Twitter stands firmly on the ground between the brands that spend $70 billion in TV advertising annually in the US and the broadcast shows under pressure to drive ratings.
No doubt about it. Conventional television and the social powerhouse Twitter have become unlikely bedfellows with audience tweets driving programing and TV elevating Twitter use. That's all good for Twitter. The social networker stands firmly on the ground between the brands that spend $70 billion in TV advertising annually in the US and the broadcast shows under pressure to drive ratings.
Picture the 32 million people who tweeted about shows in the last year, interacting with a community of viewers moment to moment, while indirectly telling TV producers what they think of casting decisions, characters and plot twists. Tweets under #gladiators, for example, have made ABC's hit, Scandal, a social networking "phenom" with the show trending for days after each episode. Tweets drive viewership and the reverse, and thanks to the television ratings giant Nielsen, we have some proof of it.
Late this past summer, Nielsen announced research findings that provided evidence for the relationship between the size of a live broadcast TV audience and the Twitter conversation related to it. In other words, Twitter chat about a TV show can drive higher viewership in live broadcast. The Twitter Causation Study analyzed trends in Nielsen's "live TV ratings and tweets" for 221 broadcast primetime program episodes using Nielsen's SocialGuide. The volume of tweets caused significant changes in television viewership among 29 percent of episodes. And live TV ratings had impact on tweets for 48 percent of the sampled episodes. Business Insider reported that 40 or more percent of US mobile audiences browsed social media on tablets or smartphones while watching TV. And, also big news for the industry, Nielsen just last week announced it will begin to track television viewing on mobile devices in 2014 so that the shows what we watch on smartphones and tablets count in its television ratings.
Yet, with this growing amount of information, we still have more questions than answers when it comes to ways that digital is upending the traditional roles that broadcast media have played in our lives. How do broadcast programming, social media and marketing promotions interact to influence Nielsen ratings? Can we predict TV ratings based on social-media engagement to improve viewership? How can broadcasters make sure their ad revenue isn't highjacked by "second screen" tablets and smartphones?
What we are seeing is the dynamic convergence of multiple channels of content consumption and social engagement in media and entertainment. That's made content, marketing and advertising decisions infinitely more complex. It's a clear signal to media and entertainment companies to get much smarter about the interrelationship and impact of all digital channels on audience metrics:
There's no question that consumers are driving the bus with the interactive power of social. But it works two ways. Media and entertainment companies have the opportunity to get aligned with their audiences as never before. It's a conversation with two-way benefits for those who are listening.
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Pelin Thorogood, a new media marketing and analytics expert, is chief executive (CEO) of Anametrix, an Ensighten company, which developed the first cloud-based, real-time marketing analytics platform. Her career as a high-tech innovator includes leading the go-to-market strategy as chief marketing officer (CMO) of WebSideStory (acquired by Omniture/Adobe), extending Peregrine Systems' enterprise software business (acquired by HP) into Web-based applications, and in the mid-1990s launching one of the very first mobile B2B applications. She was named one of the "20 Women to Watch" in sales lead management in 2011 and 2012. Pelin holds a B.S. in Operations Research, Masters in Engineering, and MBA degrees, all from Cornell University, where she also serves as Executive-in-Residence for the Johnson Graduate School of Management. Follow Pelin on Twitter @PelinT.
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