Social networks are now working hand-in-hand with TV channels to mine online conversations and assess audience engagement in order to attract advertisers.

Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings mark a turning point for TV advertising

Twitter recently announced a deal with ComcastCorp that will enable Twitter users who subscribe to NBC Universal TV networks to access television programming directly from tweets. Now the micro-blogging platform has linked up with global information and measurement company Nielsen to create Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, an audience-tracking tool designed to measure social conversations about television programmes and so help TV programme providers maximise revenues from the advertising slots they sell to brands. Facebook and some other social networks are now rushing to follow suit. This new type of social engagement indicator purports to demonstrate how social network conversations can boost the impact of TV shows and their advertising content many times over. At a time when the TV experience is becoming less confined to the traditional small screen and the number of ‘second screen’ aficionados is growing fast, these measurement tools claim to provide better quantification and contextualisation of TV-related social conversations.

Mining online social conversations

The idea for the new ratings were announced at end 2012. Nielsen and Twitter have joined forces to offer a means for TV channels to provide advertisers with overnight metrics on viewers’ social engagement. Now that the micro-blogging platform is preparing for a listing on the stock exchange, this announcement is basically intended to demonstrate the pivotal role it can play in the relationship between advertisers and broadcasters. As Andrew Somosi, one of the developers of the tool explains: “this is a decisive step to boost the credentials of the whole industry.” The TV ratings indicator has a dual function, measuring both ‘authors’ – the number of people tweeting about TV programs – and also the much larger ‘audience’ of people who see those tweets. For instance, the Nielsen algorithm calculated that 225,000 tweets mentioning the new season premiere of US television medical drama Grey’s Anatomy were authored the evening it was shown, and that these were seen by close to 3 million Twitter followers.

Towards greater data contextualisation

With a view to being able in the longer term to help match TV content to a wide range of user profiles, social networks are now working to refine the available tools to give clearer context to the individual comments that make up the overall online conversation. As reported in a l’Atelier article last year, Twitter has already been working with BlueFin Labs on semantic data processing. These new tools enable a brand to target advertising material at Twitter users who have seen a particular program, on the basis of key word analysis. Facebook, which has an even larger user base, has followed the lead of the micro-blogging site by forging a series of partnerships with major TV companies worldwide, offering precise demographic data and audience measurement tools using algorithms that match user comments with a wide keyword database. Keen to demonstrate its interpenetration with TV programming, Twitter is now planning to segment its homepage so as to highlight tweets that refer directly to live TV programs.

By Thomas Meyer
Journalist, Business Analyst