Social Media

Nielsen Twitter TV Rating: Making Sense of the Noise

December 18, 2012

Nielsen has revealed a new television rating metric in line with shifting consumer behavior when it comes to TV viewership. The update takes into account real-time conversation and the growing impact of social buzz, specifically within the Twitter platform.

When Nielsen and NM Incite acquired SocialGuide last month, marketers wondered how the real-time measurement and engagement tool would be integrated within the current Nielsen system. The answer came yesterday when Twitter announced its multi-year agreement with Nielsen on the creation of Nielsen Twitter TV Rating, which is set for commercial release just in time for the Fall 2013 season.

This enhancement to SocialGuide, which currently provides competitive social TV analytics, will provide a first-ever measurement of the total audience for social TV activity, focusing not only who is talking about TV content, but also who is exposed to those conversations. This will grant networks a more robust look at the actual size of their social audience and insight into how social TV activity influences programming, specifically with regards to tune-in.

Catching up to consumer behavior

This announcement is a very big deal for Nielsen, which has updated its age-old model to align with more multi-directional (and more complex) TV viewership behavior. According to Nielsen, Twitter’s 200 million monthly active users churned out more than 118 million TV-related tweets in October 2012 – representing a growth rate of 200 percent when it comes to these types of conversations. Twitter’s organic growth can be attributed to some of this uptick, but the real factor here is the proliferation of mobile usage among TV viewers in the U.S.

Ninety percent of tablet and smartphone owners use these devices while watching TV – and more than half of this group is interacting via social networks during the viewing experience. The behavior is there – and growing – and Nielsen’s official foray into the field will be a welcome stamp of legitimacy for networks trying to make sense of this upward trend in social television.

A boon for shows with a strong social cult following

Twitter has become increasingly important to TV marketers, but its return on investment has always been a bit murky. While TV’s biggest shows and events usually trend in a big way, there are also programs which fall on either end of the spectrum: either a big ratings draw with not a lot going on over on Twitter or huge social activity with little to no impact in terms of traditional ratings.

The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating should strongly benefit the latter distinction, helping networks justify – and fight for – these “water cooler shows” that drive tremendous buzz but not enough Nielsen numbers to back them up season after season. The new metric should also help move the traditional ratings needle by offering an official stamp of approval on buzzy shows that viewers will want to catch up on via time-shifted viewership.

We also anticipate that the new metric will have significant impact on Twitter’s own ad network by providing insight into what search terms, keywords and hashtags advertisers should be investing in and supporting as a reflection of the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating.

Quantifying the noise

The new metric marks an important evolution in the measurement of social TV behavior and will allow marketers to optimize spend by targeting audiences beyond tune-in time. With insights gleaned from the new metric, advertisers can cultivate their social spend based on the digital habits and behaviors of their audience. Additionally, the new data may support activations around smaller shows – those without strong standard Nielsen ratings – if they prove to have strong social cult followings.

Until now marketers could see the noise, but they could not fully quantify it. The old standard of Nielsen ratings has proved one-dimensional in that it can measure who is watching (and it what number) but it cannot capture the ancillary impact of social conversations.

For entertainment marketers, this provides a new opportunity to measure the ROI of social buzz and showcase the lift or changes in TV ratings as they correlate with social activity.

By Steven Avalos, Senior Community Manager, and Danielle Johnsen Karr, Senior Community Manager at 360i