Study Shows That Social Media Buzz Drives TV Ratings

In the past year or so, social TV has blown up. People are checking in to their favorite shows, checking show rankings based on social media buzz, and even TV Guide has jumped on the social TV bandwagon. But does social media buzz really drive television ratings? A new study says yes.

In the past year or so, social TV has blown up.  People are checking in to their favorite shows, checking show rankings based on social media buzz, and even TV Guide has jumped on the social TV bandwagon.  But does social media buzz really drive television ratings?  A new study says yes.

The study, from Nielsen’s NM Incite, has found a correlation between the amount of buzz around a TV show in social media and that particular TV show’s ratings.  According to the Nielsen report, the study “found a statistically significant relationship throughout a TV show’s season among all age groups, with the strongest correlation among younger demos (people ages 12-17 and 18-34), and a slightly stronger overall correlation for women compared to men.”

The chart below illustrates the relationship between online buzz and TV ratings throughout a show’s season (premiere, midseason and finale), focusing on those aged 18-34, as this is the most active group of social networkers.  As you can see, as buzz grows, so do TV ratings.

But that’s just the 18-34 year olds.  What about everyone else?  Cory Bergman of Lost Remote writes, in his artcle on the study, “Interestingly, the study found that adults tend to drive the most conversation around TV: 25 to 49 year-olds made up 59% of the people chatting about TV shows (not just Twitter, but blogs and boards, as well).  Add another 24% for people 50 and older!”

Of course, this whole thing begs the old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg?  One may ask if it is the social media buzz that is causing rating to go up, or vice versa.  Perhaps there is a lot of buzz in social media because people are already watching the shows.

However, I would assert that by its very nature social media serves as a discovery engine where people get recommendations from their friends on everything from books to movies to restaurants.  Therefore, it makes sense that as more people talked about a show in social media they would introduce their friends to that show and convert a few of those friends to viewers as well, thus driving ratings up.

In addition to looking at the correlation between buzz and ratings, the study also looked at when TV buzz happens.  Not surprisingly, the most people are talking about TV and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which are also three of the biggest nights on television.

And finally, the study also revealed which things most people were buzzing about when they were buzzing about TV.  Reality show words like winning, judging and voting were among the mix, as were funny, entertaining and of course, the physical attractiveness of television stars.

Are you surprised by the findings of the NM Incite study?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.