Social Data Uncovers Brand, TV Show Affinity

Exclusive research from Bluefin Labs

To reach consumers most likely to mention Walmart on social media, marketers might have luck targeting shows with, well, less than lofty themes.

Recently released research shows that people who create online buzz about Walmart are most likely to tweet or comment about Lifetime’s America’s Supernanny, CMT’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team and truTV’s Las Vegas Jailhouse.

People chattering about Target, on the other hand, seem to go for more wholesome TV fare. Consumers who use social media to discuss the chain also comment on cooking and home makeover programs like CMT’s Top Secret Recipe and HGTV's My Yard Goes Disney.

The research—culled from chatter on social media sites including Twitter, Facebook (public posts only) and TV-focused micro-blogs—is courtesy of Bluefin Labs, a Cambridge, Mass.-based social TV analytics firm, which this week shared information about some of the year's most buzzed about TV programs. (They include MTV's Video Music Awards, which led the overall list with 3.15 million comments, and The X Factor on Fox, which was the top series with an average of 137,000 comments per telecast.) For Adweek, Bluefin went deeper, slicing social TV data by brand and audience segment, and then comparing competitive brands (see charts below).

Tom Thai, vp of marketing and business development at Bluefin Labs, said that over the past year his company has been sharing the “basic building blocks” of social TV analytics with television networks and agencies, but that the next step was to make the information brand specific.

“Brands really want the shows with the most social conversations as it applies to their brand [as well as] other brands . . . or audiences or lifestyle segments that they care about,” Thai said.

In a statement, Kate Sirkin, evp of global research director at Starcom MediaVest Group—which recently announced it was partnering with Bluefin Labs to help inform its clients media buys—noted that “understanding the cause-and-effect relationship between paid and earned media is a challenge. Bluefin Labs’ data provides us with an incredibly valuable new data set to evaluate this relationship.”

Other agency and brand clients include WPP’s Mediacom, IPG’s Initiative, Mars and PepsiCo.

To filter social TV data by brand segment, Thai said Bluefin Labs first looked at all the people in the social media universe who commented (positively or negatively) on a particular brand. Then they dug deeper to identify the TV shows these particular social media users most frequently talked about. To rank the shows, Bluefin Labs created a “show index,” which is normalized on an index of 100.

ESPNews, for example, leads the top 10 list for Coke with a show index of 234, which means that people socially vocal about Coke are more than twice as likely to tweet or talk about that particular program. Of the top 10 shows that overindex for Coke conversations, three are on ESPN. But among all of the shows that overindex for Coke (111 in total), TLC is the most represented, followed by ESPN.

By contrast, the top 10 for people who tweet and talk about Pepsi doesn’t include a single show about sports. The Mortified Sessions on Sundance leads the list, followed by The Exes on TV Land and Prophets of Science Fiction on Science. Nick Jr. was the leading network for Pepsi, with ABC, NBC and TLC tied for second.

Bluefin Labs also sliced the data by broader audience segments, comparing beer and wine drinkers, and cat and dog owners. The company identified the lifestyle groups by analyzing historical social media chatter and then ranked the shows each group talked about most.

Not surprisingly, sports programming features prominently on the top 10 list for beer drinkers, while fashion and relationship-related programming dominates the list for wine drinkers. The lists for cat and dog owners are also fairly intuitive, although Bluefin Labs found that while Animal Planet shows ranked highly on both lists, TLC was actually the top network for both groups.

Thai acknowledged that social TV data is in some ways influenced by a brand or sector’s media spend (for example, beer marketers already target sports shows so it makes sense that social media chatter reflects that). But he said that in working with brand and agency clients, they can look at the data through current media plans to measure the impact of campaigns on social media and generate more specific insights.

To date, social TV data like that from Bluefin Labs, as well as social TV analytics and check-in companies like Trendrr, Radian6, GetGlue, SocialGuide and Miso, has mostly focused on general audience responses to TV shows and networks. But in the coming year, Thai said, Bluefin plans to dig deeper to generate more data about conversations related to brands.

“Social TV is not just about how much people talk during the shows,” Thai said. “The programming is one big part of TV, but what people say about brands and commercials is also, obviously, a big part. We’ll be able to, in 2012, tell a lot more interesting stories about how real-world audiences in social media react to TV campaigns and react to brands.”

Below, Bluefin Labs' full lists of the top 10 shows by brand and audience segments.

Target Top 10     Walmart Top 10    
Show Name Network Show Index Show Name Network Show Index
Top Secret Recipe CMT 408 America's Supernanny Lifetime 298
My Yard Goes Disney HGTV 364 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team CMT 227
HGTV'd HGTV 350 Las Vegas Jailhouse TRUTV 225
Chef Hunter Food 322 Wife Swap Lifetime 221
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team CMT 312 Secretly Pregnant TLC 219
Design on a Dime HGTV 306 Cell Block 6: Female Lock Up TLC 219
Selling L.A. HGTV 302 Baseball Wives VH1 217
Fashion Hunters Bravo 302 Bad Sex Logo 215
Sugar High Food 294 America's Most Wanted Lifetime 213
Free Agents NBC 285 Queen Bees Teen Nick 213
Coke Top 10     Pepsi Top 10    
Show Name Network Show Index Show Name Network Show Index
ESPNews ESPNews 234 The Mortified Sessions Sundance 1250
Prophets of Science Fiction Science 223 The Exes TV Land 490
Don't Tell the Bride TLC 221 Prophets of Science Fiction Science 406
All on the Line Sundance 219 Man Up! ABC  309
Hairy Bikers History 218 Flip Men Spike 306
Deal or No Deal  GSN 216 I Hate My Teenage Daughter Fox 284
Too Fat for 15: Fighting Back Style 206 America's Most Wanted Lifetime 251
Pardon the Interruption ESPNews 196 Top Secret Recipe CMT 247
1st and 10 ESPNu 193 Storage Wars Texas A&E 242
Man v. Food: Carnivore Chronicles Travel 190 You Deserve It ABC 239
Cat Owners