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Why the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings System is Important for All Online Marketers

Nielsen Twitter RatingsThe Fall 2013 TV is now well underway. About half of all the new shows have premiered and we already had our first cancellation. Lucky 7 – not so lucky after all. It was canceled because the Nielsen ratings system claimed no one was watching.

In TV, ratings are everything but starting tonight, network executives will have an additional data point to consider when they determine the success or failure of a show – the Twitter Ratings.

The Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings is the first widely accepted system that measures the total activity and reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter. In addition to counting up the number of people who Tweet about a show (‘authors’), the system will also measure the much larger “audience” of people who actually view those Tweets.

Nielsen’s early polling reveals that the Twitter audience for a given show is, on average, 50 times larger than the authors who are Tweeting.

For example, if 2,000 people are tweeting about a program, 100,000 people are seeing those Tweets.

This multiplier varies across programs, with early data showing the ratio of the audience to the authors generally decreases (meaning the multiplier is smaller) as the number of authors for an episode increases. This is due to the increasing overlap of followers for shows with a large number of Twitter authors, where a single follower is increasingly likely to follow multiple authors.

Got that?

Looking at last week’s graphic (they ran the numbers even though today is the official launch day), a show on MTV actually tops the big shows on NBC.

For TV shows on small networks like The CW, the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating system gives them a shot at competing with the big boys. They can’t pull the same audience numbers as a prime time series on ABC but a high Twitter rating means they have a highly engaged audience. A highly engaged audience is an audience that pays attention to commercials and buys products associated with the show they’re buzzing about.

Now, I’d guess that 80% of the people who are reading this blog don’t work in TV or advertise on TV – so why is this important to you? I’ll tell you. What Nielsen is about to do is offer authoritative proof that social media is a valuable marketing tool. It’s like when the lawyer in Miracle on 34th Street produced the letters from the post office as authoritative proof that Kris Kringle was Santa Claus. Sure, people have been saying Twitter is a valuable advertising asset for a long time – but now Nielsen is saying it and their opinion carries a lot of weight.

When the studios catch on, they’ll start running more campaigns that include Twitter.  In turn, more TV fans will sign on and use Twitter on a regular basis. Every one of those new users is a potential customer for every marketer who promotes their brand on Twitter.

Right now, studio execs are skeptical about the Nielsen numbers and the power of Twitter but you can bet they’ll be putting out press releases if their shows turn up in the Top Ten.

Can you guess which show will be number one on tonight’s Nielsen Twitter TV list? I’m hoping it’s my new favorite Sleepy Hollow. Find out tomorrow at SocialGuide.com.