Twitter activity not related with higher TV viewing rates © Evelien D’heer

The top 10 trending Twitter hashtags in Flanders all referred to local TV shows. This figure suggests that Twitter performs an important role as second screen. When watching TV, people have their smartphone or tablet within reach to comment on TV shows. The 2014 iMinds digiMeter indicated that a quarter of all Flemish people regularly shares his/her opinion about the program being watched. Twitter activity re-presents an unprecedented source for program makers and broadcasters who benefit from encouraging Twitter activity by displaying program hashtags.

But what about the relationship between Twitter activity and viewing rates? Does in-creased Twitter activity lead to higher ratings, or is it rather the other way around? Or is there no link at all? Our study compared Twitter traffic (# hashtags) with official CIM TV ratings and Twitter viewing ratesconcluded there is no relationship between the number of tweets and number of viewers. In total, over twenty programs of various genres were inclu-ded in the analysis. But differences were found between different program genres.

Comedy shows and current affairs programs generate considerable Twitter activity though they are less popular in terms of ratings. Their Twitter traction suggests social media buzz does not require high ratings. These programs attract rather small audien-ces but have niche popularity. For low rating shows, analysis of Twitter traffic may provide new insights as these viewers are slightly underrepresented in tra-ditional rating figures.

News programs show a strikingly different pattern. Highly ranked in the rating lists, but these programmes generate low Twitter activity. The fact that news programs hardly create Twitter interaction does not imply viewers are not engaged with them. Re-search shows people tend to stick to news programs as a daily ritual and often con-sider them the start of evening viewing.

Finally, TV shows  such as The Voice successfully bet on social media and manage to engage with a significant part of the audience using social media. Hence, a sophisticated social media strategy seems to pay off. Twitter gives a particular view on what the audience thinks, likes and dislikes. Though a social media strategy remains a challenge for most programs, Twitter activity analysis combined with ratings provides detailed insights into transforming viewing patterns, which could be used to effectively implement interactive strategies, insert targeted advertising, refine pro-gramming schedules and so much more.

© Evelien D’heer

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