Confirmed! Relationship between Tweet Volume and Nielsen TV Ratings

If you’re wondering if there's a relationship between social and TV audience tune in, the evidence is conclusive. A Nielsen study released yesterday confirmed findings that Twitter volume is correlated TV ratings. 

This is in addition to the previous mounting evidence…
In October, 2011 an NM Incite and Nielsen study showed a 1% increase in ratings per 9% increase in social chatter.
Studies have shown 80% of U.S. tablet and smartphone owners who watch TV use their device while watching at least several times a month and 40% of U.S. tablet and smartphone users visit a social network while watching TV.
19% of Internet users start watching a TV show specifically because they read about it on social networking sites, tweet, blogs, etc.
The new study by Nielsen and Social Guide (subsidiary of Nielsen) yielded similar results, but higher fidelity to the relationship of Twitter to Nielsen TV ratings. Specifically:
  • For 18-34 year olds, an 8.5% increase in Twitter volume corresponds to a 1% increase in TV ratings for premiere episodes,
  • A 4.2% increase in Twitter volume corresponds with a 1% increase in ratings for midseason episodes, and
  • An increase in Twitter volume of 4.2% and 8.4% is associated with a 1% increase in ratings for 18-34 year olds and 35-49 year olds, respectively. Moreover, by midseason Twitter was responsible for more of the variance in ratings for 18-34 year olds than advertising spend.
By the way, recognize this study is just showing the Twitter effect of social buzz driving ratings – not to mention Facebook, Get Glue, Instagram and more. And, it’s just measuring Nielsen ratings, not the growing tune in to online and on-demand channels for watching a show (and advertising).
What does this mean, for you (Media companies) and us?
While this study shows correlation (not causation), we can be look at other studies (such as 19% of internet users start watching a show due to social media) to suggest that there is impact of social to drive tune in. And that means driving social conversation around your programming can improve traditional measures of show success (i.e. ratings) AND allows you to have a stronger selling proposition to brands which have correlating affinity. Advertisers, who are already interested in buying innovative ‘social’ related advertising, will be more likely to invest in shows that build social buzz and have social media integrated into production, digital assets and second screen experiences. The advocacy, goodwill and emotional connection can be stronger to shows that are creating conversations…and brands want to be part of that emotion.
For us, it means that our clients who integrate social (into TV graphics, web, apps, second screen, etc.) can take a big step to generate more social conversations (we have many case studies), thus higher ratings, thus will make more money working with Mass Relevance! 
Not just ratings…
In addition to growing an audience, there are fantastic opportunities to create social ‘products’ on air and in digital that TV sales teams can sell as direct carve outs or bundled sponsorships. An example of that is the work we did to create the NBC Olympics Twitter Tracker sponsored by GE. Or American Idol polling the audience sponsored by AT&T. Or the Bravo 80 Plates social challenge sponsored by Infiniti. Brands can sponsor these experiences and get directly involved in the conversations (more than just logo placement).
How do you build a social integration strategy?
We’ve had more than two years of experience working with producers and broadcasters to integrate social amplification in and around the show. There are many unique and innovative strategies to amplify and involve your audience, as well as every day tactics to grow authentic conversations.
The biggest obstacle we see for broadcasters to embrace social integration is getting the executive producers to buy in from the beginning. We’re seeing progress among certain shows, most recently with The Bachelor. Producers like Mark Burnett embraced social from the very launch of The Voice, making it part of the show creative. CBS integrated Twitter to determine the ending of Hawaii Five-O episode. ABC News integrated Tweets during the Royal Wedding. Turner brings live Tweets to NBA TV. MTV has been at the forefront of Twitter innovation during the MTV Music awards.
So, the first step to get social integrated, is to get “social” out of the corner and into the corner office!  The results of this study should be a strong argument to get executives around the show to collaborate on strategies to facilitate conversation before, during, and after a show’s season. 
Details of strategy and tactics for social integration are better left for other blog posts (or see case studies). From experience, once we have advertisers and producers at the table, it’s a collaborative process to bring social to the core of your show. We look forward to helping inspire you with ideas on how you can involve your audience…and grow your revenue! 

Sam Decker's picture

Sam Decker

Sam Decker is a current member of the Spredfast board. Sam most recently served as the CEO and co-founder of Mass Relevance (now Spredfast). Prior to Mass Relevance, Sam was founding Chief Marketing Officer at Bazaarvoice, a provider of SaaS social commerce technologies serving over 1,000 brands, where he was responsible for building the company’s brand, products and platform.