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Does social media drive TV ratings? Yes, finds study

It’s one of the most-asked questions around social TV: social media is great, but does it drive ratings? Yes, according to a new study by NM Incite, a Nielsen company, which breaks down the numbers by audience demographic and a show’s seasonal cycle (premiere, midseason or finale).

The study found a “statistically significant” connection (proof!) between social buzz and TV ratings 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.” This chart drills down on the 18-34 year-old demographic:

For example, four weeks prior to a show’s premiere, a nine percent increase in buzz volume correlates to a one percent increase in ratings. “At the genre level, 18-34 year-old females showed significant buzz-to-ratings relationships for reality programs (competition and non-competition), comedies and dramas, while men of the same age saw strong correlations for competition realities and dramas,” the study found.

Interestingly, the study found that adults tend to drive the most conversation around TV: 25 to 49 year-olds make 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!

Meanwhile, NM Incite also looked at when people tended to talk about TV the most. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday showed the largest spikes, which roughly match the biggest nights on television. During the year, premieres (September and January) and finales (April and May) drive the most conversation.

As for topics, you can see the influence of reality shows with “winning” (not #winning), “voting” and “judging.” The other topics shouldn’t really surprise you (at least not me.) The data was presented at Nielen’s “TV Viewers Get Social” presentation at AdWeek last week.

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