Last year, in an effort to prove that TV was the perfect medium to show off Twitter’s efficacy, the San Francisco social communications company created The Social TV Lab with giant media buying agency Starcom MediaVest Group to measure the impact of tweeting on brands.
In not much of a shockeroo, the results of this research effort to gauge “second-screen” behavior — which has become increasingly important to marketers, as they seek to find ways to get consumers interested in their products in the ever-noisy media landscape — showed that the use of Twitter increases engagement, awareness and, perhaps most importantly, sales.
Whether advertisers will believe this research is an open question. Among their likely questions to SMG and Twitter: Is it repeatable and scalable? Can it be proven beyond SMG’s clients? Does it move the needle far enough? Most importantly, are there clients that stand up and endorse the methodology?
The problem in the nascent stages of the sector is that there is a range of measurements that advertisers need to make bigger moves into social media spending, data they also need to be standardized. The challenge is further complexified by the difficulty of measuring real-time data in the burgeoning mobile environment.
But making it so is critical to Twitter, which has courted TV — and to a lesser extent, other media — quite adroitly, presenting itself as a partner instead of a competitor, even though it will quite clearly be an ad competitor at some point. That has been the focus of Twitter sales head Adam Bain and his team, who have been pitching ad products theoretically designed to augment traditional advertising — again, instead of competing with it.
Thus, The Social TV Lab. Twitter and SMG unveiled their data to Re/code at Cannes Lion, a giant advertising festival taking place on the French Riviera this week.
“Results confirm that content is paramount, and social TV is here,” said Twitter and SMG in a statement. “The opportunity to use it to enhance and amplify brand experiences for today’s multiscreen multitasker is only getting bigger. And, brands need to take notice.”
Hopefully this is true for Twitter, which is actually performing relatively well in the marketing arena; it is going to do more than $1 billion in ad revenue this year, even with all the concern about its small user base. That said, Twitter is still an experiment for most of the advertisers spending that $1 billion, which is why those concerns about the small user base are real and not just a figment of Wall Street’s imagination.
As part of the effort to get real numbers, the pair said it used a number of data points, including “Nielsen’s Brand Effect for Twitter, Datalogix’s matched household modeling, [and] Twitter’s in-Tweet surveys to track results spanning 15 U.S.-based SMG clients’ brand campaigns as well as general social TV engagements.”
According to their report:
1. Twitter + TV = Increased Brand Awareness Versus TV Alone. For brands that used Twitter alongside their TV advertising, the study found on average a 6.9% increase in awareness for exposed audiences and significant increases for exposed and engaged audiences across awareness, intent and favorability measures.
2. Twitter Amplification = Sales Lift. For the brands that measured sales impact, we saw sales increases of 4% on average in households exposed to ads on Twitter and TV versus just TV ads alone.
3. The Twitter / TV Multitaskers Are Here — and TV Ad Recall is High For Them. Only one-quarter of tweeting occurs during the ad break, and it was highest during reality shows (27%). This supports existing Twitter research that found viewers who are actively engaging in social media while viewing TV are genuinely paying attention to both screens, as TV show tune-away is less and ad recall is higher for TV Twitter multitasks. Television ad recall was also 13% higher among Twitter users versus non-multitaskers.
4. Real-Time TV Content Engagement Is on Twitter. Tweeting about events/shows is higher (20%) than “general browsing” about a specific event/show (15%). In addition, most tweeting happens when something in show/game/ad is worthy of a tweet (70%).
In an interview last night with Bain and SMG CEO Laura Desmond, the pair said that they will continue to hone the data to help prove to marketers that adding on all kinds of social media will help — or, in Twitter’s preferred lexicon, “amplify” — their advertising.
“We have always felt that Twitter integrated advertising into its core product better than anyone else,” said Desmond. “We need these consumer insights to build better plans for marketers … and we really need to get much better data on how to use Twitter and other social media.”
Bain added: “Advertisers have the gut but not the data that it works, so we need to continue to bring them proof.” In addition, he noted, marketers need more information about what kinds of tweeting works, including the effectiveness of incorporating more video, photos and things like coupons into the messaging. “We need to offer a full spectrum,” he said.
Of course, not everyone is down with Twitter being the medium to spur digital advertising. In late April, NBCUniversal* research chief Alan Wurtzel said that the effect of Twitter, as well as Facebook, on ratings during the Winter Olympics was not as strong as expected. As Peter Kafka noted: “Wurtzel saw lots of chatter about Sochi on social media, but none of that seemed to translate to increased viewership.”
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo refuted Wurtzel, noting to analysts: “Our Twitter and TV strategy, and our investment into that thesis, was very much based on data that we saw informing the two-way complementary relationship between Twitter and TV.”
* NBCUniversal is an investor in Revere Digital, the parent company of Re/code.