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Twitter vs. Facebook: The Battle for Social TV

The social TV battle is heating up as behemoth networks Facebook and Twitter have recently traded punches in an attempt to dominate the second screen. Twitter has long had a strong grip on being the option of choice for users as they watch television, however Facebook is taking steps to fight back and steal some of the audience.

Twitter Partners With CBS & The NFL

Twitter set the bar high by announcing one of its largest advertising partnerships to date, bringing on CBS into its Amplify program. The Twitter Amplify program was first rolled out in May, and lets broadcasters embed video clips within their tweets in near real-time. The new partnership includes 42 programs and 20 of the television company’s brands, including CBS News and featuring NFL games broadcasted on CBS.

Although Twitter has already inked some major partners into its Amplify program including BBC America,, and the Weather Channel, CBS is still a huge win. It gives Twitter access to feed off of advertising revenue from “America’s most watched network”, and should spawn some inventive uses through different CBS programs. One already mentioned by Tech Crunch will be a tweet with an attached video clip summarizing CBS hit show 60 Minutes titled “60 Minutes in 60 Seconds.”

Just a few days later, Twitter landed another huge deal with the National Football League. Twitter and the NFL will partner to share exclusive content via promoted tweets (through the @NFL handle) in near real-time. The content will include near-instant replays, highlights and analysis, and fantasy football advice. These promoted posts will have 5-8 second pre-roll advertisements, from which Twitter and the NFL will share revenue. Although Twitter already has partnerships with other major sports leagues, the NFL takes precedence as the most watched sport in America by a wide margin. With live sports holding an ever-increasing portion of the television revenue market, the ability to take a chunk for themselves is a victory for Twitter.

Facebook Responds With Data

With Twitter taking leaps forward via revenue sharing partnerships, Facebook needed a resounding answer to avoid being further shunned from the Social TV table. Competing against the real-time nature of Twitter’s platform is difficult, and to do so Facebook turned to its own strength: the mountains of data it possesses. The social network revealed it will start providing new data to the 4 major US television networks (CBS, Fox, ABC, and NBC), including private post data. It will release the data from social actions (likes, comments, shares, etc.) that a TV episode has inspired each week. With this, Facebook is hoping to compete with Twitter’s TV rating partnership with Nielsen.

Who Dominates Social Data?

Which network actually drives more social actions as a second screen companion to television is difficult to say. Facebook has many more users (and active users) than Twitter, however Twitter’s platform is a more natural fit for a TV companion due to its focus on real-time content creation and consumption. Twitter almost certainly has more social actions per-user than Facebook during television programs, but how much more makes the total amount of data inconclusive. To this point, a problem plaguing Facebook was that the majority of its data was private. This new development changes that. The advantage Facebook has is the depth of data it possesses about its users, which it can in turn present to major TV networks.

Ramifications for Advertisers

So what do all of these new developments mean for you as a marketer? As it currently stands, the advertising options available on Twitter are far better as companion products to television advertising campaigns. Facebook’s ever improving News Feed algorithm constantly shows users’ stories that are most relevant to them. But as a result their stream isn’t optimized for keeping track of events chronologically. Thus Twitter users are more likely to been engaged during broadcasts than Facebook users. This enables marketers to run advertising campaigns congruently on Twitter and television, and maintain touch points to viewers across mediums.

While Facebook isn’t as strong an option for social TV advertising in real-time, it may become a valuable advertising service surrounding TV, first for broadcasters and later for brands. The amount of user data Facebook is now providing networks will give broadcasters a vast array of options to target advertising at viewers of TV programs. This type of data may eventually be available to a wider range of marketers. The depth of Facebook user data combined with robust social data surrounding TV programs and live events would be a great advertising resource. Marketers could leverage this data for more protracted social TV campaigns than would be optimal using Twitter.

For now Twitter is still the leading social TV advertising platform, but Facebook isn’t giving up without a fight.

About the Author

Paul is a social media marketer and startup enthusiast based in Toronto, Canada. He likes to traverse both the tech startup and marketing agency worlds (and everything in between). Paul divides his time equally between tech events and Blue Jays games.