’s always a manual aspect to it — a large editorial team goes through all those automated tags and edits them as necessary.

The next stage is explained in the white paper thus: “Facebook used these search terms to calculate anonymised statistics of total discussion volumes for the search terms, aggregated at telecast airing window, daily and minute level. In addition, Facebook used these search terms to randomly select a small number of anonymised public Facebook posts that SecondSync used to test the accuracy and quality of its search terms. Terms that did not pass [quality assurance] testing were revised and re-submitted to Facebook. Facebook provided the resulting statistics to SecondSync for analysis and use in preparing this study.”

SecondSync needs to have that realtime data from Facebook to give any kind of detailed analysis of the public reaction to a show. It’s what could tell advertisers, for instance, that there were 158,171 interactions (classed as posts, likes, shares and comments) per minute when the final score was called during a playoff between the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs on 4 January in the US. Or that of the 2,491,473 people that joined in the conversation about the last episode of Breaking Bad in the US, 53 percent were male and all got extra chatty during the final scene. Major finds — though fairly unsuprising ones — include that 80 percent of interactions were made using mobile devices, and around 60 percent of those TV-show related interactions took place during the airing of the show.

It’s a sign of how differently people are behaving during big TV events — being gripped does not necessarily mean you don’t want to share every reaction on the device in your hand while continuing to watch.

“It’s interesting from a production side,” Littledale adds, “which parts create the most engagement and understanding the commercial aspect of having engagement. We’re not there yet, but potentially in future we might be.”

During his Wired 2013 talk, Twitter’s Deb Roy cited the inclusion by TV networks of video embeds in their tweets. But we’re a way off knowing how companies will decide to apply this new knowledge of the Facebook audience.

In the white paper though, the team at SecondSync takes a stab at guessing exactly how marketers, advertisers and more would use the new data: “Audience measurement, TV planning, content discovery, direct response advertising, TV commissioning and research are just some of the sectors that will benefit from the insights coming out of the world’s biggest social network.”

“Areas of future research will include investigating the extent to which Facebook drives TV tune-in, measuring the reach of TV-related interactions, and looking at the effectiveness of Facebook calls to action in TV advertising.”

SecondSync, which already works with the BBC, Channel 4, Twitter and more, hopes to launch its product in the second quarter of this year in the UK and US.

“It’s in Facebook’s interest to get this out into the market place too,” Littledale tells us. “We work together, they use our expertise and technology platform. We’re still very much an independent company, we are impartial and looking at several sources of data.”

In a statement Julie DeTraglia, Senior Vice President, Digital and Broadcast Marketing Research at NBCUniversal, said: “In recent years, tracking TV-related social media conversations has become an important component of our audience research. However, up until now we had no visibility into the ways people were engaging with our shows on Facebook, a broad social platform with tremendous scale.  Having access to this new data will allow us to plan our social strategy more effectively and potentially help us understand how social conversations may affect ratings.”

The kinds of analysis being retrieved from real time social media could potentially change the way TV companies produce programmes, and even pave the way for reactive broadcasting where public interactions change the outcome of a drama, for instance. In the meantime though, at least we now know — thanks to the white paper — that in the battle of the Christmas specials, The Only Way Is Essexmas trumped Made in Chelsea, with 86,964 interactions to a paltry 17,137 (less than Question Time). To find out what this means, and whether it relates to the sheer (and undeniable) unlikeability of many of the shows’ characters, or perhaps some kind of contoversy, will need further analysis…

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