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Social Media vs. Word-of-Mouth Impact on TV Viewing

Social Media vs. Word-of-Mouth Impact on TV ViewingSocial Media vs. Word-of-Mouth Impact on TV ViewingSimon Business School

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With 115.6 million television viewing homes in the US, watching a favorite program is nothing like it used to be. In the world of social media and mobile devices, people don’t huddle around one television set at night and discuss their favorite TV moments over the water cooler at the office the next day in the same way anymore. Individuals are tuning-in with a “second screen,” like an iPad or laptop computer, and are interacting in new ways with TV. With social media a television program can get positive or negative feedback from a viewer almost instantaneously. Given this growing trend, one would think social media is dominating the battle for TV viewership.

But, surprisingly, social media does not rule the tube and old-fashioned word-of-mouth, or “water cooler conversation,” still holds more influence over viewers, according to new research from Simon Business School at the University of Rochester titled, “Talking Social TV 2.” While social media, especially Twitter, can benefit a television show in real-time, offline word-of-mouth is more influential to get a new viewer to watch a new program, thus increasing a show’s ratings.

Mitchell Lovett, associate professor of marketing from Simon Business School, and Renana Peres, associate professor of marketing from The Jerusalem School of Business Administration at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, conducted the original study in 2012 and built on their original findings with this latest installment. This research comes out of a collaboration between Lovett and Peres as the academic research team, the Keller Fay Group, a marketing research company specializing in word-of-mouth research, and the Council for Research Excellence, a body of senior-level research professionals in the media and advertising industry. The research examines the likelihood a viewer would tune in to a program after receiving a message about the show via word-of-mouth, promotions, social media, or SMS/text message.

“Our research, which included a major data integration effort, shows that television viewing is influenced by all types of communication, whether it’s social media, offline word-of-mouth, or a text message,” said Lovett, a lead researcher on the project.

Results show that for repeaters (individuals who watch the same program regularly) and infrequents (individuals who do not view the same show regularly) offline word-of-mouth is the strongest form of communication that influences their television viewing. For infrequents, social media communications are actually more influential than promotions for shows, whereas for repeaters the opposite is true.

This new study was comprised of 1,665 respondents between the ages of 15 to 54, who used a mobile app to report any time they saw, heard, or communicated something about primetime television shows over the course of 21 or more days. This data set contains 78,310 diary entries for approximately 1,596 shows from September 2013 through October 2013.

Researchers took into account the potential effect of all forms of communications on different types of programs, whether network or cable, new or returning. According to their model, they predicted that reach-focused word-of-mouth would raise ratings for returning shows like “The Voice,” as well as new shows like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

To learn more about the cutting-edge research being conducted by Simon Business School, please visit www.simon.rochester.edu.

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