I went to a Twitter event last night called #TwitterxTV. This is the write-up I posted on our agency group’s intranet. 

 

​Last night Twitter revealed to UK agencies and advertisers new opportunities that will significantly enhance how brands can use the platform to engage with users.

Tracking technology and new advertising platforms have been combined to make the most of the way audiences interact with TV. Twitter freely admits this development took them by surprise, but they’ve more than cottoned on now and it is clearly where they see the opportunity for revenue growth.

The network’s proposition is that Twitter and TV together offer a multiplier effect that offers not only new targeting opportunities for brands, but also, according to Deb Roy, a new kind of creative platform for storytelling.

Deb Roy is Twitter’s Chief Media Scientist, over from the states for the event. Deb is a MIT Media Lab guy and co-founder of Blue Fin, the technology company founded in 2008 and subsequently bought by Twitter, which  developed analytics technology I guess Twitter use to power the new platforms shared yesterday.

 

Twitter and TV working together

Twitter sees itself an entirely new form of communication. It is public, conversational and live. And, of course, it does all of this at an increasing scale. User growth and increasing volume of tweets means traffic is 25% up this year.

Perhaps this explains why Twitter is now a mainstream an accompaniment to watching TV. The X Factor is the obvious example, and this year 75% of traffic during the season’s first live show came from mobile devices. ITV have responded and have their own Twitter wheel within the show, capturing the commentary as it happens.

The phenomenon is more widespread and more habitual than ever. The synchronous experience of TV is now amplified by this social platform – viewers virtually interacting with the show and with each other as the experience unfolds.

We heard that 40% of Twitter traffic coincides with peak-time TV. 60% of users use Twitter while they’re watching TV. Over 90% of public conversations online about TV happen on Twitter. In the US Nielsen have developed Twitter and TV ratings to track the combined reach that campaigns can achieve.

And tracking technology can now reveal how that traffic works. Twitter can see when users refresh their timelines and are exposed to tweets about the TV programmes in question. These secondary Twitter impressions – views on tweets by other users about certain subjects – show patterns that underline the live nature of the relationship between Twitter and TV. The majority of secondary impressions still occur within the timeframe of the programme itself – though with something like The X Factor there’s a residual effect until about two hours after the programme finishes.

Deb Roy likened this new interactive layer of TV viewing to the way soundtracks developed with cinema: a proposition that seemed distracting, eventually an enhancement of the visuals and ultimately an integral part of the experience.

 

The innovations

So, what are Twitter doing?

The first product is an ad targeting platform that tracks TV spots as they air and tracks tweets about the shows in which those spots appear. The platform assumes the spot has been seen and complements this with a targeted message into the viewer’s timeline. This offers a great chance to communicate a secondary or follow-up message, or extend the story, or more accurately reflect the real-time context in which the original ad was seen.

This product has already launched in the US. No commitment to a date for launch in other markets yet but it looks certain to go live at some point.

The second product is Amplify, currently being trialled in the US by the broadcaster ESPN in association with the broadcast sponsor Verizon. Amplify extends reach through technology that tracks real Twitter impressions. It tracks who is exposed to the tweets sent by people who are tweeting about ESPN content. It then sends those recipients a tweet that contains some content from the original show itself – an NFL touchdown, perhaps, or a late winner in a basketball game.

Deb shared fascinating data visualisations that brought Amplify powerfully to life, and the product serves as an important reminder of the power of propagation. Twitter – and social in general – offers value to advertisers not just from the people brands can reach, but the secondary audience that those people can help you reach in turn. Amplify allows brands to complete the circle of that relationship by showing secondary audiences what is getting the primary so worked up in the first place.

 

Beyond TV?

It’s interesting that Twitter are so closely aligning themselves with TV. It’s clearly where the advertising money is, but the real take-out for me was the point about live experiences. It’s no coincidence that time-shifted viewing sees a massive drop in programme related Twitter activity – Deb shared data showing that Netflix’s House Of Cards, despite being critically well received, attracted nowhere near as much conversation as something similar scheduled in the traditional manner.

Remove the live from Twitter, it seems, and you’re left with something far less powerful. People don’t share when they can’t be sure others are doing the same thing as them.

Agencies will inevitably start thinking about smart, connected ways to communicate messages that start in TV and finish online. But perhaps we should also think about other forms of live, synchronous events and the place they might have in the stories brands want to tell. The more connected people become, the more TV-like moments (that is, experienced at the same moment by separate people in lots of different places) moments there may be when events happen in the real world.

What are the public, conversational and live moments your brands can be associated with, and how can this powerful social medium amplify them for the better?