The Twitter Mandate
An ominous report for Rachel Berry fans in Ad Age says that the audience for this week's episode of "Glee," the second show of the third season, "was down 10 percent from its premiere rating, which was down 29 percent from last season's premiere." The story goes on to say you could "see the warning signs on Twitter that it was losing steam. Last year's 'Glee' season premiere garnered more than half a million tweets the day it aired. This year's season premiere had a roughly 200,000 drop in tweet volume."
What is truly ominous about all this is that people are starting to take seriously the predictive power of Twitter volume. One might conclude from the Ad Age story that "Glee" has a terminal disease and that it is only a matter of time before it is hauled out of Fox on a stretcher and enrolled in the hospice of online, where it "can find its audience anywhere, anytime."
Who is to say the series won't turn around and start gaining viewers in the coming weeks? Perhaps a shift in its promotion strategy would help. There are lots of examples of shows that took a while to find their audience, such as the dearly missed "Friday Night Lights."
But will Twitter volume be an early indicator of that? If the number of tweets during "Glee" continues to fall, will cancellation speculation become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
There are already spirited debates at every ad conference (steady now, you CAN make it through Advertising Week next week, double up on the Percocet) trying to put a value on a Facebook "like" or a tweet. There are brand managers becoming enslaved to social media feedback even though they can't slap an ROI on any of it.
Everyone is data mining to uncover the predictive value of everything from searches to video completion rates to see if they ought to redirect their media or creative in order to hit those most likely to become customers. Carried to its logical conclusion, we will become a nation governed by those who shout the loudest and the most. But, net volume is never a clear indicator of anything. Years ago TACODA did a study on who was clicking most on banner ads -- and it turned out to be "natural-born clickers," a relatively small number of people whose demos were unappealing, who apparently killed time online by randomly clicking on ads.
I am stunned by people who seem to be consumed with broadcasting their likes and dislikes in a nearly continuous stream. I wonder how they have time for anything else. I see folks engaging in personal Twitter conversations that can be passively attended by their followers. What happened to email or phone calls? Need everything be debated in public?
For those who take all this very seriously: What the hell -- let's just tweet who we want to be the next president, rather than schlep to the middle school to pull a lever. Let's tweet our troops home from the Middle East. Let's send a couple hundred million tweets to Germany to tell them what to do about Greece. Hate most of the new shows premiering on TV this fall? Kill them with tweets. Or try to save a death row inmate.
Are tweets and likes a true reflection of national opinion? Or are they just time killers from another generation of natural-born clickers?