Nielsen’s numbers back up Twitter’s second-screen push

The series finale of “Breaking Bad” was a conversation starter for days after it aired—and if you turned to Twitter to analyze the ending, you weren’t alone. According to TV ratings firm Nielsen, the show was the subject of 1.2 million tweets that reached some 9.3 million Twitter users. That’s quite a reach.

Nielsen is starting to look at Twitter data to gauge the social media impact of television shows. The effort was first announced last December, but Nielsen didn’t release its first Twitter TV Ratings report until Monday. The results weren’t that surprising: tweets about TV have increased by 38 percent year-over-year, from 190 million to 263 million. TV events like the “Breaking Bad” finale or controversial shows, like an episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that sparked a Twitter war between Kimmel and Kanye West, cause a wave of social buzz.

Those tweets in turn reach a large audience. Nielsen on its social intelligence platform estimated that tweets reach an audience 50 times larger than the base of authors. If 2,000 people tweeted about “Breaking Bad,” 100,000 people saw those tweets.

Twitter is clearly hoping that big brands will choose to advertise on the network to reach such a large audience. Its Amplify program pushes Promoted Tweets from a given show’s advertisers to users who are tweeting about that show. Those Promoted Tweets have to be compelling enough to click on, because Twitter only gets paid when users engage with ads.

"Breaking Bad" topped Nielsen's first Twitter TV ratings report.

Promoted Tweets vs. TV ads

But it turns out that Twitter buzz doesn’t exactly translate to TV ratings. Reliably popular shows like “The Big Bang Theory” rarely strike it big on Twitter, which indicates that Twitter’s audience is still but a niche of mainstream America.

It’s unlikely that social media ads will ever place traditional advertising efforts, but the two mediums could require separate and complementary strategies.

“It’s exciting that investments are being made to build 360-degree engagement—and drive passion from viewers—around programming,” Steve Hasker, Nielsen’s president of global product leadership, said in a statement. “This holistic measure of how Twitter activity influences TV engagement will bring clarity to the value of those efforts.”

Basically, Twitter now has some numbers to back up its second-screen ad sales. Now that the company is officially going public, it’s going to need those stats to pull in more revenue.

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