Marketing

How Tweet It Is

6/16/2010 5:23 AM Eastern

For the premiere of its original movie Meet My Mom, Hallmark
Channel gave viewers control of its Facebook site, adding a wall
of user-generated video. The so-called “V-Wall” allowed its users
to curate and publish videos, photos and notes through tabs
on Facebook to celebrate moms and military families leading
up to and following the movie’s airing on Mother’s Day weekend.
(It was later repurposed to connect pet lovers in time for
launch of the May original movie, You Lucky Dog.)

“With the Mom effort, we took in about 1,000
tributes; we watched our Facebook fans grow by
12,000,” said Pam Slay, senior vice president of network
program publicity for Hallmark Channels.

Most of the biggest cable networks are going social,
drawing Twitter followers and Facebook fans
in the thousands.

Almost every network large and small is a robust
player in this platform with the shows, the stars
— and even some characters — joining in on the
multiplatform conversation. Oxygen.com, for one,
allows fans to chat with stars before, during and after
the airing of a show, in real time. And smaller
networks such as Logo, TV One and Hallmark Channel
are pumping up the volume.

“It actually drove our parent company’s core
[greeting card] business, because people were saying,
‘Don’t forget to get something for your mom,’ ”
said Hallmark’s Slay.

Cable operators are also using social networks to
better listen to customer needs and market new services,
said Alexander Dudley, vice president of public
relations for Time Warner Cable.

And hardware makers are on the case, too. Motorola
is working on technology that would allow viewers
to start an on-TV-screen chat session with others
watching the same show.

“At its core, we see social media as how we can
connect and interact and talk to our consumers,”
said Tricia Melton, senior vice president of entertainment
marketing for TBS, TNT and Turner Classic
Movies, who will oversee the social outreach
eff orts for 11 shows scheduled to air this summer.

So far, networks have found that connecting to viewers
via social media can help market new shows, cultivate
engagement and, most importantly, boost ratings.

Facebook, for example, has almost instantly
become an ”embedded part of our experience,”
Melton said. “Facebook hit 100 million users in nine
months. That kind of adoption is so incredible.”

In recent years, some of the most successful cable
networks have used social media to have a two-way
dialogue with their viewers, whether it’s allowing social
media users to share their doings at the “Memphis
Experience” festivals, where Turner promoted
TNT’s upcoming detective series Memphis Beat, or
at virtual parties hosted by such networks as Oxygen,
VH1, Logo and Bravo, where fans can mix it up
with their favorite reality stars.

“When we message on-air that the talent is going
to be online and you can chat with them in real
time, people will carve out time to make sure they
are home to watch that episode,” said Dan Sacher,
digital media vice president of VH1 and Logo, which have seen an uptick in fan interest
for such live blog parties as
Logo’s drag queen competition
series RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Viewers are also less likely to
watch an episode on their DVR when
they can interact with talent, “because
you certainly don’t want to go
on Facebook and find out that’s who
got eliminated, or you’ve missed it,”
Sacher said. “You want to be a part of
the OMG moment when everything
erupts on their social networks when
that thing happens.”

In the finale week of RuPaul’s
Drag Race
, Logo hosted a live viewing
party on its home page with the
show’s famous drag-queen host,
and others offering live tweets onair.
Heavy retweeting that followed
the telecast showed audiences were
really getting into the conversation
— something viewers would miss
had they tuned in after
the show had ended.

VH1’s Sunday-night
block of programming
(Brandy & Ray
J: A Family Business,
Basketball Wives and
What Chilli Wants
) is
complemented by live
“viewing parties” on VH1.com’s
homepage, where the talent answers
users’ comments via onair
message. On Sunday, June 2,
VH1-related terms were among
the Twitter Top 10 for part of the
night.

The results are hard to quantify
in hard dollars, but the companies
involved say the savings on
marketing and advertising are
real — and may have a stronger
impact.

“For us, it’s a way to create a
fan base we know we can message
to over and over again without
spending more media dollars
without really knowing if they’re
really even seeing our message
or coming back,” said USA Network
vice president of digital Jesse
Redniss.

For instance, a network may
spend $20,000 for a media buy on
Facebook to drive fans to its page,
Redniss said. “Once you’ve developed
10,000 fans from that buy,
you can message to those people
over and over and
over until they drop off
of your fan page list. To
do that in the regular
advertising sense, in
which you don’t know
if that person is coming
back and becoming
a loyal follower, is going
to be really cost-prohibitive.”

GOING ‘GEO-SOCIAL’
And plenty of advertisers are interested
in what programmers
are doing in the social space. “It’s
no longer just about eyeballs,
because through social media,
you really want to get your users
or fans really engaged around
your brand — and ideally to the
advertiser’s messages as well,”
said Bravo senior vice president
of digital media Lisa Hsia.

The channel took its digital platform
up a notch earlier this year
through a partnership with Foursquare,
the social networking
startup that allows users to share
their locations with friends.

The Foursquare-integrated
“Guides by Bravo” application,
available on various mobile platforms,
allows users to sign up and
“check in” at various locations
across the country featured in
Bravo series, including The Real
Housewives
franchise, Millionaire
Matchmaker
and Top Chef,
for a chance to win prizes.

Syfy is also looking to pair with
Foursquare to leverage the buzz
for series like Eureka and Caprica
from July’s Comic-Con by engaging
convention goers in various
activities, including a scavenger
hunt. “Geo-social is the new
buzzword in this ever-changing
media landscape, and we’d like to
see how we can develop in it,” said
Blake Callaway, the channel’s senior
vice present of marketing.

It can be trickier to execute a
social-media strategy around a
movie than a series, said HBO
vice president of brand strategy
and digital platforms Alison
Moore.

“We want to make sure that
it feels organic to the audience
that is going to be participating
in social [media],” said Moore.
For HBO’s Grey Gardens — a telepic
based on a 1975 Albert and
David Maysles documentary
chronicling the lives of
the destitute aunt and
cousin of Jacqueline
Kennedy Onassis —
a passionate fan base
was already in place.
“There were people
signing up to be fans of
that early just because
of what they heard [of
the film] and, of course, [star]
Drew Barrymore,” said Moore.

Still, most anything on television
can find a home in the social
space, said Discovery Communications
director of digital communications
Gayle Weiswasser.

“For example, [for] the Science
Channel, we have 50,000 followers
on our Science Channel Twitter
account and we’re very robust
on our Facebook, and it’s because
we use this tool less to drive tunein
and more as a resource to share
science news,” she said.

Grant Imahara, a host on Discovery Channel ’s
MythBusters, goosed
fan interest by Tweeting
to the host of CBS’s
The Late Late Show
with Craig Ferguson
.

After a series of backand-
forth Tweets,
the Mythbusters host
agreed to build a robot
in honor of the comic’s followers
on Tiitter, who called themselves
the “Robot Skelton Army,” said
Imihara, “if Craig could get me to
100,000 followers. I was at about
85,000. Not only were we able to
make this connection, all of the
people that followed him and followed
me could join into that party
and it was like this fun little entertainment
thing.”

In less than 24 hours, Imahara
had amassed 20,000 new followers.

Of course, the primary objective
for any programmer is to
keep viewers tuned in. And A&E
Network senior vice president of
marketing Guy Slattery said social
media has become an effective
tool to connect with what
viewers want to see on-air.

“We let fans choose the top
five shows they wanted to see in
a marathon for [police procedural
documentary] First 48 and it was
one of the highest marathons that
we’d had,” Slattery said. “What it
showed to us is that who knows
better than the true fans of the
show, and we’re certainly going
to do that again.”

FX has found fans
of It’s Always Sunny In
Philadelphia
to be particularly
engaged. And
followers of the “Sunny
Tweets” page, the
Twitter space set up
for the sitcom last season,
are in a league of
their own. To harness the passion
for the site — which has been regularly
active even since the fifth season
finale in December — FX
created an iPhone application to
make Sunny tweets mobile.

Another Sunny trick: Using
Google’s Sunny voice mail , users
can leave messages for the Sunny
gang or listen to messages left by
others.

Keeping up with the pulse of
the people is particularly relevant
to Roland Martin, the CNN political
correspondent and host of
TV One Sunday-morning publicaff
airs show Washington
Watch
. Martin maintains
a daily dialogue on
Twitter and with 70,000
of his closest “friends”
on Facebook.

“You can use it as
your own personal focus
group about what’s
going on in the country,”
he said.

And yet as important as social
media has become, there is still
no precise metric to determine
how effective it really is.

Oxygen Media tried to track
its social outreach through OxygenLive.
com. The real-time site
launched the first five episodes
of last season’s reality series Bad
Girls Club
only on the East Coast.

Once Oxygen Live launched on
the West Coast, ratings jumped
57%, said Jennifer Kavanagh, vice
president of digital media at the
channel. “So that was a real a-ha
moment for us,” she said.

March