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If you watched the Emmy’s over two weeks ago, the bulk of the awards were centered around the most watched shows, including The Big Bang Theory, Breaking Bad and Modern Family.  But if you were measuring the most watched shows based on Tweets, the list would have looked quite different.

Scandal on ABC network, for example, topped the list as the most Tweeted about show last week with 3.7 million unique Twitter users, according to Nielsen’s newly released Twitter TV Ratings.  But as far as the highest rated scripted programThe Big Bang Theory was the most watched among adults 18-49 at 6.6 million viewers.


The newly released Twitter TV ratings, which were jointly developed by Twitter and Nielsen, aim to track how much engagement TV shows are getting on Twitter in order to give advertisers and networks key information for making decisions about programming.

It makes sense that Nielsen would try to bridge the gap between social media and television.  After all, Twitter conversation about live TV in the U.S. has grown dramatically over the past two years.  According to SocialGuide, 19 million unique people in the U.S. composed 263 million Tweets about live TV in Q2 2013 alone, a 24 percent year-over-year increase in authors and a 38 percent increase in Tweet volume.

It also makes sense that Twitter, which is preparing to go public, would want the new metrics to prove its value to advertisers and networks in order to attract more ad dollars to its latest offerings such as its TV Ad Targeting.  The newly developed advertising platform is the company’s latest venture into monetization, allowing companies that run television commercials to also run Twitter-based advertisements of their products in conjunction with their nationally-televised advertisements.

But while Tweets about a show may measure its popularity among the under 30-crowd, some shows just lend themselves to being more Tweeted about than others by virtue of their social factor.  Neil Basu, Research Analyst at Latitude, an audience insights research consultancy, believes that  some shows that are heavily Tweeted about typically have certain characteristics for social engagement, such as voting shows and shows with high drama moments that Basu refers to as “happening moments.”  If you look at the top ten most Tweeted about shows, 50 percent of them are voting shows.

But a show that isn’t garnering a lot of Tweets doesn’t necessarily  make that show any less valuable, Basu added.  “After all, there are 78% of American Internet users not on Twitter yet,” he said.

But the American Internet users that are on Twitter may be all that really counts to advertisers.  According to a recent study by Pew, of the 18 percent of Internet users that are on Twitter, 30 percent are between the ages of 18 and 29.  That demographic just happens to be the most valuable to advertisers and networks and the most notoriously difficult to retain, making the Nielsen TV Twitter ratings a valuable tool for brands and advertisers.

The Twitter TV data is also win for die-hard viewers of lesser watched shows because more Tweets mean higher Twitter TV rankings.  In the end, a higher Twitter TV ranking could help boost shows that may have a smaller but more engaged audience, such as The Vampire Diaries, which ranked number 6 on the Twitter TV rankings but didn’t crack the top 20 of total viewership.  These loyal TV followers may also help convince TV networks to spend more ad dollars reaching this key demographic and could help keep their favorite show from getting the ax.

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