By Quentin Fottrell
Soon, Internet trolls may no longer be looked upon with the degree of disdain usually reserved for swamp life. With the launch of Twitter's TV Ratings, experts say, the rehabilitation of armchair critics has begun.
On Monday, Nielsen and Twitter launched their joint TV Ratings, a metric that tracks whether shows are hot -- or not. Under the new joint venture, they will deliver new ratings based on Tweets about television shows. The companies will calculate the number of tweets about various programs -- and the number of Twitter accounts that those tweets reach. The finale of "Breaking Bad," the AMC show about a chemistry teacher turned meth dealer, was No. 1 on Twitter's TV Ratings last week, as 1.2 million posts about the program reached 9.3 million Twitter accounts.
Social media may allow the entire world to shout opinions at once, but tech pros say that by analyzing tweets they can accurately gauge trends. In fact, 140-character rants may prove just as useful a measure of public opinion as the most venerable polls. "Because Twitter is so entwined with search and used in a very reflexive, instant manner, it's a beacon of valuable opinion on all sorts of issues," says digital adviser Alan Silberberg. As a follow-up to TV ratings, he suggests a Twitter government accountability index. "We should be able to rate government agencies themselves, not just politicians," he says.
Twitterati have already proved they can be an accurate judge of the latter. Before last year's U.S. presidential election, the Pew Research Center predicted President Obama's win over Republican contender Mitt Romney, particularly among women, based on tweets. Of all the tweets about Romney in the eight weeks ended Oct. 21, 2012, 58% were negative, versus 45% for Obama, the analysis of nearly 2,500 online conversations found. A daily tracking poll published on Oct. 21, 2012, by Gallup, the oldest polling organization in the world, gave Romney a 52% to 45% lead. (Obama won 51% to 47%.)
When it comes to assessing public opinion, Twitter has one critical advantage over Facebook: lack of censorship. A movie producer can delete a third party's comment on his Facebook page, but it's not possible to delete someone else's tweet. That's why the conversations on some political Facebook pages are showered with compliments and chockablock with weird non sequiturs, according to a 2010 report by the Poynter Institute. "Twitter is an instant, uncensored platform of debate," says Ted Marzilli, CEO of YouGov BrandIndex, which measures brand perception.
See also: How IPO will change Twitter
That said, Twitter is not infallible, especially in an era of cyberhackers. One bad tweet seemingly from a respected source can have dramatic consequences when other people start retweeting the fake story. Earlier this year, hackers posted a tweet from the Associated Press account -- "Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured" -- sending the Dow plunging 145 points. Speed too can lead to misunderstandings. When Twitter's IPO and stock market ticker (TWTR) were announced in 140-character tweets, the penny stock of Tweeter Home Entertainment Group (TWTRQ) , with a similar ticker, briefly rose as much as 1,800%. Since then, the company changed its ticker to: (THEGQ)
Still, trending tickers are also gaining traction online. StockTwits, a site where 400,000 members share news and views about stocks, started as a Twitter account -- which now has nearly 309,000 followers -- and spun into its own site in 2009. "Our trending tickers feature is very similar to a Nielsen rating for the stock market," says Justin Paterno, product director at StockTwits. Trending tickers refer to companies that have news, an interesting price movement or a trend that is capturing investor attention, like 3-D printing. Another financial news aggregator, ZeroHedge, has about 170,500 Twitter followers.
Consumer brands are obviously already a hot topic on Twitter. But whether it's assessing the success of J.C. Penney's attempts to win back customers or critiquing a raunchy music video, Twitter is still a vast, untapped resource: It made just $47.5 million by licensing data to companies, a small fraction of its $316.9 million total revenue in 2012, according to the IPO document. Teens tweet about everything from clothes and movies to the food they eat in the schoolyard, says Larissa Faw, editor at trade publication Youth Markets Alert. "Tater Tots surely would be retweeted more than veggie dogs, right?"
Properly identifying the quality of the conversation is the first step to moving social audiences to a Nielsen-style standardization for social ratings, says Michael Hussey, CEO of PeekAnalytics, a social-audience-measurement platform. Partnering with an online crime-mapping site or creating its own restaurant ratings service, he says, could provide a valuable tool for house hunters and food lovers. "Twitter is one of the most diverse social forums for providing quick, digestible opinions on virtually any topic," Hussey says. "None are really off limits to analysis and quantification."
Also read: Martha Stewart and how not to complain on Twitter
-Quentin Fottrell; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
10-10-13 1334ETCopyright (c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
|TV ratings aren't only thing Twitter can measure (2013/10/10)|
|UPDATE: 10 things Twitter won't tweet (2013/10/26)|
|UPDATE: 10 things Twitter won't tell you (2013/10/26)|
|UPDATE: 10 things Twitter IPO won't tell you (2013/10/25)|
|UPDATE: 10 things Twitter won't tell you (2013/10/25)|
|UPDATE: 10 things Twitter won't tweet (2013/10/27)|
|UPDATE: 10 things Twitter won't tweet -2- (2013/10/26)|
|UPDATE: 10 things Twitter won't tell you -2- (2013/10/26)|
|UPDATE: 10 things Twitter IPO won't tell you -2- (2013/10/25)|
|UPDATE: 10 things Twitter won't tell you -2- (2013/10/25)|
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