Cable news networks are the most effective among U.S. TV nets at harnessing Facebook’s user base to reach audiences with their content — with MSNBC slightly ahead of rivals Fox News and CNN — according to a new study.
The rankings are based on a proprietary scoring of each network’s reach, impact and and responsiveness by Toronto-based social-media analytics firm Engagement Labs. On Twitter, meanwhile, the firm found that sports and entertainment networks were top performers, led by NBCUniversal’s E!, NBC Sports and Oxygen with the highest scores.
On Facebook, MSNBC has a score (on a scale of 0-100) of 94.11 from Engagement Labs, edging out with Fox News at 93.31 and CNN at 93.21. Among the top Twitter networks, E! has a score of 89.58, with NBC Sports at 88.43 and Oxygen at 88.21.
But what the rankings really mean is opaque.
For one thing, the TV data — pulled directly from Facebook and Twitter — covers only a two-week period, from May 11-24, 2015. Moreover, the firm’s rankings are about effectiveness, not absolute reach. It’s worth noting, for example, that MSNBC has just 1 million followers on Facebook, while Fox News has 10.3 million and CNN has 17.5 million.
Bryan Segal, CEO of Engagement Labs, said the purpose of the company’s eValue ranking is to reflect how well a property engages with users, not simply how many people are following it. “Size is not the only thing that matters. In the social-media realm, the world used to be defined by how many likes or followers you have,” Segal said. “You might have a lot of followers but not many active users.”
Still, in the TV biz, reach matters a lot on social in driving both buzz and, by extension, TV ratings. According to Nielsen, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” had the largest audience among regular series on Twitter over the course of the 2014-15 season, with 4.3 million people seeing tweets about each new episode on average. ABC’s “The Bachelor” recorded the most impressions (total number of times tweets were seen) with 32 million per episode.
Meanwhile, Segal acknowledged that his firm’s rankings of the TV networks, as is the case with the approximately 100,000 global brands it covers as part of its eValue scoring system, can vary widely quarter-to-quarter as companies tune up their social strategies.
Then there’s the question of why Engagement Labs’ ranking of top TV networks on Facebook and Twitter are widely different. According to Segal, news performs well on Facebook because it’s “where you connect with friends, and get relevant, trusted information,” noting that MSNBC has an extremely active user base with very high engagement. Twitter fares better with real-time posts and shares about entertainment and sports, along with news.
“Search used to be the biggest driver of links and eyeballs,” he said. “Now social is a major player, and we’ve seen the power of broadcasters being able to drive content between screens.”
For what it’s worth, here are Engagement Labs’ top 10 rankings for U.S. TV networks on the two major social services:
2. Fox News
4. Fox Business
7. Al-Jazeera America
2. NBC Sports
5. Fox Sports 1
9. Al-Jazeera America
10. Fox Business