Programme Genres Inspiring Twitter Behaviours

Written by Seema Bharakhda - Commercial Audiences Executive, ITV

This summer saw the return of the controversial dating show Love Island to ITV2, which caused quite a stir on social media. Twitter engagement was high and grew throughout the show, averaging at 10.5k tweets per episode – reaching similar engagement levels as ITV’s most loved reality show, The Only Way is Essex!

As well as the new gems, our big entertainment shows still continue to drive mass audiences to social media.  In its 12th year running, the launch episode of The X Factor attracted 228.4k total tweets* (see Glossary of terms below) and a total unique audience* of 1.7m individuals! Every episode since the launch this year has featured #1 in the Top 10 Twitter TV Activity Leaderboard!

However, it’s not just our Entertainment shows that drive people to Twitter, each ITV programme genre generates engagement on Twitter in its own way and inspires different patterns of Twitter behaviour.

Having analysed these patterns of behaviours around some of our shows, we have identified five broad types of ‘Twitter Behaviours’, which differ by programme genre and audience type

Hierarchy of Twitter BehavioursParticipating e.g. Daytime & Entertainment
Announcing e.g. Films, Drama, & Entertainment
Sharing e.g. Daytime, Soaps & Comedy
Connecting e.g. Soaps & Entertainment
Exploring e.g. Soaps & Factual

Hierarchy of Twitter Behaviours

It has also been identified in a study by Thinkbox (#TVTwitter: how advertisers can get closer to conversations, 2014) that Twitter usage around TV falls into two broad modes:

1) Twitter users are either ‘Leaning Back’ and switching between TV and Twitter or
2) They are actively ‘Leaning Forward’ and directly involving Twitter in their TV viewing experience.

We can surmise that viewers of big ITV Entertainment shows such as The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent are very much in a ‘Lean Forward’ Twitter mode. Viewers tend to be highly engaged and active throughout transmission, and the comments, announcements and connections can add so much to the experience of the show.

Volume of TweetsIn comparison, Soaps such as Coronation Street tend to encourage more of a ‘Lean Back’ Twitter mode, with viewers highly involved in the content, characters and story lines. However, soaps can still generate huge spikes in Twitter activity where viewers take to Twitter to join in conversations around storylines/characters.

Analyses of Twitter metrics have enabled us to spot these different modes of behaviour. Each will be evident depending on the Twitter metric used.

For example, across a typical weekday, Coronation Street dominates the Twitter TV day in terms of volume of tweets*. 

Conversion Factor

But it’s a different story when you look at what we call the ‘conversion factor’ between the Live Twitter audience and Live TV (BARB) audience. In this example, This Morning dominates across the day, with 15% of viewers who are actively engaged on Twitter during live transmission. This tells us that This Morning viewers are more likely to be in the ‘Lean Forward’ mode and that participation must be a key behaviour in their viewing experience.

For Coronation Street, the volume of tweets may be high, but it is a very small proportion of the TV viewing audience who are driving it, suggesting more of a sit back mode of viewing for them. For the majority of viewers, much more passive behaviours are likely to be present; sharing, connecting and exploring. 

Audience Per TweetAnother metric for determining the amount of Twitter impact is audience per tweet*. In the below example, we have plotted the average audience per tweet across a day which again changes the picture somewhat. Across a typical day, Lorraine generates the highest score for audience per tweet, which means that the reach of a tweet made about Lorraine is likely to be far greater than any other show.

While the proportion of the TV audience that are engaging on Twitter and indeed the volume of tweets made may be small, the impact these tweets have is high. This can be beneficial for brands.


It is important for brands to understand the different Twitter behaviours and metrics around our different programme genres when building a social media campaign in order to make it as impactful as possible. Social strategies should be considerate to the ‘mode’ of viewing around a show – Lean Back = Be Passive, Lean Forward = Be Active.

TV is consistently successful at driving word of mouth for brands and adding Twitter to TV provides real benefits. John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and Cadbury have all benefitted from launching campaigns on ITV, as our shows know how to generate high engagement on Twitter!

More to come on this soon!

Glossary of Terms
  • Audience Per Tweet – Unique number of people that have seen a tweet
  • Total Tweets/Volume of Tweets – Total number of tweets about a programme during the transmission window (including 30 mins before and after and retweets)
  • Total Unique Audience – Unique number of users that have seen a tweet (or retweet) about a particular programme on the same day but not necessarily within the transmission window
Source for graphs: Kantar Instar Social. Twitter activity across the schedule – Friday 4th September 2015