In the wake of Twitter’s I.P.O filing, Nielsen, the industry standard for TV ratings measurement, announced Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, the “the first-ever measure of the total activity and reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter.” The timing of this announcement is no coincidence. Nor is yesterday’s announcement of a first of its kind Twitter/Comcast partnership.SocialTV Social TV tumblr getglue trendrr nielsen twitter facebook

According to the New York Times, the prospectus for Twitter’s I.P.O mentioned television 42 times. It’s safe to say that after testing the waters the past couple years, Twitter is jumping right into the shark tank with the television networks, each hungry for more and more of the chum that is advertising dollars.

As an advertiser, it’s great to have access to more and more data about consumers, but you always have to ask the same question “When do I feed the sharks and what do I get in return?”

In the majority of reporting on this news, there is a significant point made: social TV ratings do not equal broadcast ratings. The Wall Street Journal included this informative visual in their article:

The Wall Street Journal


This is not new information. In fact, to take one step back, Nielsen is not the first to report social TV ratings; they are just the most established company to do so. Approximately five years ago, social TV measurement companies like Bluefin Labs, Trendrr, GetGlue, and SocialGuide started appearing. (Twitter has since acquired the first two, and Nielsen acquired the last one.) During that time, I was working on the digital side of the television industry, so I have personal experience with the data that was generated.

For the entire run of TBS’s Lopez Tonight (2009 – 2011), I was the New Media Producer. I am proud to see that the show was one of the most talked about cable shows on social media. At many points, we also rated higher in the social space then the kings of late night, Dave and Jay. Yet, in August of 2011, our show was canceled due to low broadcast ratings.



That’s why social TV ratings don’t matter. Here’s why they do:

Before social media, the best way networks discovered their die-hard fans was when they threatened cancellation of the show. Their mailrooms would then be filled with peanuts, Tabasco sauce, and eye drops, among other things. With the advent of social TV ratings, networks and advertisers now have access to the people who are most vocal about a show.

These are the fans that will participate in your sponsored sweepstakes to win a set visit, that will RT and show content branded with your product on their social channels, buy the branded apps, and engage with the show’s website that happens to be skinned with your messaging.

It was a month too late for Lopez Tonight, but in September of 2011, sales executives at TBS made this their major selling point for Conan. A tactic the CW network was already using for its youth-oriented lineup.

So, yes, social TV ratings do matter to advertisers. Like all big data, we must dig deep though, to find that killer insight that will match your messaging with the right audience in the right place.

I am very interested to see how social TV data lines up with streaming views but could not find that data. If you have that, please share.

Also, I would love to see a Freaks and Geeks reunion movie.  Would you? If not, what canceled show would you like to see return? Tell me in the comments.