Rating to measure reach of TV-centic tweets

Nielsen and Twitter are joining forces to establish a new measurement intended to be a companion metric to TV ratings, the companies announced Monday.

Launching in time for the start of the 2013-14 TV season next fall, the Nielsen Twitter TV rating will gauge the activity on the social-media platform relevant to specific TV shows and commercials. But unlike the cottage industry of measurement firms out there currently offering similar indices, this multiyear exclusive deal with Nielsen will unlock a private portion of Twitter’s otherwise publicly available data that reveals how many people see a given a tweet as opposed to the usual metrics regarding the volume of tweets or those tweeting.

“The key to this deal and, most importantly, the offer to clients that they won’t get anywhere else is a rich, validated measure of the reach of tweets,” said Steve Hasker, president of global media products and advertiser solutions at Nielsen. “Nobody provides an accurate measure of the actual audience to the tweets as well.”

The new metric is intended to provide advertisers an additional dimension for valuing the content in which they pay to embed marketing messages for both commercials and product integration. Programmers will also be able to use the data to help evaluate the quality of their creative given that social media can offer a granular reflection of how effectively compelling their content is.

David Poltrack, chief research officer at CBS Corp., characterized the deal as experimental but said it carries the potential to allow a network to offer an integrated ad buy that could enable a marketer to purchase a 30-second commercial on air along with a companion experience on Twitter. Providing such a value-add to viewers and advertisers could also reinforce the value of the live window, where most ad revenue is made.

“It does appear that to the extent you can create an engaging interactive experience during a program, you are incentivizing people to watch it live instead of during delayed like VOD or DVR,” he said.

Of course, it remains to be seen how much, if any, additional value a TV show will garner in advertising revenue from a Nielsen-approved, Twitter-derived data point that attempts to tie an easily digestible metric to the amorphous but important notion of viewer engagement. Even if you buy that Twitter is capable of accurately estimating the amount of exposure a tweet has and that said tweet is in fact relevant to a program being watched, there is the question of whether an accurately tracked program-specific tweet represents a level of immersion with a show or ad that is more meaningful than just being reflected in a viewer’s retinas for a millisecond.

And is someone who tweets more likely to make a transaction with an advertised product or prompt someone else to make a transaction?

Nielsen is betting on the value of the new metric; it’s already invested in the social measurement space via its acquisition last month of SocialGuide, which already tracks Twitter activity for TV programming but heretofore without the licensed data regarding the audience per tweet.

While the Nielsen Twitter TV rating will be provided to clients along with overnight TV data beginning in the fall, it will evolve to real-time delivery. While the measurement will entail a broad set of data points that encompass social activity before, during and after a given program, it will also be boiled down to a single number that will be made publicly available in a top-10 format giving a day-to-day sense of the top shows on Twitter.

Hasker didn’t rule out the possibility that other leading social-media platforms including Facebook could eventually be incorporated into similar data partnerships. Facebook already collaborates with Nielsen on online cross-platform campaign ratings.

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