“This acquisition reflects our commitment to the social TV market,” Twitter’s chief operating officer Ali Rowghani said of the deal, details of which were not disclosed.
In December, Twitter became Nielsen’s exclusive tool for measuring TV watchers’ social engagement on mobile devices. But the companies didn’t say much about how they would gauge the connection between tweets and television programming.
That’s where Bluefin comes in.
“Building a technology to listen to everything that happens in social media is relatively simple. It’s mostly a matter of ingesting huge streams of data and producing various reports crunched from that data. But building a technology that maps social media comments to the TV stimulus that caused those comments is much more of a challenge,” the company says on its website.
Bluefin uses “deep machine learning” to track the references of otherwise obscure comments such as “Great pass” on social media — and now exclusively on Twitter. The company says 95 percent of real-time digital engagement with TV happens on Twitter.
“While our products have always included data from multiple social media services, the reality is that Twitter is the platform where the overwhelming majority – about 95% – of public real-time engagement with TV happens. So we couldn’t be more excited to join Twitter,” the co-founders wrote.
With Bluefin’s technology, first developed in MIT’s Media Lab, Twitter will be able to make a stronger sales pitch to marketers, said Peter Farago, the vice president of marketing at the mobile analytics company Flurry.
“If I’m a brand marketer and I’ve got to spend 4 million bucks for a 30-sec spot during the Super Bowl, then I’m going to think about what’s the impact? Is there any kind of virality?,” he said.
By positioning itself as a ratings source, Twitter also positions itself as a go-to location for advertising. And the better it can demonstrate that its service helps build brands, the bigger portion it will get as the billions of dollars spent annually on television marketing shifts over to second-screen advertising.
Flurry’s latest mobile app usage numbers, which document that that users remained on their mobile devices even during the the Super Bowl, suggest that such a shift is inevitable.
“A lot of the marketer’s job is ‘Where’s Waldo?,'” Farago said.
“Brands need to understand that the user is doing other things. Usually, it’s just about following the user where they go, and you try to reach them there.”
With its Bluefin acquisition, Twitter is showing that it wants to ensure brands know how many users engage on Twitter with their ad campaigns.