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Owners Manual Part 2: How Social Media Empowers Celebs and Networks to Drive TV Engagement

6 minute read | October 2018

Once reserved for reaching friends and family far and wide, social media platforms have become increasingly valuable for celebrities and businesses in expanding their reach and influence—providing a more direct, authentic voice for entities to connect with their audiences. For players across the TV industry, learning how to wield this social media influence is a key factor in their marketing mix.

TV talent and network account owners alike are working together to promote their TV programs through “owned” social media content, putting careful thought behind what will engage and activate fans the most. Up until this point, talent’s social impact has been a blind spot in the industry. With the introduction of Owned Account Performance via Social Content Ratings® (SCR), Nielsen provides the first and only syndicated cross-publisher measurement of talent’s contribution to the social footprint of their programs.

For a three-week period during this year’s fall series premieres, Nielsen Social Content Ratings® measured over 160,000 pieces of TV content and over 250 million engagements coming from thousands of active owned accounts. Findings within this timeframe emphasize the massive impact that different owned account types can have across the major social platforms when engaging with their TV audiences.


The start of the 2018-19 TV season marked an exciting and pivotal time for programs making their series debut as well as established fan favorites entering their newest season. Talent associated with these shows were keen to strike when enthusiasm for their programs was at a high, with some accounts generating hundreds of thousands of engagements across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Nielsen looked at the top five most engaging talent accounts across all genre types, helping to provide data on which celebrities are resonating strongly with their audiences across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Over this time period, talent accounts across all genres generated almost 20 million engagements for their associated TV programs, which is 30% of all owned engagement for series and special programming, highlighting the pivotal role they play in how new or established programs are marketed and promoted.


Within this three-week period, the number of organization-level network, program, league and team accounts were roughly equal across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Networks and their programs are understandably looking to maximize reach, and having accounts on all popular social platforms allows them to do just that.

However, rather than being split evenly between social platforms like their organization-level counterparts, individual-level accounts for talent and athletes are more concentrated on Twitter. Twitter accounts made up more than half the share of accounts for talent (63%) and athletes (84%)*. Having a social media presence on a peer-to-peer platform allows individuals to craft their own personal voice and tailor messaging specific to their fan followings.


With SCR’s comprehensive measurement of owned accounts, it’s now possible to measure whether the volume of original social media posts and their engagement (reposts, likes, comments etc.) are proportional. This measurement can be broken out further by account type across series, specials and sports programming.

For series and specials, the share of posts from network, program and talent account are roughly proportional to their shares of engagement. Looking specifically at talent accounts, they make up nearly a third of all posts as well as driving a third of all engagement for series and specials.

For sports programming, there is more discrepancy between shares of posts and engagements for different account types. League accounts represent 7% of posts but drive 36% of engagements. Network and program accounts combined make up 22% of sports programming posts, but only drive 8% of sports engagements.


All account types post actively on Twitter as part of their social strategy in efforts to engage robustly with their audiences. At the engagement level, a more nuanced picture is formed when looking at how audiences interact across platforms.

Individual-level accounts for talent and athletes have higher shares of their engagement coming from Twitter than do the organization-level account types—56% of talent account engagement and 53% of athlete account engagement came from Twitter alone.

While Instagram represents roughly an equal share of engagements for network, program and talent accounts, it accounts for the vast majority of engagements for organization-level sports accounts with 88% of engagements for sports league accounts and 66% for team accounts.

Looking at Facebook, organization-level network and program accounts generate more of their engagement on Facebook than individual-level talent accounts. However, this trend is reversed for sports-related handles. Network, program and talent accounts had 30%, 22% and 6% of their engagements stem from Facebook, respectively. On the sports side, league, team and athlete accounts had 5%, 16% and 23% come from Facebook, respectively. The different ways in which owned accounts post on social media and the different ways in which fans engage is rich with opportunity across all platforms.

Across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, engagement can be explored further—this time looking at engagement rates— to see how the piece of content from each account type perform on average.

Echoing the popularity of sports programming in the linear TV space, live sports airings also activate audiences within the social media universe. Overall, league accounts had the highest average engagement with fans, with nearly nine thousand engagements per post across the three major platforms. Looking at the series and special account types, talent accounts performed the highest on Instagram and Twitter, showing strong average engagement relative to network and program accounts. However, on Facebook the reverse is true, with organization-level accounts generating more engagement per post than individual-level talent accounts, again underscoring the importance of variety and need for cross-publisher measurement to understand the total social TV picture.

In the hyper-connected media world, social media accounts have become a valuable asset in the promotion and, consequently, the popularity of programs across the television landscape. Talent in particular underscores an important part of the overall owned strategy for content providers and sports organizations. Amplifying the voice of talent accounts, or even recruiting and casting talent, with established social influence can prove useful for both new and old TV programs. Still, different account types have their own unique conditions under which they perform best—understanding the nuances between each can help maximize the investments content owners and marketers are making in social.


The insights in this article were derived from Nielsen Social Content Ratings: 9/12/18 – 10/02/18. Broadcast and national cable, new/live episodes.

Interactions are a measure of total relevant social media activity on Facebook, Instagram Business Accounts, and Twitter. Social activity is measured from three hours before through three hours after broadcast, local time. Owned engagements for Facebook include comments, shares, and likes. Owned engagements for Instagram business accounts include comments and likes. Owned engagements for Twitter include retweets, quotes, replies, and likes.

*Per Instagram policy and data availability, only accounts designated as "business accounts" are measurable. As a result, this contributes to a depressed share of individual accounts on Instagram.

Program accounts for SportsCenter, SportsCenter ESP, E! News and South Park across all social platforms were removed to avoid skewing average owned engagement performance.

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