Diving Into Nielsen's Latest Data on Television and Social
Before social networking became ubiquitous, office-workers would gather around the water cooler the day after the release of a new TV show to chat about it. But now water cooler conversation is too slow, because conversation about the latest television event has happened live, on social media — especially Twitter, which tends to dominate real-time event conversation, like television.

It’s Twitter’s television presence which led to a partnership with ratings giant Nielsen, which uses Twitter to track shows’ social reach.

Nielsen’s latest social data, which compares social behavior of television viewers between 2012 and 2013, paints an enlightening picture of what social media users are up to while they’re watching —and even though the statistics themselves are a bit old, it demonstrates a solid trend for increased social television viewership.

Whether you’re in the entertainment industry or not, this glimpse into social behavior can help you come up with new ways to get in on the social TV chatter that’s always happening.

TV Watchers Are Tuned to a Second Screen

Most people don’t sit down to just watch television anymore — they have a tablet or smartphone in hand to surf the web (49% of smartphone users and 66% of tablet users), shop (24% of smartphone users and 44% of tablet users), check sports scores (27% of smartphone users and 29% of tablet users), look up program information (29% of smartphone users and 41% of tablet users), talk to friends about the program (29% of smartphone users and 23% of tablet users), read social discussion about the program (12% of smartphone users and 18% of tablet users), buy an advertised product (7% of smartphone users and 14% of tablet users), vote for or comment on an ongoing program (9% of smartphone users and 12% of tablet users), or tune in entirely because of a social media suggestion (10% of smartphone users and 17% of tablet users).

While you might think being so plugged in during television shows would result in a lack of engagement, in fact the opposite is true. Between the years of the study, Nielsen has found that social media has caused viewers to become aware of more programs (25%), enjoy television more (15%), record more programs (12%), and watch more live TV (11%) — all an increase over the previous year.

Why More Social TV Is Good News For Advertisers

If you’re advertising on television, the second screen experience means that viewers are less likely to change the channel when an ad comes on — according to a study by Twitter, only 13% of second screen viewers flip channels during advertisements, and if those viewers are on Twitter, that number drops to 8%. The ability to recall advertisements, brand favorability, and purchase intent is also higher amongst viewers who are also using Twitter on a second screen. So whether you’re attempting to market television content or advertising on television, integrating social into your marketing strategy is a winning bet.

Nielsen’s daily and weekly social ratings reports also provides good examples of which TV-related social campaigns are working and which aren’t. Live entertainment, like awards shows and sporting lists, often top these lists, driving programming-related tweets to a sizable unique audience. However, socially savvy programming also makes the list, like the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, which pushed social conversation by displaying tweets on-screen during certain programs to encourage viewers to join in.

Diving Into Nielsen's Latest Data on Television and Social

From the social side, Twitter notes the value of TV-centric accounts using hashtags, photos, videos, and quotes, all of which encourage more engagement and social sharing. Twitter accounts for actors, networks and specific shows see a 39% retweet bump with hashtag use, a 46% bump with attached photos, a 48% bump with attached videos, and a 53% bump when they include a quote. Though some of this is social 101, it gives you a good idea of just how much you can boost your social reach with some fairly simple messaging tweaks.

Not sure how this could work to help bring attention to your brand? We’ve already seen both television shows and advertising campaigns using Twitter and hashtags to good effect, and there’s no reason you couldn’t follow suit.

Tuning Your Business Into TV Conversations

Again, even if your brand isn’t in the entertainment industry, there’s no reason you can’t participate in some of the social conversations happening around television. Plenty of brands have created big social wins out of being present during a televised event and creating relevant, retweetable messages that leverage the number of people tuned in to social networks during these big events. Just be sure to keep your messaging brand-relevant and to avoid potentially offensive content, which will garner the wrong kind of social attention.

Nielsen’s stats say that minorities, in particular, are on the leading edge of social TV watchers, with social driving more Hispanic, Asian, and African-American audiences to television than the average, which could make social messaging especially important to reach those demographics.

If you’re looking into what you should be watching, Nielsen’s daily ratings can be an indicator of what’s popular — though they’re more likely to tell you what you should have been tweeting about yesterday than what you should be tweeting about right now. Your best bet is to consider your audience and their interests and decide how they intersect with television from there.