The Great Debate: Is Twitter Good for TV Marketing?

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

Christopher Penler /

As much as we like to promote research-based marketing tactics here at Web Marketing Pros, there are times when research doesn’t give marketers a clear picture of what to do. It’s especially challenging when two studies from the same period have differing opinions. This is the situation for marketers who have been keeping up with research on Twitter and television marketing. In the past two months, two studies have been released with very different opinions on the effectiveness of this marketing tactic. In this article, we will showcase both studies and try to find an answer to this great debate: Is Twitter useful for TV marketing?

So we can end with the positive, let’s start with a new study from Strategy Analytics that suggests Twitter isn’t that important for television marketing. The study was based on surveys from 6,000 individuals around the world. It made several conclusions, but the one that caught the most attention was the assertion that “only ‎18 percent of people with Internet access follow TV shows on Twitter while they watch them.” Specifically, the study reported that 30 percent of internet users  are “multi-screeners” and of these, 45 percent are “Moderate multi-screeners”. Moderate multi-screeners view television on computers, tablets or smartphones and they’re extremely likely to phone/text about a show. However, only 1 percent of them use Twitter to follow a show.

“There’s been a lot of hype about how Twitter is changing TV viewing, but in reality, only two types of people are remotely engaged with ‘Twitter + TV,’ ” said David Mercer in a quote to Hollywood Reporter. “Consequently, strategies heavily focused on this would be a big waste, as it’s irrelevant to over 80 percent of TV viewers.”

Despite such strong words, marketers shouldn’t be too quick to pull the plug on using Twitter to market TV programs or the products advertised during the shows. The problem is that this new study goes against a lot of previous research that shows a strong connection between Twitter and television viewers, such as the research mentioned in the previous article on social media and movies. In fact, this new research is contrary to very recent data from Nielsen.

Back in July, Nielsen reported that between January and April 2014, 17 million Americans sent 361 million tweets about TV. It’s hard to look at that kind of activity and say that Twitter has no effect on television. The same study also showed a reason why brands who advertise on TV may want to integrate Twitter into their campaigns. The study found that 64 percent of people who tweet about brands also tweet about TV. Furthermore, people who tweet about both brands and TV send 78 percent of all brand tweets.

Nielsen created an infographic that showed the most tweeted moments from the last TV season (from Sept. 2013 to May 2014) that clearly shows a connection between Twitter users and the programs they watch. For example, “Breaking Bad” set the record for reach of a single airing as well as average over time. Tweets about the series finale reached 9.1 million people across the night. The example also shows the value of integration because the cast was a big part of the conversation. There were 51,000 Tweets that mentioned @aaronpaul_8 and 19,000 Tweets that mentioned @BryanCranston. Back in May, “The Voice” on NBC set a record for the most Tweets in a minute when #VoiceSave was mentioned in 1.5 million Tweets as fans interacted with the show.

This leaves marketers with two studies with two very different conclusions. In time, the issue will sort itself out as more data is produced. But in the meantime, which should marketers believe? For several reasons, we side with Nielsen. Besides the fact that Nielsen has been doing media research longer, Nielsen looked at far more data. Nielsen took four months worth of actual usage data from Twitter. Strategic Analysts did a survey of 6,000 people and applied their answers to all internet users in a way that may not really be analogous.

To be fair, 6,000 people is a good amount for a survey, but the broad conclusions being made don’t seem to hold up. For example, the Strategic Analysts study suggests that only 18 percent of a shows audience would watch the show and use Twitter. This clearly leaves out shows where using Twitter is a main feature of the show, like in “The Voice”, or in cases where the cast are a part of the conversation, as in “Breaking Bad”. If you have a show where you use Twitter to vote or talk to the cast, far more than 18 percent of the audience is going to pay attention.

In the end, there is a way to look at the studies at the same time and they makes sense. Let’s say that without any effort made on the part of the show, on average, only 18 percent of the viewers would watch and Tweet at the same time. However, when TV shows are popular and marketed properly on Twitter, the engagement rate of users on Twitter increases significantly. Furthermore, since viewers who Tweet about TV are very likely to Tweet about brands, it does make sense for marketers to have their eye on Twitter when thinking about TV marketing.

For more examples of how social media marketing can be successfully integrated into television marketing, read this article about Pinterest and the Home Shopping Network,

 Photo Credit: Christopher Penler /

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