Nielson Study on Social Media Reveals Propensity to Watch and Tweet

By Peter Bernstein December 03, 2012

The Nielson company is out with its, “State of Social Media Report 2012,” and to say the least it is illuminating. And, while the report is full of intriguing insights,  such as how social media is transforming the way people around the world make more informed purchases — using “E”verything from recommendations by friends, to reviews and doing further research on products, services, promotions and loyalty incentives — along with the growth of time spent using social media on mobile devices, possibly the most interesting finding was the growing importance of what they call “Social TV.” 

As of June 2012, Nielson found that:

  • 33 percent of Twitter users had actively tweeted about TV-related content
  • 44 percent of U.S. tablet owners and 38 percent of U.S. smartphone owners use their devices daily to access social media while watching TV
  • This compares to 50 percent who do so in Latin America and 60 percent in Middle East Africa

In short, the TV experience as a result of social media is being revolutionized as we all become more engaged, share our reactions to what we are watching, and use the dual screens to become more transactional. And, the trend is growing.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that Apple and Google are so focused on getting a major foothold on our eyeballs via tight integration with the TV?

No more couch potatoes

As a teaser for readers, here is a look at Nielson’s U.S. take on Social TV.

Source: State of Social Media Report 2012

In a related article on the subject from Yahoo, Deirdre Bannon, vice president of social media at Nielsen stated, "Twitter has become the second screen experience for television." It was also noted anecdotally that social networking is becoming so pervasive that the study found nearly a third of people aged 18-to-24 reported using the sites while in the bathroom.

In addition, it was highlighted that the percentage hasn't changed much from last year. In fact, it is down from 40 percent of smartphone owners, which Nielsen explains by saying the difference is that far more people own these devices and use them longer. It is, for example, estimated that Americans spent 157.5 billion minutes on mobile devices in July 2012, nearly doubling the 81.8 billion the same month a year earlier.

"There are big and interesting implications," Bannon said. "I think both television networks and advertisers are onto it."

The U.S. media survey is based on a representative sample of 1,998 adults in Nielsen's regular TV ratings panel, conducted online between July 19 and Aug. 8. Nielsen's global survey involved more than 28,000 people in 51 countries and was taken between March 23 and April 12, 2011.

The water cooler re-invented?

Before the Internet, and before the proliferation of cable TV for that matter, the allure to advertisers of television was based on what was known as “the water cooler effect.” This refers to the impact a highly rated show had, along with ads (think the Super Bowl) for stimulating office conversations the next day. The explosion of options for how we use our discretionary time took the water out of the tank, except for real-time events like sports and certain other mass audience live entertainment. Social media, however, brings the water cooler effect back into play in a big way, especially because the water cooler is now global and the impact is immediate. 

How advertisers digest all of this remains to be seen. All of this tweeting is compelling if people are simultaneously viewing something, and is useful for making that happen. However, Neilson is also tracking the fact that more and more of our viewing is time shifted. We watch what we watch increasingly when it is convenient and not when it is broadcast. Throw in the growing amount of time spent on gaming and streamed video from NetFlix and YouTube, and divining how best to exploit the love affair with Twitter becomes a bit complex. After all, the latter are using the big screen as well.

All of that said, content producers for television certainly must pay and are paying attention. As customer engagement with media of all types becomes more intimate, how to exploit the fact that it is also now food for the social media beast is likely both unintended as well as intended consequences that are bound to be profound.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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