Twitter and TV: good for each other

Two recent studies explore the links between TV viewing and social media activities.

Recent research suggests that almost half of smartphone and tablet owners are second screening while they are watching TV and that many of them are discussing the programmes they are watching via Twitter.

Following on from those findings, Nielsen has conducted research to investigate the relationship between TV and Twitter to discover whether Twitter is driving additional viewers to TV programmes.

To do this, researchers analysed tweets and minute-by-minute ratings for 221 broadcast programmes and discovered a two-way causal influence  - spikes in viewing figures can increase the volume of tweets; a spike in tweets can increase viewing figures.


  • The volume of tweets caused significant changes in live TV ratings for 29% of the programmes
  • TV ratings for 48% of the programmes impacted the volume of tweets
  • Viewing figures for 'Competitive reality' programmes were the most influenced by Twitter conversations (44%)
  • Viewing figures for comedy (37%) and drama (37%) genre programmes were also 'significantly increased' by Twitter conversations

A separate survey (Viacom) explores the use of social media as a discovery medium for TV programmes and what motivates people to engage in TV-related social media activities.   Researchers tracked 24 social media activities and found three broad types of motivations to share – Communal; Functional; and Playful.

Information gathering

The most popular motivating factor for TV-related social media use was ‘functional’ information gathering. 

  • Searching for latest news about the show (45% of respondents)
  • Schedule information (44%)
  • Accessing further information on programmes (37%)

Younger viewers in particular (aged 13-17) are functional users, searching for schedule information and videos.

Connecting and self-branding

'Communal' factors are the second most frequent reason for engaging in TV-related social media activity.

  • 36% use social media to recommend TV shows to other people
  • 34% said they were using social media to ‘brand’ themselves by association to a programme
  • 28% wanted to connect to a show or to other fans
  • Those  who have 'liked' or 'followed' a TV programme are 75% more likely to watch the show

Social TV games

  • More than 30% play TV show-related social media games every week
    • 75% of them play even when the TV programme’s season is over
  • Half of respondents say they have watched a show more frequently because of a social media game
  • 22% take quizzes about the programme

The Nielsen research is available here.  The Viacom research here.

Image courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr.