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Twitter Says It's Time for Must-Tweet TV

Twitter shows networks why live-tweeting is worth the effort.

With the new TV season under way, Twitter’s got a message for network executives: Do more live-tweeting of your shows.

The company released an internal study Thursday that found networks and studios that live-tweet during their popular programming — that is, post and respond to user tweets while the show is on the air — can dramatically boost followers and Twitter mentions.

Posting from a show’s Twitter handle, like @GameofThrones or @ScandalABC, increases total Twitter conversation by about 7 percent during television premieres, Twitter found. Having the show’s cast members live-tweet is even better, increasing total tweets by 64 percent.

Twitter has often talked about how it’s the perfect companion to TV, and it’s previously argued — along with its partner Nielsen — how it can boost TV ratings in some cases. But the pressure is still on Twitter to prove that increased activity on its service boosts the value of what’s on TV. More recently, it has started to adjust its messaging, talking about terms like “engagement” to describe its benefits.

Some TV executives don’t think Twitter helps ratings all that much, an assessment CEO Dick Costolo has openly disagreed with. Whether or not Twitter helps to draw in more viewers, media executives will certainly want to try anything to increase ratings, which have been tanking lately. And if networks believe tweeting helps ratings, they’re more likely to use Twitter as an ad platform to foster more Twitter conversations.

But that could get tricky when Twitter is also trying to sell TV-style ads, which it has already beta testing. Part of the reason for that move is television still draws in more ad dollars than any other media, including the Web, and that’s likely to continue for some time.

With today’s internal study, Twitter continues to argue its benefits to TV. Increasing follower counts can help a show establish new fans (or hold onto existing ones), according to Anjali Midha, Twitter’s head of global media and agency research. This is particularly true among genres like sports, live events (Oscars, Emmy’s, etc.) and reality TV, where users can jump in mid-broadcast without needing as much prior context, she added.

“Those categories are ones where we’re seeing tweets are actually driving people to change the channel in that very moment,” says Midha. “Scripted genres (sitcoms, dramas) are a little bit more challenging and I think there may be a little bit of a distance between the exposure to tweets and the actual act of tuning into something.”

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