The one thing Twitter provides its users that no other social network has been able to touch is instant connection. It takes barely any effort at all to send a tweet, telling the world and all your followers exactly how you feel about something. Football games, live news events, local festivals and anything else that can be experienced in the moment can be communicated on Twitter for everyone to share.
Now a new study by the Neilson Group and a company called SocialGuide proves that there is a direct, quantifiable correlation between the amount of chatter about a show on Twitter and the ratings that show receives across the non-Twitterverse.
It may not be the most noble of statistics. Certainly, many of us in the Twitter community would rather hear about our impact on politics or news. Our triumphs as a media community during natural disasters. Maybe even an Abby Wambach story. We might prefer less How I Met Your Mother and more Tahrir Square. But these things are soft targets, statistics are hard to come by, and the message Neilson discovered was straight-forward.
How well does Twitter align with TV program ratings? The recent Nielsen/SocialGuide study confirmed that increases in Twitter volume correlate to increases in TV ratings for varying age groups, revealing a stronger correlation for younger audiences. Specifically, the study found that for 18-34 year olds, an 8.5% increase in Twitter volume corresponds to a 1% increase in TV ratings for premiere episodes, and a 4.2% increase in Twitter volume corresponds with a 1% increase in ratings for midseason episodes. Additionally, a 14.0% increase in Twitter volume is associated with a 1% increase in TV program ratings for 35-49 year olds, reflecting a stronger relationship between Twitter and TV for younger audiences.
The report goes on to say that midseason ratings are even more closely reflected in Twitter chatter, which seems to suggest that if you’re still talking about it on Twitter, you must like it.
Is Twitter determinative of ratings? Or reflective of a wider interest? Does the fact that you’re talking about The Big Bang Theory on Twitter mean that you, as an influential member of your meat-based community, are turning your friends on to it? Or does the fact that you and your friends watch TBBT mean that you’re going to end up talking about it on Twitter more?
Either way, consider the Second Screen life to have officially begun in the minds of every television executive and entertainer out there. Look out Twitterinos: shit just got real.