Social Media Is Showing Us The Future Of TV

What do you see when you scan the brains of 300 TV viewers watching their favorite shows? According to the leading expert on TV ratings, the answer is pretty simple: If you want to know what people think when they watch TV, just check Twitter.

This week, Nielsen announced the results of a study conducted by its Nielsen Neuro team confirming a correlation between the most emotionally engaging moments on television with spikes in mentions of those shows on Twitter.

When viewers are engaged with what's on TV, they turn to Twitter to talk about it. While that may seem like a no-brainer, one implication might surprise you.

These research results show that the more engrossed a given viewer is, the more likely he or she is to tweet about it -- which contradicts the idea that social media is a distraction for the bored and disengaged. The results also support the notion that today’s consumers are truly looking to share their best experiences, even those they’re just watching on television.

All this hints at a future full of potential for advertisers, television producers and technology companies: one where shared experiences and contextual conversations make everything a little more personal and powerful. 

If the most stimulating shared moments in a television event truly compel the most-engaged viewers to stand out from the crowd and, well, share, then technologists should be able to get good at helping marketers find those viewers. By combining what’s already known about those viewers with this kind of emotional color commentary, marketers will be able to deliver messaging that truly speaks to specific individuals.

This kind of predictive accuracy is the reason marketers have been excited about social media since the beginning. But how can advertisers actually leverage this kind of data to create a more holistic view of the people they’re speaking to?

It turns out Nielsen also hinted at the answer to that question in the last few days -- when the company announced its acquisition of eXelate, a data company that gathers information about things like purchase intent from 200 different partner sources.

By working to assemble a more complete picture of television viewers, Nielsen is gearing up to be a contender if and when a more contextual television-advertising world emerges. In the meantime, with the help of eXelate, Nielsen will be able to help advertisers make the kinds of insights Twitter can provide about consumer engagement into actionable audiences that can be advertised to in digital channels.

After all, if you know a certain set of viewers is engaged with a prime-time show you advertise on, then longstanding research shows these viewers will also be more engaged with your commercials. Pair that kind of insight with data about who’s actively shopping for products like yours, and you’ll find a set of low-hanging sales that can be had for very low incremental cost. If this list of ready-to-buy consumers is large enough, you'll find valuable efficiency for your advertising.

If you’re not sure about whether programmatic advertising is “real,” or if you’re unconvinced about the powerful role social media will play in the future of advertising, tune in. You’ll find lots of old-school companies just like Nielsen positioning themselves to eat your TV dinner.

8 comments about "Social Media Is Showing Us The Future Of TV ".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, March 11, 2015 at 5:44 p.m.

    "When viewers are engaged with what's on TV, they turn to Twitter to talk about it." Ergo, you have to be on Twitter to be an engaged viewer. And how many viewers/people have Twitter accounts? Was the comparative study done of 'non-Tweeters'? Sorry, there seems to be a massive gap between correlation and causality here. The jury is still out as this doesn't pass that 'half a dozen people in a bar' test.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 12, 2015 at 8:10 a.m.

    If you look at actual Nielsen findings about the extent of tweets by viewers relative to audience size you will see that, except for some primetime broadcast network telecasts and a handful of cable shows, tweeting activity is a minor part of the average person's viewing experience. Indeed, to be more accurate, it plays no role at all for many viewers. Sure, you can zoom in on young viewers and, within that group tweeters, and the numbers get bigger, but the idea that tweeting is "the future of television", counting all programs, not just a few and all viewers, not just some, is, so far, not indicated by the facts.

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, March 12, 2015 at 8:44 a.m.

    Yep Ed. It amused me that an episode of our local "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here" was 'trending globally on Twitter'. Hey, Australia is 0.34% of the world's population. This episode was watched by around 4.5% of our population. Still ... that's big enough to trend on Twitter.

  4. brian ring from ring digital llc, March 16, 2015 at 5:56 p.m.

    "they turn to Twitter" - not so, actually. Multiple surveys including our own SocialTV Index shows clearly that Facebook is by far the more popular platform for TV related posts. It's not even close.

  5. Tory Houston from student, March 16, 2015 at 10:28 p.m.

    I think the idea that those who are the most engaged in their television series are also the most active on Twitter is an awesome advantage for marketers. Market research of those who watch shows on, for example, ABC, can allow for marketers to really target in on a specific niche. It is also an advantage for advertisers. Advertisers can look on Twitter to see which kind of viewers are watching television show's on ABC and act accordingly. These advertisers are able to decided if their ad is suited correctly for those viewers or if they should turn to a different route. Twitter is also advertising for the television show itself. The television shows are able to create hashtags to promote the show which ultimately allows users to interact.

  6. patricia caldwell from freeland earth, April 6, 2015 at 12:46 a.m.


  7. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 6, 2015 at 7:33 p.m.

    Tory, advertisers don't need Twitter to tell them what kinds of people are watching a given TV show---or episode. They have plenty of data on that from Nielsen and other sources and it covers the entire audience, not the very small and demographically atypical segment that tweets about a given telecast. Until tweeting about TV shows the user is watching becomes a frequent activity by most viewers of most telecasts---a very unlikely scenario---- this form of response, while possibly significant and even predictive in some cases, is not going to revolutionize television---as some have predicted.

  8. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, April 7, 2015 at 4:51 p.m.

    Any network who plans their schedule by watching Twitter will get exactly what they deserve...bankruptcy. Twitter clearly only represents a narrow corner of the viewership - one that is heavily skewed by the personality types who engage in Twitter. As to the's quite insubstantial. But makes for a great headline --- of the type that brings researchers untold riches while supplying nothing useful to anyone else.

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