Nielsen Connects Twitter Upticks to Ratings Increases

Competitive reality television programs benefit the most from Twitter buzz.


Social media platform Twitter is expanding into the television industry.

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Anecdotally, shows like "Scandal," "The Bachelor" and "Sharknado" have credited social media buzz for their rise in popularity. But do the numbers back up the claims?

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A new study by media research firm Nielsen suggests that they do, pulling hard data conclusions from a chicken-or-the-egg scenario.

The growth of social media serving as a venue for viewers to discuss the shows they watch is not a new revelation. What hasn't been clear is whether an uptick in social media buzz can drive a show's increased viewership or whether it just reflects that more people are watching a show. Do people turn on a TV show because they see it all over Twitter? Or is a show all over Twitter because more people have already turned it on?

According to the Nielsen study, the answer is both, with 48 percent of instances showing that increased viewership caused increased Twitter traffic, and 29 percent of instances showing increased Twitter mentions caused increased viewership. Nielsen used "time series analysis" of "minute-to-minute trends" to determine if a spike in tweets caused increased tune-in or vice versa. Nielsen also hinted that the study supported changes to how the firm will measure TV ratings in the future.

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In their release, Nielsen further broke down the instances of Tweets causing ratings spikes by genre. It found that ratings of competitive reality shows and comedies benefited the most, with 44 percent and 37 percent of the shows' respective episodes seeing Twitter influence their ratings. Drama benefited the least, with only 18 percent of episodes showing an influence in ratings.

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