Did Tweets Per Minute Help Big Bird in the Presidential Debate?

No matter where your personal politics lie, it’s safe to say that we can probably agree that just about everyone loves Big Bird.

Perhaps the hottest buzz on the web this Friday has placed one of our favorite childhood heroes in the political limelight of the first 2012 Presidential Debate.

Big Bird and Twitter: Presidential Debate 2012

During Wednesday night’s presidential debate, Governor Mitt Romney briefly mentioned Big Bird when he announced his plans to cut federal funding to PBS as a means of reducing the the national deficit.

Within minutes, Twitter was tracking an average rate of more than 135,000 TPM (Tweets Per Minute) for the words ‘Big Bird’. CBS news shared the following report on tweets per minute yesterday morning.

@CBSThisMorning - Tweets Per Minute

Following the spark of online buzz, news media outlets across the country picked up the story, adding more gasoline to the content fire and creating a blaze that is still burning across both traditional, digital and social media channels.

However, the conversation around Big Bird has not seemed to have much of an effect on the general sentiment of the Presidential race. While Big Bird captured the largest portion of the rate of tweets per minute on Twitter, the volume of general mentions of each party were also being tracked.

An infographic produced by SalesForce Marketing Cloud (formally Radian6) shows that while total share in terms of the volume of the Twitter conversation around the Presidential Debate (more than 10.3 million tweets over 90 minutes) largely belongs to the democrats this week, the sentiment of the conversation is nearly a dead even split with the majority of it falling in the negative:

Presidential Debate Sentiment

Reality Television and Real Time in the Presidential Debate

It think it’s interesting to note the growing trend connecting real-time communication tools like Twitter, and live-on-air television and radio programming.

In the past few months, we’ve seen live television broadcasts including the Olympics, The Emmys and even the Republican and Democratic National Conventions generate  increasingly large rates of Tweets Per Minute during the course of the program. What’s interesting is that in each of those cases, real time is also effected by time zones.

For instance, Usain Bolt was cited by Twitter as setting a new tweets per minute recored following his televised victory in the 200 meters in London.

Tweets Per Minuite

Now consider that in reality, the fastest man in the world won this race and broke the Tweets Per Minute record nearly 7 hours prior to U.S. audiences watching it on prime time television in the states.

One could make a case that this phenomena perhaps adds another dimension to Dr. Max McCombs and Dr. Donald Shaw’s 1968 ‘Chapel Hill Study’ which led to the development of what is now called Agenda Setting Theory.

Agenda setting describes the ability of the media to influence the salience of topics on the public agenda, meaning that we can only react to and have opinions on the content that the media tells us are worth talking about.

Twitter memes essentially turn this theory on it’s head by suddenly giving the public the ability to alter the agenda set by traditional media content, and in some cases even create new organic public agendas. You can also consider the inverse effect of agenda setting in that Twitter memes (like Big Bird), real-time trends and the ability to use Twitter as a way to break news oftentimes drive interest for traditional media coverage.

Scripted Programing VS Reality TV

However, the same connection between tweets per minute and more scripted television programming may not necessarily hold true.

A recent study conducted by Nielsen Ratings shows that for scripted television shows, interactions on GetGlue — a popular entertainment-based social network that allows users to ‘check-in’ to a show — are consistently outpacing interactions on Twitter.

Nielsen Study: June - August 2012 - Scripted Television Shows

For us digital marketing folks who work with or inside of brands that lean on television advertising support, this entire trend is something to keep in close view.

Studying the correlation between real-time communication and broadcast programming has the potential to help media buyers make better decisions on where to spend advertising dollars in a way that will generate conversational memes online.

Understanding the complexities of this new dynamic has potential to help marketers to produce additional spikes in return on investment for their efforts.

Google, Big Bird and the Presidential Debate?

I think it’s also interesting to consider is the connection between Twitter memes sparked by live broadcasts, and how that in turn effects consumer search behavior which is a behavioral indication of the interests of the public.

For instance, yesterday at 12:18 PM Google published the graphic below to their Google Politics and Elections Google Plus page:

Google Politics & Elections - Big BirdIt’s apparent that each of these search trends were generated as a result of the presidential debate, yet the query ‘Big Bird’ was largely produced by the volume of conversation on Twitter, as opposed to more in-depth discussion during the physical debate.

A Deep Question for a Friday Chat in the Comments

nate riggs

You’re smart people … and it’s Friday so I’m guessing you are ready for a mental break from your day job, right?

How do you think social media, television programming and search engines will evolve in the next 12 to 18 months as a result of the connections we are beginning to see between the three?

Will you share your take in the comments?

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