Facebook vs. Twitter: Hashtags and Social TV Ratings

March 19, 2013

By Marni Gordon, SVP of committees and conferences, ANA

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is working on incorporating hashtags as a way to group conversations. Hashtags, one of Twitter’s key symbols, are already prevalent within Instagram which was acquired by Facebook last year.       

This has implications for ad targeting as well as opportunities to build out Facebook’s graph search product, which currently relies on the “like” as an indicator of brand interest.  This tends to be a weaker measure as users may “like” a page if they are in fact interested in the brand, but other reasons could include entering a one-time contest or to “like” a page as part of a social obligation.  In addition, the main barrier for Facebook to widely adopt the hashtag is their high levels of privacy for publishing user content. 

If Facebook’s hashtag efforts are successful, they could be a formidable competitor to Twitter and even other third-party television ratings providers like Nielsen in the social TV ratings game.  Twitter is already becoming aggressive in this space with their recent acquisition of Bluefin Labs.  Twitter also mentioned last month that half of the 52 national commercials that aired during the Super Bowl included a hashtag within the advertisement. 

However, Twitter is only a fraction of Facebook’s size.  Facebook’s mass reach combined with using the hashtag to group conversations around TV programs could potentially provide a substantial sample size for real-time social TV ratings.

It will be interesting to watch the battle between Facebook and Twitter continue to unfold and how this could impact television and even cross-platform ratings in the future!

Learn more on social media from senior marketers at companies including Unilever, Taco Bell, Virgin America, Pepsi, MasterCard Worldwide, and Reckitt Benckiser at the ANA Digital & Social Media Conference on July 14-16!


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