Summary:

A new report finds that Twitter engagement can help boost TV ratings and vice versa, though it’s not guaranteed.

Sharknado
photo: The Asylum

If you have been on Twitter at all this summer, you would have found it impossible to avoid the Sharknado. While some users were simply gawking and guffawing at the highly unlikely scenario perpetuated by the low-budget Syfy TV movie — that sharks, led by a hurricane, could be sucked into a tornado and ravage Los Angeles — others were wondering whether all that attention was going to turn into views.

A study released Tuesday by Nielsen bolsters the idea of a causal relationship between TV shows and Twitter — something the company had been speculating about since March.

Nielsen gathered its findings using SocialGuide, the social TV tracking app that was acquired in November of last year. Analyzing trends from 221 primetime broadcast programs, it found that TV ratings had an impact on the volume of tweets around a show for about half of episodes, while Twitter buzz affected a show’s TV ratings for about a third of episodes. In short, the study suggests a symbiotic relationship between Twitter and TV — meaning that one channel has the potential to boost the other, though it’s not a sure thing.

While Nielsen’s study indicates that Twitter and TV can impact each other, it’s not happening consistently enough to be able to make any guarantees. Still, Twitter will surely use the study to bolster its push for TV ad-targeting campaigns for brands, and to persuade major networks to support that plan as well.

As for Sharknado, no one really knows. While the Twitter feeding frenzy only led to 1.4 million views, the schlocky horrorfest pulled in increasing viewership over its rebroadcasts (to 1.9 million and now 2.1 million) and has debuted across 200 movie screens for midnight viewings. It’s a hit for its genre, and for the Syfy brand, but Twitter’s overall hand in that is the mystery.

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