Twitter’s user growth in the last couple quarters may have been less than stellar, but one place the social messenging service hasn’t disappointed is its hold on television viewers. Twitter executives see the so-called second screen experience not just as a lure for users but as as an entrée into the huge advertising budgets earmarked for TV.
Facebook sees it much the same way, which is why it has been anxious to stake its own claim to second-screen supremacy. Holding it back, however, has been a perception that people who talk about TV shows on Facebook tend to do so well before or after the broadcast and not so much in the “live window” that matters most to advertisers and networks. (Perhaps that’s why the number of brands doing real-time social marketing on Facebook during the Super Bowl was actually lower this year than last.)
A new study from SecondSync, a U.K.-based social analytics agency, offers Facebook ammunition for disputing that perception. According to SecondSync, fully 60% of the interactions around primetime programming take place during the broadcast. This is especially true of new status updates, or Posts, which tend to cluster within the live window. Reactions to those posts, such as Likes and comments, have a longer tail. (A fourth type of interactions, Shares, are relatively rare in TV-related discussions, accounting for just 1% of the total.)
Here’s what the data looked like for one much-discussed broadcast, the finale of AMC’s “Breaking Bad:”
But if SecondSync’s report shows that Facebook has a stronger claim to being a real-time forum for TV chatter than was previously thought, it also indirectly underscores just how strong Twitter’s advantage is.
Despite a user base only 20% the size of Facebook’s, Twitter routinely hosts discussions that rival the size of those taking place on the larger platform. If you narrow the comparison down to original content — Tweets versus Posts — Twitter boasted more interaction around nearly all of the broadcasts SecondSync examined in its study.
For instance, during the five-hour period surrounding and including the “Breaking Bad” finale, Facebook users published 564,068 posts about the program. According to Nielsen SocialGuide, there were nearly twice as many Tweets about the show — 1.12 million — during a window including the broadcast plus three hours leading up to and following it.
The difference in time windows is just one of several apples-to-oranges problems that crop up when attempting to compare second-screen patterns across the two platforms. A more substantive one is how to weight the various types of actions permitted in both places. Is a Like more akin to a retweet or a Favorite? It depends on whom you ask. Moreover, the vast majority of tweets are public, while most Facebook posts are not.
But even a comparison that assumes that comments are worth as much as original posts suggests that Twitter owns a disproportionate share of TV discussions. With comments added in, there were about 1.54 million mentions of “Breaking Bad” on Facebook around the finale — meaning that Twitter, despite being one-fifth the size of Facebook, still managed to generate three-quarters as many discussions. In aggregate, for the 10 different broadcasts included in the SecondSync study, Facebook users produced 9.9 million relevant posts and comments versus 5.1 million tweets.
To be sure, 9.9 million is more than 5.1 milllion, so Facebook can plausibly assert that it, not Twitter, is the top second-screen platform. But from an intensity standpoint, Twitter is the clear leader; if it ever manages to solve that little user-growth problem, Facebook will have a hard time keeping up.