Data suggests that in-person conversations have more influence than social media when it comes to TV viewing.Download the pdf
When it comes to TV show recommendations, in-person conversations are the most influential way to get viewers to watch a program.
Research by Simon associate professor Mitchell Lovett and coauthor Renana Peres of Hebrew University of Jerusalem showed that for both individuals who watch a show regularly and those who don’t, in-person word of mouth is the strongest form of communication that influences viewing.
The latest findings—the result of a major data integration effort—are part of their ongoing research into what sort of message prompts viewers to tune in: word of mouth, on-air promotions, social media, or text message.
For the study, 1,665 people ages 15 to 54 used a mobile app to report any time they saw, heard, or communicated something about prime-time TV shows over 21 days. Participants completed 78,310 diary entries for 1,596 shows in September and October 2013.
The effect of social media was half or less that of offline word of mouth for the same number of exposures, Lovett says.
But social media does have advantages, he notes. It is more effective than ad promos for persuading infrequent viewers to watch a show—and promos, in turn, are better than social media for getting repeat viewers to tune in.
The research suggests that returning TV shows benefit most from increased communication to viewers who already hear word-of-mouth communications about programs, while new network shows benefit from reaching new people—an area in which social media may excel.
“Social media does seem to have an important role with infrequent viewers,” Lovett says. “It gets people to watch again, and it gets people not watching to try it.”
Ongoing analysis shows word of mouth is more effective at affecting viewer behavior than advertising or social media.