Social TV, Advertising, and Sales: Are Social Shows Good for Advertisers?

Beth L. Fossen and David A. Schweidel, 2016, 16-135

Television viewers are increasingly engaging in media-multitasking while watching programming. One prevalent multiscreen activity is “social TV"--the simultaneous consumption of television alongside social media chatter about the programming. While online interactions with television programming can result in a more engaged and attentive audience, social TV activities may distract media multitaskers from advertisements. This raises the question: are programs with high online social TV activity, so called “social shows,” good for advertisers?

Beth Fossen and David Schweidel examine this question by exploring the relationship among television advertising, social TV activity, and sales. Specifically, using multi-source data on television advertising, social media conversations, and online shopping activity for five large retailers, they employ a hierarchical Bayesian model to investigate how television viewers’ online engagement with programs impacts online traffic and sales at retailers that advertise during the programs.


Overall, their findings suggest that, in terms of increasing online sales, social shows are good for advertisers.

  • While online chatter about the program prior to an advertisement’s airing decreases online traffic to the advertised retailers’ website, it increases online purchases--with an overall net positive effect on online sales.
  • Online chatter about the retailers following an ad’s airing increases subsequent online purchases on the retailer’s website.

The findings also point to ad design strategies that increase immediate online chatter, and thus online purchases. In particular, advertisements with a funny mood perform best, while active, informational, and sexy advertisements result in decreases in subsequent purchases on the retailers’ websites. Advertisements that mention price have a positive impact on subsequent online purchases.

For advertisers, these results shed light on how to encourage online shopping activity on their websites in the age of multi-screen consumers. For television networks, the findings highlight the importance of having a social strategy for programs that encourages viewers to engage in social TV activity. Additionally, television networks can utilize the findings to provide support for incorporating program engagement into the media buying process and to advocate for higher ad rates in their social shows.

Beth L. Fossen is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. David A. Schweidel is Associate Professor of Marketing, Goizueta Business School, Emory University.

The authors thank comScore, Inc. for providing part of the data and the Goizueta Business School research support for providing the funds to acquire and build the dataset in this research.

Related links

Does Offline TV Advertising Affect Online Chatter? Analysis of Quasi-Experimental Data Using Synthetic Control
Gerard Tellis and Seshadri Tirunillai (2016) [Report]

Television Advertising and Online Word-of-Mouth: An Empirical Investigation of Social TV Activity
Beth L. Fossen and David A. Schweidel (2015) [Report]



  • Corporate: FREE
  • Academic: FREE
  • Subscribers: FREE
  • Public: $18.00



Employees of MSI Member Companies enjoy the benefits of complete online access to content, member conferences and networking with the MSI community.



Qualified academics benefit from a relationship with MSI through access to, conferences and research opportunities.



The public is invited to enjoy partial access to content, a free e-newsletter, selected reports and more.




Learn more about becoming a member of the institute

Read More

Stay Informed

The MSI Mailing List

Subscribe to our email list to stay informed about upcoming events, news, etc.

Social Media