In the clichéd data-is-the-new-oil era, there’s lots of wildcatting going on in search of the most valuable sources to evaluate social conversation around TV shows and advertising. It’s quite a pursuit, surely filled with as much inexact science -- but also financial potential -- as prospecting for black gold.
Analytics firms working in the social TV space continue to market their methods, each with a secret sauce. The proprietary mix can vary in terms of sources mined; breadth of terms picked up; length of time used in searching; and other factors.
The results between research conducted by the likes of Bluefin Labs, General Sentiment and Trendrr can vary dramatically. Perhaps the only commonality among their methods is each unsurprisingly relies on Twitter and Facebook.
After that, some use TV “check-in” sites like GetGlue, while General Sentiment calls on online news outlets and Trendrr has an affection for influencer outlets such as Kred and Klout.
“They (offer) three distinct representations of this broad concept,” said Philip Napoli, a professor at the Fordham Graduate School of Business, who studies media measurement.
There’s at least one major advantage to the deviations in the data. Ad agencies might tout the results showing their work is generating the most positive conversation to clients. Networks can spin conversation volume into an indication of engagement to advertisers.
Data presented Thursday at a gathering of the MPG Collaborative Alliance offers one very unsurprising upshot: the correlation between the most watched shows and those generating the most social TV activity is flimsy. An arm of the Alliance gathered data from a random week -- March 5-11 -- seeking to evaluate the relationship between ratings and conversation.
Also, to get a sense how different the tracking results might be between Bluefin, General Sentiment and Trendrr. The answer on that one is quite a bit. (To be sure, the data is only a one-week snapshot and the variations may be less volatile over a longer term.)
Looking at the top-10 shows in household impressions, only two finished in the top 10 for social TV activity in rankings by all three firms -- Bluefin, General Sentiment and Trendrr.
The common pair were NBC’s “The Voice” and Fox’s “American Idol.” Three other shows with lesser ratings also finished near the top among the three firms: MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” and AMC’s “Walking Dead.”
Beyond that, there's a tapestry that can lead to endless conclusions. Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club” appeared in Bluefin’s top 10, but wasn’t among the leaders for General Sentiment or Trendrr. TLC’s “My Crazy Obsession” was third on Trendrr’s list, but didn’t rate in the other top-10s.
(A sign how much ratings can divert from social TV conversation? “My Crazy Obsession” -- the Trendrr social TV buzz machine -- finished 852nd by one Nielsen metric for 12-to-34 year-olds during the week of the study.)
The CW’s “Gossip Girl,” which can generate lots of conversation among some young women, finished fifth on General Sentiment’s list in social TV activity and didn’t crack the top 10 in the other two.
The same goes for the much-hyped “GCB” on ABC, which was once known as “Good Christian Bitches” and premiered the night before the Alliance data collection began. Only General Sentiment had it near the top.
A sign of just how different the social TV measurement methods might be from firm to firm? Male-oriented “Family Guy” and “South Park” were in Trendrr’s top 10, but nowhere to be found in the other two rundowns.
That was also the case for a third animated series, “The Simpsons.” That show has done well with Nielsen for decades and apparently is now a Twitter-type hit – at least according to one measurement firm.