Nielsen Factors Twitter Fans Into Its Ratings

Nielsen is adding Twitter data to its system by adding a “unique Twitter audience” category to its weekly ratings. The LA Times reported that 19 million people in the U.S. sent 263 million tweets about TV in Q2 and some TV executives have started adding Twitter stats to their pitches.

Nielsen found that the top viewed shows don’t necessarily have the top Twitter engagement. While The Big Bang Theory, NCIS, and The Crazy Ones topped the list for viewers, they were nowhere near the top 10 shows for Twitter audience.

shutterstock_135287432If I were a TV producer, I would be doing back-flips at this news. Twitter users aren’t just bumps on a log tuning into various TV programs, they’re actively engaged enough to comment on the show and talk about it online. They’re not just viewers, they’re advocates. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that fans who Tweet should be given more credit because they’re more active and they’re spreading their message to new audiences. They just aren’t sure how much that credit is worth.

The news has been met with some joy and a handful of criticism. Twitter tends to draw younger audiences, so it only makes sense that shows targeting younger viewers would have higher Twitter ratings. The Wall Street Journal also mentioned that Facebook is playing “me too!” again and plans to submit reports proving that people talk about TV on their social network as well.

Most TV shows have long since adopted hashtags and added them to the bottom screen to facilitate discussions among viewers. However, some shows expect more out of viewers than others.For example, ABC’s Once Upon A Time creates a new hashtag to keep the buzz around an episode going throughout the week. Next week’s episode will use #Tinkerbell and last week’s premier used #SaveHenry. The universally accepted hashtags, however, are #OUAT or #OnceUponATime. Between those two hashtags and new weekly tag, fan tweets start to look stuffed and cluttered as they try to reach as many fans as possible.

A chunk of the audience is tweeting with #OUAT, another chunk with #OnceUponATime, and a third chunk with #Tinkerbell or a mix of 2-3 tags per tweet. It’s confusing. Revenge had tried similar tactics in the past by encouraging viewers to use the hashtag for the episode name: #Identity, #Union, #Sabotage, etc. but has settled into using one hashtag for the show: #Revenge. It’s simple, everyone uses it, and all of the discussion is in one place.


2013 has been a big year in the marriage of TV and the Internet. Netflix has risen to power by filling our need to binge watch shows, and brands like Hulu and Amazon are trying to follow suit. Now, social media has been validated as a unit of TV measurement.  Will other social networks get adopted by Nielsen? Will more video streaming services start creating original content? Bring on 2014! Bring on Sweeps months!

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Amanda Dodge