How Nielsen Is Using Twitter for Smarter TV Ratings

How Nielsen Is Using Twitter for Smarter TV Ratings
By Jeremy Reeves

In late 2012, Nielsen ratings and Twitter announced the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating,” a new system that brings a serious update to the way ratings for television shows are determined. According to, beginning in fall 2013 the system will use the data from Twitter to complement the existing Nielsen ratings that exist today. It’s a much needed change to an otherwise outdated method which determines how, when and what we watch.

Before the announcement, Nielsen purchased SocialGuide, a company that uses Twitter to study online conversations about TV shows, so it was a move that many saw coming and was very much welcomed. Many TV networks already embed hashtags in the corner of TV episodes to gauge how active viewers are on Twitter and other social media. An episode of “Parks and Recreation,” for example, might carry the hashtag “#RonSwanson” in the bottom left corner. NBC would then track how many Twitter users are tweeting the hashtag to help determine the popularity of the episode, according to Direct TV’s blog.

Nielsen Twitter TV Rating

Nielsen’s new system will take what the networks (and companies like SocialGuide) are doing and move the work in-house. According to Forbes, networks like FOX and CBS, who often play live professional sports, are especially on board with the new process because it gives them a snapshot in real-time of who is watching and talking about the events.”Combining the instant feedback of Twitter with Nielsen ratings will benefit us, program producers, and our advertising partners,” Peter Rice, Fox Networks CEO, told

It’s not just live TV, either. Many viewers are watching recorded content from their DVR too. If that viewer is tweeting about the shows they watch, that data can now be gathered and used to the network’s benefit.

How Advertisers Benefit

Nielsen announced this month that its “Nielsen Brand Effect” survey tool is now available to any ad partners in the U.S., U.K. and Japan, giving advertisers the ability to monitor and utilize the effectiveness of its promoted tweets, according to The Next Web.

Along with the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, networks and advertisers will be able to custom craft Twitter promotion campaigns by studying the data from online conversations gathered by Nielsen. The survey tool lets Twitter followers answer questions that help advertisers customize promoted tweets in the future.

The Next Steps

Nielsen’s new partnership with Twitter is a great step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to incorporate social media with the way we calculate the popularity of a TV show and the effectiveness of advertising. As far as instant feedback goes, Twitter might be the best metric for studying conversations about what’s being watched on TV, but we could see other social networks like Facebook being used in the future.

Jeremy Reeves is a social media maven who writes about the latest trends related to SEO and networking solutions.