Now that watching television has become more of a social experience, it’s not impossible for online conversations to impact a show’s success. Nielsen and SocialGuide took a closer look and found that the number of tweets about a TV program is closely correlated with the show’s ratings.

The two research firms analyzed tweets about TV and found that Twitter is one of three “statistically significant variables” to influence ratings. The other two being a show’s ratings from the previous year and advertising spending. It should be noted that prior-year rating accounted for the “lion’s share” of the variability in TV ratings.

SocialGuide CEO Andrew Somosi stated that a correlation between Twitter and TV ratings was expected, but this study “quantifies the strength” of that relationship. Nielsen believes the strong relationship between Twitter and TV ratings is largely because people are consuming media across multiple devices.

In a press release, Nielsen shared that 40 percent of American smartphone and tablet owners log onto a social network when watching television, while 80 percent of those who watch TV use their devices while channel-surfing “several times a month.”

Twitter’s influence is stronger among a younger demographic. An 8.5 percent increase in talk about a TV show on Twitter corresponds to a 1 percent increase in TV ratings for premiere episodes for the 18-34-year-old group. By comparison, it took a 14 percent increase in Twitter volume to correlate to a 1 percent increase for 35-49 year olds.

While these findings aren’t particularly surprising — we’ve seen the power of a good hashtag — it’s helpful to see a tangible metric associated with this activity. It’s likely that marketers will want to ramp up efforts to integrate social, but keep in mind that the correlation between Twitter and TV ratings doesn’t prove causality. In other words, not every TV program should expect the same outcome.

[Via: The Next Web, Image credit: Jason Rogers]