I've written before -- a bit tongue-in-cheek -- about whether Twitter data could ever replace Nielsen as a better way to measure television viewership. I'm going to revisit this issue again, since it's clear that Twitter data can measure something very important to media companies, marketers and their agencies, that Nielsen television panel ratings cannot. Twitter data is capturing the long-elusive "water cooler" chatter that so many media companies and marketers are trying to influence.
The chart below, taken from Twitter's blog, graphs the millions of Super Bowl-related updates the service received during the game as a percentage of all Twitter updates during that same time. The blue line represents those with words directly related to the game. The red line represents those with words related to the ads and advertisers. Yes! This data actually tracks immediate viewer reactions and "tweeting" related to the Super Bowl ads.
This is powerful stuff, particularly if you are Frito-Lay -- since the big spike in the red line (in section "C," on the left/middle of the chart) that eclipsed the blue line represents reactions to the first Doritos ad of the game. Twittering about the ad eclipsed Twittering about the game.
Does this mean that Twitter data is ready to ready to replace incumbent services in TV audience measurement? No. But it does mean that data from Twitter and other real-time web services are poised to become very critical components in the media and marketing measurement process. If one of the objectives of the Doritos ad placement was to get a lot of people engaged with it and communicating to others about it, Twitter's data proved that it accomplished its objective.
Arguably, data like Twitter's about actual audience engagement, reaction and sharing is actually more important that just ratings data. At the least, it is a great complement to it, particularly since it is based on hundreds of thousands of explicit and transparent consumer actions, not just projections from opaque panels. Watch out. I believe that we are just seeing the beginning of what will be an enormous, Web-service-fueled disruption in the measurement of media and marketing. Given his quote in the WSJ about Twitter becoming the new "water cooler" of TV, I wouldn't be surprised if Les Moonves didn't agree. What do you think?