How Nielsen Social Is Measuring the Evolution of Social TV

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Much to the chagrin of those in the social TV space, correlation does not imply causation – i.e. social activity does not imply tune-in.But just a little over a year since Nielsen Social partnered with Twitter to produce the Twitter TV Ratings and to conduct research around the social network’s influence on viewership, the findings show that correlation is, at the very least, still meaningful and actionable for networks and advertisers alike. For more on what the Twitter TV Ratings have shown thus far, the impact of time-shifting on social TV, and social TV trends to watch for in 2015, we spoke with Nielsen Social’s SVP of Product, Sean Casey:

Lost Remote: It’s been a little more than a year since introducing “Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings.” What are some things that have stood out about the results so far? How do you plan to improve upon the rating system moving forward?

Sean Casey: Since launching Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, we have learned a lot from our clients, including networks, agencies, and advertisers, who are using this data to inform decisions across their organizations. At networks, we see research teams evaluating the social activity around their programs as well as the reach of that activity to understand who is engaging with programming, and how, as well as what the relationship between that Twitter conversation and audience tune-in.

Ad sales teams are also using Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings to differentiate their advertising inventory and sponsorship opportunities based on how social their shows are, using them as a complement to traditional TV ratings to bring value to advertisers looking to reach and engage with their audience based on how socially active or influential they may be in key demographics.

For agencies and advertisers, Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are complemented by our social affinity data, so they can not only identify which program audiences are highly social, but also find the best fit for their brand. Affinity supports agencies and advertisers in identifying the TV audiences that are most likely to Tweet about their brand or category. Bringing together insights from these two data sets, agencies and advertisers are working closely with networks to refine TV media schedules and build sponsorships and integrations that maximize return for their brand through that added potential to drive earned media for their brand.

Moving forward, we are looking forward to supporting all of these groups, from networks to agencies to advertisers, in refining how they are using social TV data to not just make better TV planning/buying decisions, but also measure the success of TV programming in building earned media for brands.

LR: Outside of Twitter, social networks like Facebook, Facebook-owned Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat have all made significant gains in terms of social TV. Are there plans to extend your social TV ratings to other platforms?

Casey: Twitter’s platform is uniquely geared to live TV because it is real-time and open to everyone.  That openness also makes it well suited to measurement. Through our exclusive relationship with Twitter, today we are focused on maximizing the value that measurement of Twitter TV conversation brings to our clients in the US as well as in Australia and Italy, where we launched this year. In 2015, we will also launch  in Mexico.

LR: What impact has time-shifting (and other changing consumption trends) had on social TV?

Casey: We recently began tracking US Twitter conversation about television on a 24/7 basis for over 650 English and Spanish language programs. We used that new data set to gain insight into when social TV conversations happen, analyzing 24/7 Twitter TV activity around 72 weekly broadcast and cable series programs in August and September 2014. As expected, we found that the majority of weekly Twitter TV activity (68% of Tweets) happens within the live airing window around a new program airing (three hours before through three hours after). In short, we confirmed that the social TV conversation is largely driven by linear programming, an environment that’s most conducive to sharing due to large audiences watching programming at the same time. You can read more about that study here.

What is perhaps more interesting then is understanding the reverse of your question—what role does that live activity play in building time-shifted audiences. In other words, does that high share of social activity taking place around a live airing help in reminding people to catch-up up on a program in the days after an original live airing. This is another area we investigated this year, finding that Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings Impressions (the total number of times Tweets about a live program airing were seen) was among 11 variables that all  proved to be statistically significant in understanding +7 18-34 TV audiences. Specifically, we saw that a 10% increase in NTTR impressions corresponded to a 1.8% increase in the +7 audience, indicating that social media activity around TV programming is playing a role in driving viewers to watch programming later in the week. You can read more about this study here.

 LR: What are some social TV trends to look out for in 2015?

Casey: In 2015 and beyond, we expect to see networks as well as agencies looking to maximize the value that TV placements, sponsorships, and integrations can bring to advertisers, connecting them with audiences that are not only highly social, but also have high social affinity with a brand. We also expect to see advertisers looking to measure social activity around their TV spend more concretely to understand what activities – among varying program placements and creative, sponsorships, and integrations – drove the most earned media for their brand.

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