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An interview with Nielsen Social President Sean Casey about the new Social Content Ratings

At the beginning of August, Nielsen launched Social Content Ratings – a new social TV measurement index that includes both Facebook and Twitter data about individual TV shows. The prior iteration had only included the Twitter conversation; future iterations will include data from the Facebook-owned Instagram and other social platforms.

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The metrics being provided are in line with the social measurement guidelines created by the Media Rating Council (MRC), separating “authored” content (posts and tweets) and “engagement” (comments and retweets). And these metrics, while fun to look at, is not trivial and does not just lend itself well to press releases (example: X show tops Nielsen Social Ratings on Wednesday night!). It is being used agencies, networks, and brands to make decisions about where to focus their social efforts and spend.

One feature that enables agencies, networks, and brands to make these decisions is Nielsen specifically measuring the engagement around owned media, or, content posted by a show’s official account and its cast. Nielsen is currently tracking more than 44,000 owned Twitter accounts, and it can provide clients with information that helps determine how owned content contributes to overall program engagement.

For more on the new Social Content Ratings and the impact of adding Facebook data, we caught up with Nielsen Social president, Sean Casey.

Found Remote: Why was it finally time to include Facebook in what is now the Social Content Ratings?

Sean Casey: Understanding the response to programming on Facebook is of paramount importance to TV networks, agencies, and advertisers as they continue to invest in their cross-platform strategies. Social Content Ratings is part of Nielsen’s ongoing effort to evolve our measurement to reflect the total audience across screens and platforms. We are committed to continually adapting our products to meet changing consumer behaviors and the needs of the industry. With the announcement of Social Content Ratings, and in adherence to the recently announced Media Ratings Council (MRC) Guidelines, Nielsen Social measurement is evolving to provide a comprehensive, standardized picture of how consumers are responding to program content through social media, wherever and whenever. Social Content Ratings will not be limited in the future to measurement of only Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

FR: Since launching, how has the addition of Facebook changed the mix of shows represented?

Casey: Programs that have high levels of social engagement have audiences on both Facebook and Twitter. The importance is around trusting the measurement to make actionable decisions. As Nielsen Social, we measure program-related social media activity for the most popular TV networks and over-the-top streaming providers both for linear air times and on a 24/7 basis. We will continue to do so with Social Content Ratings as we expand our measurement to become the most comprehensive measure of program-related social media activity across both Facebook and Twitter.

FR: Social Content Ratings will enable brands and advertisers to measure the impact of owned media strategies. Why is this data so important?

Casey: We've seen through past research that social TV can influence key business factors, such as viewership, loyalty, and engagement. In order to maximize the influence of social TV though, networks and agencies must understand it fully. That includes the activity being generated by their TV audiences—referred to “organic content” and the effectiveness of the social content they themselves are pushing out to audiences—or “owned content”.

Today, networks can understand how effective their owned content is in generating audience engagement on a piece by piece, or account by account, basis. They know how many engagements their content on each social media platform is generating, and they can make certain content decisions with that information. They are unable to analyze this engagement at scale though, across TV. And they cannot analyze how owned talent accounts are contributing to overall social engagement for a program.

With Social Content Ratings, we will be introducing owned effectiveness measurement at scale across television, so that for any given program or episode, networks can understand how their owned accounts—including talent, program, and network accounts—are contributing to the total program activity and which are most effective at driving audience engagement.

FR: Will the new Social Content Ratings get us any close to tying TV ratings increases and decreases to social activity?

Casey: With the addition of measurement of Facebook the universe of people being social around programming has significantly expanded. Social Content Ratings is the most comprehensive measurement of TV-related social media activity available to date. This will bring a new dimension to the industry's understanding of social TV activity in three ways.

First, it will include measurement across Social platforms. Second, it will adhere to the new Social Media Measurement Guidelines introduced last fall by the MRC. This consistent framework recommends that social content should be analyzed in terms of owned and organic measurement across authorship, engagement and “reach”, with demos. So, it has introduced a new set of metrics that can be analyzed for linear airings and on a 24/7 basis. Finally, Nielsen receives aggregated anonymous data directly from Facebook and accesses full-fidelity APIs from Twitter in order to measure total social TV activity across social networks while respecting privacy. So, the measurement will include both public social media activity and activity taking place between friends, with the exclusion of Facebook Messenger data, which is not available to Nielsen.

We are excited about the opportunity that this new expanded data set will introduce to the industry, helping networks and agencies alike better understand the relationship between social media activity and other key TV audience measures, such as how audiences tune-in, catch-up and stay engaged with TV programming.

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Adam Flomenbaum

Adam Flomenbaum is a global leading expert on social television, over the top platforms, TV Everywhere, and content marketing. Flomenbaum has written for Dime Magazine and Brooklyn’s Finest (ESPN TrueHoop). In January 2014, he began contributing to LostRemote, a leading social TV blog, and was named editor in October 2014.

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