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A New Megaphone: Social Media Gives Consumers a Chance to be Heard on What They Watch

3 minute read | January 2017

Throughout history, we have devised the means to ensure our voices are heard—from the telegraph to telecommunications satellites roaming the orbit. Over the last decade, however, social media has changed the way we communicate in a way that has been revolutionary. It has, literally, given those with just a voice the power to speak to the world and has provided consumers with a platform to break news, start dialogues and share views about content.

Powered in part by the continued ubiquity of the smartphone—now firmly in the hands of over 87% of the U.S. adult population—social media reached about 177 million people each week on average in third-quarter 2016. And according to Nielsen’s new 2016 Social Media Report, the role social media is playing in consumers’ lives is significant and increasing.

For example, among all U.S. adults (18+), social media’s part of the media diet is 22%—36% more than the comparable quarter last year. Looking at the amount of consumption in terms of gender and race/ethnicity, women spend a quarter of their total media time on social, and Hispanic adults spend nearly 23%. And at 6 hours 10 minutes, black adults spend the most amount of time per week of any consumer demographic.

The continuing increase in mobile and tablet penetration and consumer usage means a natural overlap with other media—TV included. The report looked into simultaneous device usage—from frequency to specific social activities done while tuning in the tube—and found that while 21% of tablet users said they use their tablet while watching TV “several times a day,” 30% of smartphone users said they did so.

So how do consumers leverage their social savviness?

Beyond trying to use social media to simply create the next viral sensation, many consumers are using social channels to communicate about their media consumption, including the programs they’re watching on TV. In fact, according to an analysis in the report leveraging Nielsen Social insights, there were an average of 14.2 million social media interactions about TV across Facebook and Twitter each day this past fall in the U.S. alone.

Across platforms, social TV activity peaked on Sundays this fall as audiences took to social media to talk about NFL games, specials and Sunday series. Nearly half (43%) of weekly Facebook activity and a third (33%) of weekly Twitter activity occurred on Sundays. On Facebook, the next-busiest day was Saturday—a day known for college football and pro baseball.

Looking at a week in November, we get a sense of the TV topics that were capturing audiences’ attention as well. On Facebook, nearly three-fourths of TV interactions were related to sports events. Just under half of Twitter interactions were related to sports events, followed closely by series, with nearly a third of Twitter interactions during that same week.

When it comes to series programs, top nods in the U.S. this fall went to The Walking Dead (AMC) and Empire (FOX). On average, there were 3.2 million social TV interactions across Facebook and Twitter about each new fall episode of The Walking Dead on AMC.

Social media provides all viewers with a platform to share responses and opinions, from the meaningful to the trivial. At the same time, social media platforms themselves are evolving. Today, they don’t just provide a marketing opportunity; social networks are also pivoting to become media distributors as well, completing the trifecta of audience reach, advertising ROI and content delivery.

For additional insights, download Nielsen’s 2016 Social Media Report.

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