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Soon chatting about your favorite shows on Facebook will affect their Nielsen ratings

Measuring a TV show’s audience has always been tough, as viewer numbers are based on a relatively small sample size, but Nielsen keeps trying to utilize new technology to improve the accuracy of its ratings. Soon, it will begin factoring in Facebook activity as part of how it measures a show’s audience.

This isn’t the first time that Nielsen has used social media this way. In 2013 the company began measuring Twitter discussion as complementary data to its traditional TV ratings measurements. Facebook activity will be added to this separate measurement, which will now be known as Social Content Ratings.

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“This is the next big step for us because now for the first time we are going to be able to really have a holistic understanding of the social activity across platform(s),” Nielsen Social president Sean Casey told USA Today.

Nielsen won’t get any user-specific information, but Facebook will supply the company with aggregate user data. Both posts shared publicly and those shared with friends, family, and followers will be measured. The Social Content Ratings will measure activity around live TV events and original series from both traditional TV networks and streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video.

As the way we watch TV continues to change, Nielsen needs to keep up with our viewing habits. With streaming providers like Netflix downplaying the importance of ratings and declining to share viewer numbers, this is likely the best way currently possible to measure which shows really resonate with their audiences.

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“The social TV phenomenon is really documented,” Casey said. “Today when people are watching TV, they are not watching alone on their couches or waiting until the next day to go into work and talk about programs. They are doing it immediately on their second screen across social platforms.”

Nielsen says it will begin measuring Facebook data during the first half of 2016, with Instagram activity being added sometime later.