In a notable effort to supply more data on the interaction between TV programming and social media, Nielsen has officially launched its Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, which the research company is billing as the first-ever measure of the total activity and reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter.
Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings will measure the number of people tweeting about TV programs (authors) as well as the much larger "audience" of people who actually view those Tweets.
"We are just beginning to understand the dynamic relationship between social media and television," noted Beth Rockwood, senior vice president, market resources and ad sales research at Discovery Communications in a statement accompanying the launch of the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings. "The ‘Talking Social TV' Study conducted through the Council for Research Excellence (CRE) has demonstrated that, particularly for ‘TV Super Connectors,' social media is an integral part of their relationship with television, and that different demographics and genres behave in unique ways. New tools, like the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, that allow us to further investigate the relationship between individual programs and social media will bring new insights and raise new questions. We look forward to having the opportunity to look at the new broadcast season through the lens of Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings."
The official commercial launch of the service, which was first announced in December of 2012, comes at a time when TV channels are looking to expand their second screen and social media efforts.
Better data is also important for both Twitter, which formally filed for an IPO, and Facebook. Both see alliances with TV players as a way to grow their ad revenue.
Facebook, for example, has been working with Nielsen for some time to supply demographic information for Nielsen's Online Campaign Ratings product and this summer it commissioned a study from Nielsen showing widespread sharing and interactions with TV related material on Facebook.
Early data from the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings indicates that social media activity related to Twitter continues to grow, with the number of Tweets related to TV growing 38% from 190 million in the second quarter of 2012 to 263 million in the second quarter of 2013, according to Nielsen's SocialGuide.
The number of people (authors) tweeting about TV also grew 24% to 19 million during the same period.
The data also shows that the number of people reached by these tweets is much, much larger than the number of people or authors of the tweets. Generally, the "Twitter TV audience for an average episode is 50 times larger than the authors who are generating Tweets," Nielsen reports, though this "figure varies across programs, with early data showing the ratio of the audience to the authors generally decreases as the number of authors for an episode increases."
This reflects the fact that when there are more people tweeting, the likelihood that their followers will overlap increases.
The launch builds on Nielsen's acquisition of SocialGuide, which offers solutions for Twitter TV measurement, analytics and engagement.
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