How Does Nielsen Accurately Provide Social TV Measurement?

Only 47 percent of tweets related to live primetime series during the past season contained official program hashtags, so how does Nielsen accurately provide social TV measurement?

Only 47 percent of tweets related to live primetime television series during the past season contained official program hashtags, and that number dropped to 26 percent for non-live activity on Twitter, so how does Nielsen accurately provide social TV measurement?

Nielsen also found that 81 percent of social TV engagement (retweets, replies and quotes) on Twitter is with organic tweets sent by the audience, while 19 percent is with content posted by network accounts via network, program and talent accounts.

However, in terms of engagement per tweet, the network-owned tweets drew 70 engagements apiece, compared with just eight for the organic tweets.

The measurement company said it tracks Twitter activity in the U.S. related to TV programs on English-language and Spanish-language broadcast and cable networks, starting three hours before airtime and extending to three hours after airtime, as well as on a 24-hour-per-day, seven-day-per-week basis.

Nielsen offered further detailed insights into its methodology Monday, starting with how it goes beyond the hashtag:

Developing a comprehensive classifier set of keywords, phrases, names, hashtags and accounts that people could mention while posting about a particular program is one of the keys to capturing total social TV activity. Audience members will sometimes use “official hashtags” or mention a show’s verified program handle, but they don’t always do so.

In fact, the study found that only 47 percent of tweets sent about primetime series programming during the 2015-16 broadcast TV season mentioned an official program hashtag. Consider it this way: The industry would miss more than one-half of all program conversation on Twitter if measurement was dependent on official program hashtags alone. And measurement doesn’t get much more comprehensive by adding official program Twitter handles. The interactive chart below demonstrates how much activity is measurable by various types of program terms and beyond.

The measurement company also described how this pattern differs by genre:

Out of all tweets related to primetime reality series, just 34 percent included an official program hashtag. For comedies and dramas, the share of activity was slightly higher, at 44 percent and 57 percent, respectively. And when programs aren’t airing, official hashtags play an even smaller role. Notably, only a mere 26 percent of non-live activity mentions program hashtags.

On the disparity between engagement with tweets from network-owned accounts and organic tweets from viewers, Nielsen wrote:

Networks have a unique opportunity with owned properties to create quality content, post it at the right time and promote it strategically to drive engagement. Through analysis of engagement with owned tweets, networks can understand how effective their owned posts are at driving different types of engagement compared with averages across new episodes.

Finally, Nielsen provided the following takeaways from its analysis:

First, capturing the total social conversation around TV programming requires tracking more than just official program handles and hashtags. In order to provide comprehensive social TV measurement, it’s imperative to consider a wider set of classifiers, like character names and organic program hashtags. Limited classifier sets not only result in underreporting of total program activity, but may also affect program rankings.

Second, understanding engagement with both organic activity and owned accounts is important for programmers seeking to fully understand program activity. While organic activity drives the lion’s share of engagement, there is significantly more engagement per owned tweet, providing networks with a clear opportunity to drive this portion of social buzz through strong content and optimized timing of posts.

Readers: How did Nielsen’s findings match up with your activity on Twitter while viewing TV shows?

Image on homepage courtesy of Shutterstock. David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.