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TV shows find boost with social networks

Social networks are playing an increasingly important role in driving the popularity of television shows and should be factored into the weekly TV rankings, a new report by Networked Insights concludes. 

The Madison, WI-based Networked Insights adds in its new Measuring the Social report that five of the most popular TV shows among online audiences are not even in the Nielsen Top 10 weekly ratings.

“Measuring the social finally lets companies see their full online audience instead of just a small subsection,” Networked Insights CEO Dan Neely said. “This is a key shift in online audience measurement that is making traditional measurement standards, like Nielsen, largely irrelevant online.”

Neely points out that shows like the CBS comedy “Two and a Half Men,” ranked fifth in Nielsen but first on the Networked Insight list, have incredibly strong online engagement on social sites due to its “quote following” – the number of people sharing posting and reacting to specific quotes from the show.

Neely argued that leveraging social media can enable advertisers to move beyond numbers-driven reach and frequency programs and begin identifying and then targeting the key influencers online with messages and ad spends.

“It’s all about performance-based marketing now,” he said. “Reach and frequency made sense during the era when companies owned the Web – now it’s the customers who are in control so you’ve got to get them engaged.”

Networked Insights plans on releasing additional Measuring the Social reports in the coming months, looking to quantify social media’s impact on other categories such as music and holiday shopping. 

Neely concedes it still can be a bit of a challenge to get some brand managers to move beyond traditional tools such as Nielsen’s TV ratings when determining their ad buys. But he argues that brands are now a lot more interested in understanding and exploiting social networks because they truly represent the voice of the consumer.

Other companies also are beginning to take steps to measure the online audience when determining TV ratings, including Nielsen, which recently announced a Spring 2009 test of new tools that will include measurement of both Internet video usage and general Web site navigation when determining TV viewing behavior, news reports note.

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