Nielsen, the company that measures television viewership, released findings that showed a link between TV ratings for programs and the amount of Twitter conversation around that program. In case you aren’t familiar with Twitter, it’s an online social networking service that allows users to send text messages of 140 characters or less. These messages are called Tweets. Sending the messages is called Tweeting.
Nielsen analyzed 221 broadcast primetime episodes and the findings showed that as the volume of Tweets about a program increased, so did the show’s ratings.
Of course that could work both ways, a show’s ratings could increase because people are raising awareness through Twitter, or a show could be getting more Twitter chatter because a lot of people are already watching it.
They did find however that Tweets caused significant changes in the live TV ratings for 29 percent of the episodes studied.
You’ve probably noticed that many shows invite you to Tweet about them by showing a hashtag on the screen. A hashtag is a phrase that starts with the # sign. It’s used to categorize tweets by topic. You might see something like #masterchef referring to the title of the show or something like #thelambisraw referring to a moment in the program.
Some television shows will release the hashtag for the week ahead of time, inviting viewers to start the conversation before the show starts. In fact, strong social media campaigns like the one for the TV show Fringe, are credited with keeping some programs on the air.
One recent movie that generated a lot of Twitter activity was the SyFy Channel’s Sharknado.
“These results substantiate what many of our TV partners have been telling us anecdotally for years: namely, that Twitter drives tune-in, especially for live, linear television programming,” said Ali Rowghani, Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer. “As the world’s preeminent real-time social communication medium, Twitter is a complementary tool for broadcasters to engage their audience, drive conversation about their programming, and increase tune-in.”
Most media outlets are investing time and money using social media to promote their programming and this study seems to confirm that it works.