How Bluefin Will Help Twitter Ride The Mobile-Powered Social TV Wave

Twitter has confirmed that it purchased social TV data analytics startup Bluefin Labs for an undisclosed sum. The Bluefin acquisition helps put Twitter front and centre at the important intersection of TV, social networks, and mobile media.The week before the announcement, BI Intelligence happened to interview Bluefin about the breakneck pace of growth in social TV activity — tweeting or posting about shows and televised events — and how smartphones and tablets were helping this behaviour go mainstream. 

(Already, as the chart above shows, one-third of U.S. Twitter users tweet about TV.)

Here are a few highlights from our interview with the marketing team at Bluefin:

  • Roughly 95 per cent of Bluefin’s raw data already comes from Twitter activity, according to Tom Thai, vice president of marketing and business development at Bluefin Labs. Although the firm analyses publicly available posts from Facebook, TV-focused social network GetGlue, and Twitter, Bluefin’s technology is pretty much a tweet analysis engine.
  • The proliferation of smartphones and tablets helped drive triple-digit growth in TV-related social media tweets and status updates in 2012, says Thai. It’s just more convenient to post to social media about TV shows from the couch with a tablet or smartphone than it is from a laptop. Plus, viewers tend to have these devices with them anyway. In the aggregate, TV-related comments surged 363 per cent over the course of 2012. In the case of the Grammys, social TV activity increased 2,280 per cent from 2011 and 2012. “Multiscreen consumer behaviour is driving the growth of social TV,” says Thai.
  • Two years ago, social TV activity was mainly tied to live events and reality shows, but now people tweet and post about scripted dramas and sitcoms too. “Comedies and dramas are getting a lot more social TV activity, and from that I conclude that social activity is becoming more broad-based,” says Thai. 
  • Bluefin’s real value is that its data helps advertisers and broadcasters understand what type of viewers watch certain shows. When it identifies viewers of certain shows, it can look at the rest of their tweets and aggregate that content to build audience profiles. For example, Bluefin’s data could help Purina target shows watched by a high proportion of dog owners (people who also tweet about pets and dog-related content). 
  • Bluefin is privacy-conscious. Bluefin says it only culls data from public tweets (most Twitter streams are public), and builds these audience profiles anonymously, without connecting the profiles to certain Twitter user identities. “We don’t do individual targeting,” says Thai.

In a blog post, Twitter said the acquisition is part of a larger plan to focus on Twitter’s advantages as a complement to TV watching, and build the social TV market generally. It also builds on twitter’s partnership with audience measurement firm Nielsen to create the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating,” which will roll out for this Fall’s TV season.

Presumably, Bluefin’s technology will help Twitter build this audience analysis tool.

As we detail in our new report on mobile as a second screen companion to TV, social TV platforms like Twitter help power a behaviour that was already hard-wired into TV fans — engaging in office water cooler-type conversations about last night’s hit show or football game.

Twitter allows them to do it in real-time, rather than having to wait until the next day.  

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Bluefin is a perfect complement to Twitter’s power in this area, since it mines those conversations for information. Twitter can sell the resulting data to TV advertisers, but it can also use it to persuade them to run simultaneous “Promoted Tweet” or “Promoted Trend” campaigns on Twitter to boost Twitter mentions. (See the chart above, right.)

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