Social TV, Earned Media Channels And Millennials

How important is social TV: people posting and reading comments about TV programs on social media platforms? A recent study, undertaken by the Council for Research Excellence in September and October of 2013, surveyed the online population of people 15 to 54 and found that on a typical day, about 19% of them are reached by social media regarding prime-time TV.

The study found that about half of social media usage while viewing prime-time TV is related to prime-time television.

According to Nielsen Social, which measures Social TV on Twitter, tweet volume grew by +39% from Q2 2012 to Q2 2013 and by a more moderate +9% from Q2 2013 vs. Q2 2014.

Millennial and Generation-Z Populations Sweet Spot of Social TV Usage  

Based on the MRI Study of the American Consumer, we know that active users of both Twitter and Facebook skew young. Users of both Twitter and Facebook are also more likely to have used Twitter yesterday, indicating greater frequency of use.

As of May 28 2014, Nielsen Social began reporting age/sex distributions for Twitter activity and reach metrics. These new metrics show expected differences in age/sex distributions across programs -- for example, “Dancing with the Stars” skews older -- and confirm the importance of Millennials and Generation-Z populations for social TV. (It is important to note that Facebook is not currently accessible for social TV measurement.)

Most-Tweeted-About TV Programs Provide Distorted View of Prime-time TV Performance

The topic of social TV often brings to mind the frequently published lists of most-tweeted-about TV programs like The World Cup, “Breaking Bad” and “The Voice.”

While these programs certainly matter, they tend to be extreme outliers that provide limited guidance on which spots agencies should purchase for their clients. A program like ABC’s “Castle” is more representative of how average high-rated prime-time programs rate on social TV. “Castle” ranked in the 95th percentile on tweets among prime-time programs on May 5, 2014. For number of tweets, “Castle” generated about one-tenth as many tweets as “The Voice.” This is typical of recurring prime-time programming. “The Voice” is the outlier, not “Castle.”

Social TV Can Impact Upper- and Mid-Funnel Activities

In a recent study conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation, Twitter, Fox and Db5 about the effects of social TV, those surveyed reported becoming aware of a show after being exposed to a tweet about the TV show. Those respondents also reported taking a range of actions including: clicking on the show’s #hashtag, following an actor’s handle, and searching online for the show; some even became viewers of the show. Respondents also reported taking both online and offline actions after exposure to a brand mention in a tweet, including: visiting the brand’s Twitter page, searching for the brand and promotions online, and chatting about the brand with family and friends.

Exploring Associations Between Social TV Activity and Brand Mentions

Social media brand mentions are considered to be among the most trustworthy of media impressions. Nielsen Social is exploring the association between TV program mentions and brand mentions through its “affinity metrics,” an approach used for estimating the likelihood that a person who tweets about a particular program will also tweet about a particular brand. For example, according to Nielsen Social, a person who tweets about NHL Hockey on the CW is about 5.6 times more likely to also mention Bud Light on Twitter. These types of associations provide a basis for identifying efficient approaches for driving “earned” media impressions.

Nielsen Social does not currently capture positive or negative sentiment for either programs or brands.  The belief (based on other published studies) is that the majority of comments have positive sentiment. Better information on the topic of sentiment would be useful.

Social TV Attractive To Both Television Networks And Media Agencies

Networks are interested in increased viewer engagement, which can translate to reduced audience turnover, higher viewership numbers and, potentially, greater consumer attention to commercials. Some networks aggressively promote the use of Twitter handles and #hashtags to encourage conversations about television programming on social media sites. Besides including #hashtag reminders in opening screens, sometimes cast members “live-tweet” as programs air.

Media agencies are seeking opportunities for increasing the impact of clients’ TV investments. Over the years, agencies have explored various angles for identifying attentive and engaged audiences. Examples include programs having below-average audience turnover or above-average viewer loyalty. Agencies are now exploring the use of social TV data to better gauge levels of audience engagement.  The newer age/sex demographics are making the use of social TV data for analyzing program engagement more feasible.

Social TV Emerging Channel, With Potential Opportunity For Driving Earned Media Impressions

Social TV is achieving significant reach. There are indications that the social TV growth trend will continue, although at a more moderate rate.

To the extent that Millennials (and Generation-Z) are an important target for an advertiser’s brand, social TV cannot be ignored.

In the coming months and years, it will be important to monitor the growth of social TV and associated behaviors. It will be important to refine approaches for promoting “trusted” earned impressions. And it will be important for the industry to conduct research to gain a more concrete understanding of actions taken as a result of social TV activities.

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