The Brits' successful flop highlights the complex social media landscape
A view from Arif Durrani

The Brits' successful flop highlights the complex social media landscape

In a week dominated by Facebook's staggering acquisition of WhatsApp, and the clash of tech and mobile developments at the Mobile World Congress, social and mobile are top of mind.

Last week’s Brit Awards was the most Tweeted-about UK TV show ever, with 4.17 million posts, underlining Twitter’s real-time marketing credentials. However, despite appearances from Harry Styles and Beyoncé, the TV audience of five million equated to a 15-year low. It serves to highlight just how complex and counter-intuitive any symbiotic relationship between TV and social can be.

The awards also provided the UK’s first outing for Twitter’s Amplify programme. Led by Simon Cowell’s former digital supremo Theo Luke, it focuses on forming strategic partnerships with brands around in-Tweet activity, such as photos and video clips in users’ feeds.

This resulted in Unilever’s styling brand VO5 being wrapped around exclusive content from the Brits – including 12 live video performances and interviews of musos by the host James Corden – in a campaign brokered by Mindshare. Data-crunchers at the WPP agency report that the #VO5music hashtag received 5,332 Twitter mentions – and that Corden in conversation with One Direction generated 1,759 retweets. Read those stats again. Are they significant?

VO5 was clearly involved in the buzz around the Brits, but there’s no hiding the limiting scale of those numbers. But it’s early days, and they will only grow. I think Chris Worrell, the head of insight at OMD, nailed it when he told me: "It’s important but it’s not significant – yet."

The Brits was the most Tweeted-about UK TV show ever… However, the TV audience was a 15-year low

Meanwhile, Facebook is hoping to strengthen its ties with TV too, with SecondSync’s first analysis of its social TV data. The white paper suggests, contrary to popular opinion, the majority (60 per cent) of TV-related activity on the site takes place during the show, just like Twitter.

And, from a planning point of view, the penetration of Facebook makes it much easier to justify. In some shows, almost a quarter of TV audiences were found to be engaging on the site. During The X Factor final, almost two million interactions were tracked across Facebook.

Of course, it’s early days, and such stats represent merely the beginning of what is sure to become a well-contested space. Insights into the efficacy of each platform will no doubt follow; they are different platforms and we use them differently.

The challenge for agencies is to adopt a test-and-learn mentality when evaluating social’s true potential.