CNN Takes Social Media Crown in Cable … But Where Are the Ratings?

CNN accounted for almost 13 percent of all social media mentions for the month, thanks to primaries and debates

CNN accounted for almost 13 percent of all social media mentions in February, making it the most social network of all cable for the month, according to social media analytics firm Trendrr.

The Republican debates and primaries pushed the network a smidge past MTV and well ahead of every other cable channel.

Nickelodeon and TNT were third and fourth, respectively.

“CNN is hugely benefitting form the amount of conversation around politics and their high use of hashtags and integration of Twitter,” Trendrr founder Mark Ghuneim told TheWrap.

Ironically, the network itself still trails Fox and MSNBC in regular competition for ratings.

However, in February CNN was helped by a series of big news events. It aired the most debates of any network, has provided exhaustive coverage of every primary and, like its rivals, broadcast Whitney Houston's funeral. Its ratings have surged on those particular nights, lifting what is otherwise a weak-performing slate.

For example, its Super Tuesday primetime ratings represented a 105 percent boost over its three prior “normal” Tuesdays.

But even that boost still left its ratings substantially trailing Fox for that night and the month. 

Online, however, CNN had 144 percent more social activity than MSNBC and 718 percent more than Fox. Its "Breaking News" Twitter feed has about 6.75 million followers while two of its hosts — Piers Morgan and Anderson Cooper both have upwards of 2 million.

Indeed, CNN has taken criticism for being too Twitter-oriented a channel, often opting for references to trending topics or just regurgitating what appears on Twitter. (For an example, look at this clip from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”)

And it has paid off in higher ratings — if not overall, at least on big-event nights. 

“To say that there is a direct correlation [between ratings points and social] right now would not be the right thing to say,” Ghuneim told TheWrap. “But there is definitely a correspondence. This is the beginning of the ability for networks to value their media based on engagement and not just reach.”

CNN agrees. "I don’t think anyone can make case that there's this causation where what happens on social media cause big ratings," Steve Krakauer, senior digital producer for CNN, told TheWrap. "But on some of big events there's a correlation."

When asked why the social-media advantage hasn't benefitted the network's overall ratings, Krakauer said the Twitter population doesn't represent the average viewer. Twitter in particular can be dominated by the media yammering about one thing or another with little regard for who's actually watching what on TV.