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December 5, 2012
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Social TV usage up, new currencies emerging

An annual report from Nielsen and NM Incite (Nielsen’s joint venture with McKinsey & Company) indicates that in June 2012, one third of active Twitter users in the U.S. tweeted about TV-related content, up 27% from the beginning of the year.

Rich with infographics, the Nielsen Social Media Report draws from various sources, including Nielsen’s U.S. Social Media Survey 2012, which is based on a sample of about 2,000 social media users. The report hits related topics, such as which age cohort is most likely to discuss programming with their social connections (35-44) and what percentage of social media users find advertisements on social media more annoying than other types of online advertising (one-third).

But on that last point, Nielsen found that social media and advertising could co-exist. “More than a quarter of social media users say they are more likely to pay attention to an ad shared by one of their social connections,” noted Deirdre Bannon, Nielsen Social Media Practice Lead.

Nielsen’s acquisition of Brooklyn-based start-up SocialGuide in November is a sign that the firm is embracing Social TV’s potential. But while this report mentions the number of users, there are other ways to measure Social TV’s growth, just as there are other ways besides advertising to monetize it.

Without commenting directly on Nielsen’s panel approach, Trendrr.TV CEO Mark Ghuneim said that total U.S. Twitter conversations about shows on air increased a staggering 800% from October 2011 to October 2012. That suggests not only more Twitter users commenting on TV (as per Nielsen) but also users who are doing so at a considerably more rapid clip than a year ago.

Bluefin Labs points to a comparable growth rate for number of Tweets, also outstripping that of users. From June 2011 to June 2012, the total number of Social TV tweets increased 814%, said Bluefin VP Marketing Tom Thai. Meanwhile, the number of Social TV users grew 226% year-over-year, which he said accommodated the seasonality of TV viewing better than the six months used by Nielsen.

How are Bluefin’s TV network clients using this data on a granular level? Thai pointed to three use cases: audience research, optimization of TV promotional placements and, most relevant to monetization, advertising sales. “What we saw in the May ‘upfronts’ is that TV networks are using linear TV ratings side by side with Social TV engagement numbers.”

Thai said these data give TV networks a new sales message: They can deliver audience size, based on Nielsen ratings, as well as audience engagement, based on Bluefin Labs numbers. For advertiser clients, Bluefin offers insight into where they can place their commercials to drive the most social buzz about their brand, product or whatever other goal they might have. Thai said movie studio clients, who never bought during the upfronts, are using this kind of input “to adjust their media buys more dynamically.”

Trendrr CEO Ghuneim also sees the old (size) and new (engagement) as complementary: “We’ve always felt that social engagement can help you value media and can map toward traditional currencies, but we also know that there are additional currencies created for all aspects of studios, television networks and production with real-time social data.”

The Nielsen Social Media Report 2012 is available on the company’s blog site. Other data shared in the 15-page report relate to the number of smartphone (41%) and tablet (38%) users simultaneously watching TV on a daily basis, the exponential rise of Pinterest  (up 1,047% year-over-year), the role of “social care” (customer service via social media) and more.