Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
A view from Arif Durrani

Twitter's popularity says as much about TV as it does about social media

Did you know that the main ITV channel generates more Tweets per month than BBC One and BBC Two combined? It's an intriguing finding that has stayed with me since it was shared at ITV's Upfronts event.

Peter Fincham, the director of television at ITV, is "very proud of that statistic", believing it to be an indication of how people are watching TV today. He went on to admit that he, and the rest of the management team at the broadcaster, hadn’t quite figured out what to do about it yet. That’s OK, these are early days.

The secret of ITV’s success was further explained by research from Kantar last week, which ranked the UK’s most-Tweeted-about shows. One talent contest in particular dominates: The X Factor generated 9.4 million Tweets in the 12 months to June 2014, almost twice as many as the second-placed show, Channel 5’s Celebrity Big Brother, and 13 times its Saturday-night rival on BBC One, Strictly Come Dancing.

In fact, The X Factor was responsible for almost 9 per cent of all Tweets throughout the year, despite only being on air for four months. And with other ITV stalwarts Britain’s Got Talent, I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! and The Only Way Is Essex also making the top ten, the broadcaster’s dominance becomes clearer still.

'Television is already responsible for 40 per cent of all UK Twitter chatter during peak time'

The study’s findings help build a picture of the type of shows that will drive Twitter activity: yes, large audiences help, but the social composition of a programme – voting, encouragement to join in – is also a major factor.

Unfortunately, one area not included in Kantar’s study is live sporting events, known to be a significant driver of activity. Germany’s 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the World Cup semi-final this summer generated a record 35.6 million Tweets alone.

Now researchers at Trinity Mirror have found that 82 per cent of football fans surveyed are regular second-screen "meshers", averaging up to eight minutes a game. Football was also found to be the only category where activity from Twitter users – favouriting, commenting or Tweeting – was higher than just reading posts.

Twitter’s relationship with TV has been pored over ever since the platform’s inception. People have always enjoyed talking about shows, and social media allows it to happen at scale, with TV already responsible for 40 per cent of all UK Twitter chatter during peak time.

While some may marvel at Twitter UK’s £90 million target for ad revenues this year, there’s no doubt that it continues to change the way we communicate.