The TV Revolution Will Be Tweeted

Twitter seeks to grow the relationship between the TV screen and the 'second screen.'

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Social media platform Twitter is expanding into the television industry.

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DeBevoise also stressed live events being a key strength in CBS's social media strategy. Its broadcasts of the Super Bowl and the Grammys are among the most tweeted-about televised events ever (the 2013 Super Bowl held the tweet-per-minute record – 268,000 tweets per minute during Beyonce and Destiny Child's halftime show – until Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards).

Also reflective of the Twitter era is the decision to broadcast a performance-centric live event, such as the Grammys, on a taped delay for later time zones, with the hope that East Coast social media buzz about big moments will drive West Coast audiences to turn on their TVs for their primetime showing.

Twitter has no doubt become a serious consideration in television marketing strategy. "We certainly have experimented," DeBevoise says of buying Twitter ad space. Another network source said social media can make up as much as half of a show's publicity campaign. However, the next step in Twitter and television's growing relationship is connecting that shared audience to advertisers.

"How do we bring in the sponsors who help bring those shows on the air? How do we help them to engage the audiences in a way they want to be engaged?" Wertheimer says.

[MORE: Department of Homeland Security Uses Twitter For Monitoring Citizens ]

Through its TV ad targeting program, announced in May, Twitter can help advertisers connect what viewers are seeing on TV with what they are seeing on Twitter. You might see a company's ad on television, and if you're tweeting about the show, the company can send a promoted tweet for the same product to your Twitter feed – a combination that Twitter says delivers 95 percent stronger message association and 58 percent higher purchase intent than just seeing the TV ad by itself.

Another product launched in May, Amplify takes this ad targeting one step further by taking TV programming and its advertisements, and repackaging it as photos, videos and other media in the viewer's Twitter feed. Twitter first started experimenting with Amplify with sports programming – with Tweets airing instant replays of big plays, ads often included. It has since expanded into the entertainment space; MTV and its sponsors used Amplify for the VMAs. Twitter has announced other partnerships with conventional channels such as A&E, FOX and BBC America as well as nontraditional content producers, including Vice, Vevo and MLB.com.

"It's about a public communication forum and it's about being interactive – giving fans a way to feel like they can be a part of the conversation," says Glenn Otis Brown, Twitter's director of promoted content and sponsorships and Amplify's chief.

Twitter also announced in December a partnership with Nielsen, a well trusted viewership metrics company, to further cement Twitter's relationship with the television industry and its advertisers. Twitter and Nielsen are working on a system, the "Nielsen Twitter TV Rating," that measures a show's social media engagement to complement Nielsen's viewership ratings.

"I think it's good for the industry generally to have metrics that we can all agree upon," Wertheimer says. However, the tie between Twitter and ratings are being taken with a grain of salt.

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"I think everybody knows that [Twitter] now is in the promotional DNA for all things television, but I think the cause and effect relationship is still very much being evaluated," one network executive says, later adding, "The actual number of people watching the show is far more important to us and our advertisers than just the people tweeting about it."

In part, it's a chicken and egg problem: Is a show being tweeted about a lot because a lot of people are already watching, or is all that social media buzz in fact driving bigger audiences?

A recent report by Twitter and Nielsen concluded that at least some of the time, it's the latter, with 29 percent of instances studied showing that Twitter activity caused an uptick in viewership. Nielsen said the report's findings will help it shape its future metrics on Twitter and television. However, even without a ratings system, TV execs are taking the Twittersphere seriously.