On Tuesday, October 1, Marc Chacksfield of TechRadar reported that Facebook will be borrowing a page from Twitter's playbook and sharing data with U.S. television networks about which of their shows are being discussed on the popular social media site.
According to Chacksfield, "From this week, [Facebook] will begin sending data to U.S. networks on the shows that are generating the most chatter on the social network – whether it is through comments, likes or shares.
"The idea is that Facebook is currently sitting on a massive pile of TV data that is waiting to be mined by the networks.
"This marks yet another shift in the way TV is monitored. While services such as Nielsen are important to finding out the popularity of television shows, networks are increasingly looking to social to figure out who is watching what."
Sarah Perez of TechCrunch added that Facebook will be sharing this information with all four major networks.
According to Perez, "Facebook says it will send data to ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS as well as a few other select partners, in order to demonstrate to what extent social conversations around TV programs are now taking place on its own network."
On Monday, September 30, Kurt Wagner of Mashable added some more details about what Facebook hopes to do with these reports.
"The reports will contain data on the top 45 shows from across all four networks, and each network will be able to see data from competitors.
"... Sharing data about social interactions surrounding television is not new to Facebook. The company often promotes these figures for major television events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl, but these weekly reports will include info about shows that are not necessarily major prime time events," Wagner said.
Perez gave an example of the kinds of data that will be in the reports.
"Facebook claims that AMC’s hot 'Breaking Bad' finale was a hit across its social network, generating more than 5.5 million interactions from three million [or more] users. Twitter, meanwhile, saw 1.47 million tweets in comparison from 682,000 [or more] uniques for the same show," Perez said.
She added that reports have indicated that there is five times more TV-related activity on Facebook than there is on Twitter. However, she is suspicious of those numbers because of how Facebook defines user interactions.
According to Perez, "To state the obvious, Facebook is much bigger than Twitter: 1.15 billion monthly actives versus Twitter’s 200+ million. One could argue its numbers for almost anything will be bigger. But really, it's Facebook's looser definition of active engagement that makes comparing its figures to Twitter's a problem.
"Facebook, you see, counts nearly any engagement with its content among its 'interactions' – it includes not only those posting status updates themselves, but also others who then like, comment or re-share that post to their own networks of friends.
"Facebook counting a 'like' as an “interaction” is like Twitter counting a 'favorite.' It’s not an ideal metric to lump in with Facebook posts or re-shares, but, rather, should be treated as a separate category of interaction."
The general consensus among social media experts seems to be that these reports are primarily a way of competing with Twitter to be the "second screen" most people prefer when they talk about the television shows they watch online. Basically, people who engage in "second screen" activities use a device such as a laptop computer or smart phone to discuss what they're watching as they watch it.
According to Wagner, "All of this comes back to the company's effort to make Facebook the 'place to be' for second screen television viewing. Twitter is approaching real-time television conversations in much the same way; both companies have added impressive partnerships with television networks in the past month. Twitter is slated to begin its partnership with Nielsen to release the 'Nielsen Twitter TV Rating' this fall, a report that will contain details about television conversations taking place over Twitter."
Twitter currently is doing more to partner with television networks, such as targeting ads at some of their users or allowing networks to use Twitter Amplify to embed video clips in the tweets on their official feeds. However, Facebook representatives claim their data is more accurate.
What does this mean for Facebook users in the greater Spokane area? Conversations they have about their favorite television shows could influence the major networks because the data they see in Facebook's reports will be partly based on what people who live in and around the Lilac City are saying.
People in the Spokane area tend to be very protective of their privacy on Facebook, so they may not appreciate this new initiative. It remains to be seen if this data will be used for anything other than programming the networks or advertising, but in the mean time, Facebook users in the area may be able to help their favorite shows by talking about them more.