Exclusive: Nielsen study reveals best practices for live social TV measurement

Social measurement as it relates to TV viewing is a tricky proposition. Does social chatter around a show result in higher ratings for that show? Should measurement begin two hours before a show airs, only while it airs, or 24/7? Once a window is chosen, which terms are relevant?

Questions like these have kept measurement companies, advertisers, and brands alike working to establish better methodologies for understanding the conversations around TV.

Nielsen, the TV measurement leader, sought to better understand the role that the linear TV schedule (and associated linear terms) plays in measuring Twitter TV activity.

The study resulted in two key findings:

Twitter activity would be significantly undercounted if linear terms, such as actors’ names and handles, were not used for measurement during live TV.

These same linear terms would bring in a significant amount of irrelevant activity when programs are not airing live.

For the study, Nielsen analyzed 79 English and Spanish broadcast programs. They first looked at what the impact was when linear terms related to the show (as opposed to mentioning the show’s name directly), like an actor’s or character’s name or Twitter handle, were removed from measurement.

What Nielsen found was that nearly 40 per cent of the live conversation surrounding TV would be unrepresented if these terms weren’t included.

Nielsen also found that 94 per cent of the conversation measured by these terms was relevant to the program. So, if people are tweeting about Ty Burrell during a live airing of Modern Family, they’re more likely than not talking about Burrell in relation to Modern Family – and, because it’s on at that exact moment.

If people are talking about Burrell outside of the Modern Family live airing window, they’re more likely than not talking about something other than show. 81 per cent of Twitter TV activity featuring linear terms outside of the live window was found to be not relevant to the program.

For a complete social TV picture, then, it is important to include relevant linear terms when measuring the response to the live airing of a show. But, it is also equally important to not apply these terms outside of a live airing window.

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