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Nielsen decided to study what, if any, relation exists between social media and TV ratings – specifically between Twitter and television viewership – asking whether tweets spur followers to watch a particular program, or if viewers tweet the name of the program they’re watching at the moment.

The study revealed that it works both ways – television ratings increase the more programs are tweeted about on the social network, and Twitter activity climbs when TV ratings for a popular program spike. Nielsen found that 80 percent of smartphone users in the United States use their mobiles while watching television, while 40 percent are on social networks.

The programs with the most impact on social networks by category are competitive reality shows with 44 percent of tweets per episode, comedies with 37 percent, and sports with 28 percent, while TV dramas are the least affected with 18 percent of tweets per episode.

“Using time series analysis, we saw a statistically significant causal influence indicating that a spike in TV ratings can increase the volume of Tweets, and, conversely, a spike in Tweets can increase tune-in” said Paul Donato, chief research officer at Nielsen.

For his part, Mike Hess, executive VP of media analytics at Nielsen, noted that “the TV industry is dynamic and it was important for us to analyze multiple variables to truly understand Twitter’s impact on TV ratings. While our study doesn’t prove causality, the correlation we uncovered is significant and we will continue our research to deepen the industry’s understanding of this relationship”.

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