Twitter Second-Screen TV Metrics Look Good - But Shouldn't We Ditch 'Impressions'?

The moves Twitter is making to secure its perceived position as the destination for second-screeners must be applauded -- as should its work to be the number one target for advertisers seeking out second-screeners. So it was interesting to see the outline of how its unique deal with Kantar Media will shape up.

There's an exclusive relationship between the two -- and today Kantar has revealed the metrics it will lead to. There are no major surprises, but that's not a bad thing. The metrics will include who is tweeting (as well as their relationships with various brands on Twitter) -- and in what Kantar claims to be an exclusive, it will be tracking the number of people who have viewed tweets related to a particular show. Presumably this is linked in with the third metric of impressions, of how many people have seen a reference to a show in their news feed.

Of course, there are the existing metrics of how many times a show is referenced in tweets before, during and after its transmission as well as the average number of tweets regarding a show sent per minute.

To my mind, the very first metric might be the most interesting for brands that have what might appear to be an old-fashioned demographic they are trying to reach, expressed in television terms. If a brand knows that its core demographic is viewers of Channel 4 news, ITV's "Coronation Street," BBC's "Top Gear" or a "Sky Atlantic" mini drama, then knowing who is tweeting about these shows is useful. Knowing which brands they follow on Twitter and tweet about adds extra targeting colour too.

Put simply, if you want to reach out to a "Coronation Street" audience about bingo, you can identify both who is talking about the show and who follows a bingo brand online. If a luxury carmaker wants to reach a Channel 4 documentary or news viewer who is tweeting about the show and follows top car manufacturers, then again, you have a very nice way to identify them.

The one I'm not too sure of is impressions. I guess it depends how it is used. Impressions have been largely replaced as a digital metric in most marketers' minds by outcomes such as forms of engagement, including click-through and email sign-ups. Although cost per thousand (CPM) is still largely a trading metric, it's really just that -- a means by which ad "impressions" are traded. It doesn't mean a lot in itself, especially since typically, far less than one percent will see any form of interaction.

Impressions on Twitter is pretty tricky. I'm still seeking confirmation of what constitutes an impression to Kantar Media. I suspect an impression is considered to be appearing in a news feed -- perhaps for a long as the one second that IAB guidelines require a display to be viewable for?

Regardless of what the final detail is, the very nature of Twitter is that it is nothing like a Web page. If you enter a page, it's because you want to go there and when adverts are served, you count as an impression for the viewable ad slots on the page. 

With Twitter, people can have the service running in the background with tweets from hundreds, if not thousands, of people cascading down the page. Let's not forget -- this can happen when you're paying no attention to the small screen at all, which is pretty likely for anyone watching a television programme and tweeting during a quiet moment or advertising break.

So the good news is pretty simple. If you want to reach a demographic that can be easily summed up by a television show and you don't want to fork out on television advertising, Twitter has some good steers, via Kantar Media, on whom you should be promoting tweets too. They will even be able to narrow it down to people who like brands that are apt to the message you are seeking to communicate.

That, in my book, is really good news.

Where the good news ends is impressions. I rather suspect these can, and will, be taken with a huge pinch of salt.

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