Thursday, July 12, 2012

Olympic-Caliber Data

In my last post, I discussed how NBC might benefit by playing to the crowd in their partnership with Facebook for the upcoming Olympics, namely by letting the wags of the Internet have a little fun with it.  Today, I'd like to discuss something more weighty: the data that this partnership will generate.

A close reading of the article will reveal that no money will change hands between NBC and Facebook for this promotion.  I find this detail significant because it suggests to me that both parties recognize the value of the data that each will gain. While I have no more information about this deal than what the New York Times has reported, I assume that they have agreed to share the data gathered in some form.  Assuming this to be true, here's what I'd to do with those data if I were managing them for NBC or for Facebook.
What NBC can gain from data

  • Enhanced ratings.  At the top level, NBC will gather lots of valuable data on what types of Olympic programming their viewers prefer.  Nielsen, among others, already gathers those data, but the Facebook data will add dimension to the data.  For instance, how active are viewers in social media vs. what they watch?  I could imagine, for instance, that basketball fans might engage more during game time while gymnastics fans might respond better to the taped stories about the athletes.
  • Viewer profiles.  Depending on what data NBC is permitted to pull from users, they may learn about other major interests.  If they could correlate viewership of a sport with specific product areas, they would have a more complete story to tell advertisers.  Imagine that people watching track and field events also index high for, say, light beer or smart phones.  These data would help NBC sell more airtime for these categories.
  • Tune-in.  You know those promos that networks run during one program to encourage watching another ("watch Dateline NBC this Wednesday")?  Networks call them tune-ins.  Think of how tune-ins might work with the enhancement of social data.  Again, depending on what data Facebook allows NBC to collect, they may be able to discern that, say, swimming viewers like to watch sitcoms.  In turn, NBC could use its page and app to promote sitcoms to anyone engaging with swimming content.
What Facebook can gain from data

Scale.  If Facebook has one thing to prove, it's scale.  The gaudy numbers for Facebook's growth--901 million members as of March--belie an ugly truth: conversations tend to remain small-scale.  The number one complaint I've heard from Fortune 100 marketers about social media is scale.  Markers who have the cash to reach millions of viewers in one shot view social media with suspicion in that they have to convince  consumers one at a time.  Even the biggest Facebook promotions rarely net more than the tens of thousands.

Thus, if Facebook can prove engagement in the hundreds of thousands with NBC, they will prove that social media has begun to address the scale problem.  Solving the problem will open a lot of big wallets and encourage social media stalwarts to open their wallets even wider.'

Got any other ideas of how Facebook and NBC can use the data?  Please share in the comments below!

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