Twitter TV ratings explained: What they measure, what they don't and what it means

twitter-tv-ratings-explained.jpgThe release of the first-ever Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings on Oct. 7 caused both excitement and confusion among TV fans in the Twitterverse. Will social-media users finally have their voices heard with regard to their favorite shows? Will the new ratings affect a show's status? Do Twitter ratings count toward the show's on-air numbers?

Yes, maybe and no. Here's what the Twitter ratings do and don't do.

What they measure: "Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings include both activity and reach metrics for TV-related conversation on Twitter," Deirdre Bannon, VP of product for SocialGuide (which teamed up with Nielsen to collect the Twitter ratings data), tells Zap2it. In other words, they measure bpth the volume of tweets about a given show and the number of Twitter users who see those tweets. Measurement happens three hours before, during and three hours after a show airs. Original tweets and retweets carry the same weight.

The unique audience on Twitter for a given show is "de-duplicated," Bannon says, meaning that if you see tweets from 10 people about "The Walking Dead" -- which tops last week's rankings (see below) -- you're only counted as one member of the show's Twitter audience.

What they don't measure: A couple of things. For starters, Twitter ratings are not added to a show's on-air rating -- they're a "complement" to Nielsen's traditional ratings, not an addition to them, Bannon says.

Twitter ratings also don't measure the number of people on Twitter who are watching Show X, only the extent of its reach within the Twitterverse. As Bannon puts it, "impressions are recorded each time a tweet about a TV show reaches a Twitter user, regardless of whether that user is watching that TV show."

What's the point? We asked Bannon how she expects networks and cable channels will use Twitter ratings. "Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings enable TV networks to measure the full Twitter engagement surrounding their programs including both Twitter TV-specific activity (Authors, Tweets) and reach (Unique Audience, Impressions)," she says. "Having total activity and reach metrics for TV-related conversation on Twitter is valuable in several ways. With NTTR, networks can integrate total Twitter engagement into ad sales strategies. With insight into who was actually reached, networks can also identify true influencers -- the people whose tweets are actually read by large audiences -- and measure effectiveness of Twitter TV engagement strategies. Finally, networks can use Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings to better understand the relationship between Twitter and tune-in."

Here are the Top 10 shows in the Twitter ratings for Oct. 7-13:

1. "The Walking Dead," 7.49 million users reached by 1.17 million tweets
2. "Glee," 5.17 million from 822,100 tweets
3. "American Horror Story: Coven," 4.62 million from 435,600 tweets
4. "Catfish," 3.54 million from 743,600 tweets
5. "The X Factor" (Wednesday), 2.39 million from 422,900 tweets
6. "Scandal," 2.13 million from 327,500 tweets
7. "The Voice" (Monday), 1.97 million from 115,000 tweets
8. "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (Wednesday), 1.94 million from 57,100 tweets
9. "The X Factor" (Thursday), 1.86 million from 191,000 tweets
10. "Dancing With the Stars," 1.7 million from 43,500 tweets

Note: An earlier version of this post contained incorrect rankings based on information from the source. The correct rankings are reflected above.
Photo/Video credit: Zap2it
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