Tumblr Takes Over Social TV - Connection Week


By Molly Freeman

Photo courtesy of David Karp.

Maybe companies can measure social TV, but can they put their findings to good use?

In 2012, Nielsen announced the Twitter TV Ratings, a system that would offer a supplement to the company’s standard ratings metric. In effect, advertisers would be able to get a better idea of what everyone watches–not just those who have Nielsen boxes.

However, a new study commissioned by Tumblr indicates that Nielsen may have partnered with the wrong social media company. The UK-based social-data-intelligence company, Pulsar, released the findings of their study on social TV activity via Tumblr and Twitter.

Unsurprisingly to those that frequent both social media networks, social TV activity on Tumblr is much higher than on Twitter. In order to obtain these results, Pulsar charted TV mentions over the course of 11 days, which included the five days before and after a show aired.

According to the findings, mentions on Twitter spiked while a show was airing, but tapered off afterward. On Tumblr, measures gradually increased and decreased–though Tumblr saw a 31 percent increase in mentions one hour after a show aired. Lee Brown, Global Head of Brand Partnerships at Tumblr, explained the reasoning behind these findings to Ad Age.

“[People aren’t] coming just to check in,” Brown said. “They’re coming to dive deeper into the characters, create their own storylines, put text over static images–to create content with a much longer shelf life.”

While Twitter might be the chosen social media outlet for internet users’ immediate second screen experience, they tend to utilize their Tumblr accounts to compose further, more involved discussions about the television series they watch.

This difference makes sense given the visual and blog nature of Tumblr. Fans create animated gifs or photo sets, plus they write up thoughtful dissections of scenes, character arcs, and plot progressions. However, although the social TV activity on Tumblr is much higher than on Twitter, it may not be useful for quite some time.

For marketers, a downside of Tumblr is that the platform isn’t inherently designed for third-party advertisers to appeal to users. The unique aspect of Tumblr is that it was created and tailored for its users, rather than those who wish to sell to them.

As such, Tumblr has made a name for itself as a networking site where like-minded fans can go to converge, talk about what they love, and create content unique to the site. However, the problem with the nature of Tumblr is that its constituents face an uphill battle if they ever wish to cash in on the site’s social TV activity.

While Twitter has a relationship with Nielsen and Kantar, a UK market research company, Tumblr is considered an emerging platform at this point. The blogging platform is still working on integrating ads into its site–it only launched in-stream ads a little over a year ago. Although users may have appreciated the lack of ads on Tumblr, the site’s original, insular policy limited its ability to develop as a serious platform.

Sure, some brands figured out ways to attract Tumblr users and drive their content–Buzzfeed and Denny’s, for example–but in general, marketers usually steer clear of the social media site. Advertisers usually are unsure about how to actually use its content to benefit their businesses.

Additionally, companies that do market through Tumblr can only target users by their gender and location, so they can’t tailor advertisements based on what bloggers post. Although that means users won’t be subjected to those (sometimes creepy) customized ads on Facebook, it also means Tumblr isn’t an effective marketing tool.

If Tumblr wants to get into the social TV game, and partner with companies like Nielsen and Kantar, they’re going to have to make the blogging platform more marketing friendly.

In many ways, pursuing that could be a smart move for both the site and the fans: Tumblr would gain a more respectable reputation while fans would be able to impact their favorite shows’ ratings in a serious way. Given that Tumblr commissioned the study into the site’s social TV activity, it seems likely they will change their ways.