When I worked as a social media analyst, I saw first hand what media and entertainment companies want when it comes to social TV metrics. Of course, they wanted to know the general sentiment of conversation (e.g. positive, negative, neutral) and volume of conversation about a show, but they also wanted to understand the reactions of the audience to particular episodes, characters/cast, and even scenes. And if you ask me, understanding the reactions of people on social is really the most interesting aspect of it all.

This is why I think the announcement of Twitter and Nielsen partnering in an effort to establish a standard for social TV ratings and metrics is so interesting. The rating service, which will be available in the fall of 2013 is supposed to complement Nielsen’s existing TV ratings, and will be built on top of the SocialGuide platform offered by NM Incite. Unfortunately, I don’t think Twitter and Nielsen hit the nail on the head here, at least not yet.

While the exact details are sparse, Twitter did say that its TV partners have been asking for “one common benchmark from which to measure the engagement of their programming.” And according to the press release, the new rating will measure “the total audience for social TV activity – both those participating in the conversation and those who were exposed to the activity – providing the precise size of the audience and effect of social TV to TV programming.”

That may sound nice, but it actually doesn’t solve the problem that these media companies are having.

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Based on that information, it seems like all the Twitter/Nielsen metrics will do is calculate is the total number of impressions (or potential eyeballs) for people who either mentioned or saw something mentioned about your show. If that is the case, this type of number (total impressions) is a mostly useless piece of information — because as you know, when you’re exposed to something online it doesn’t mean you wanted to be and it doesn’t even guarantee you noticed or paid attention to it. And on top of that, if all you want to do is count impressions and mentions, that kind of technology can already be found elsewhere — so where is the value?

It’s easy to count mentions and impressions, it isn’t easy to understand what people are actually saying — context and relevance is the real opportunity for social TV metrics. If you want to set a standard for social TV ratings and metrics, instead of simply mimicking the existing TV ratings structure, provide further value with additional context and relevance of the conversation to fully take advantage of what people are saying.


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