Millennials are driving social media success, and in some cases (not all), social media success is driving ratings success. But with so much riding on social followers and with new online platforms coming out every day, TV marketers can drown in their social marketing options. Today’s PromaxBDA webinar, “From TV to Twitter: Best Practices in Driving Social Engagement,” covered how to effectively engage Twitter followers, how to utilize the online space to fill in conversations between seasons and how to establish real relationships with fans online that translate into loyal audiences on air.

Comedy Central and MTV have two of the most socially engaged audiences on cable. “Key and Peele,” the Franco Roast and “South Park” are sometimes as popular in online videos as they are on air. Walter Levitt, CMO of Comedy Central, spoke first during the webinar about how important social is to its millennial audience.

“Social is core to our fans, and core to what we are,” said Levitt. “The Roast of Donald Trump” was one of the first telecasts to consistently use a branded hashtag onscreen, and Comedy Central kept the social angle going with its future Roasts, including this year’s “Roast of James Franco” (which was announced via Franco on Instagram video). The first repeat airing of the Franco Roast featured a social encore with collected tweets and Facebook posts.

“Key and Peele” is another socially focused series, with many fans learning about the show via clips released on YouTube and shared through Facebook or Twitter. Levitt said they launched a “multi-tentacle campaign that was really about all engaging with the fans,” featuring shareable content and fan involvement.

Both stars of the show live-tweet each episode, the network creates custom hashtags for each sketch, and the show’s content itself serves as shareable content for social platforms. Fans also participated through a sketch remix contest (after Comedy Central found that fans were making their own versions of sketches anyway) and the East/West College Bowl fan experience.

One of the many challenges for such a social-heavy brand, as Levitt says, is adapting to consumer behavior. Comedy Central wants to encourage fans to watch shows like “Key and Peele” on air, but many people will only ever see the sketches online. It’s up to the brand to decide where to take that and how to slowly move viewers to see the full series instead of short sketches (while simultaneously implementing content in both spaces).

“We’ve had so much success with their clips, you can either look at it and go ‘Oh my god, we’ve had so much success on YouTube, that’s a problem,’ or you can say its success online is much bigger because of all of it together,” said Levitt. “We know Millennials love watching short-form video online. Either you embrace it, or you ignore it at your peril.”

According to Levitt, his team has discovered that the best way to make social content work is to involve marketing, programming and the show’s talent. “Here’s what we’re learning: Try lots, succeed lots, fail lots,” he said. “When we find the answers, I’d be happy to share it with the rest of you.”

Damon Burrell, SVP of consumer marketing at MTV Networks, agrees with the idea of following and adapting to the consumption habits of viewers.

“Content really is now marketing and marketing is now content,” said Burrell. “This has been driven by the tactical fusion of social and marketing, and how easy it’s become to actually create, share and evangelize our content on our behalf.”

MTV shows like “Teen Wolf” take fan loyalty seriously, which rewards its followers online and in real life (to feed back to its online buzz). For shows like this, according to Burrell, there is no limit to the amount of social marketing – he doesn’t believe in a threshold of what fans can take online. Instead, he says it’s all about “rewriting the marketing script,” and deciding what works for each show, because even for a millennial-focused network like MTV, each series should have a different strategy.

“The way people use social media is completely different,” said Burrell. “For different shows, fans are on different platforms. It depends on the audience and how they’re consuming it.”

Burrell sees an “increasing need to shift marketing efforts towards fan engagement efforts,” like “Teen Wolf’s” year-round marketing plan. Instead of focusing its attention during premiere and finale, MTV has a 365 strategy for the teen series that includes recruiting pack leaders, rewarding superfans and releasing exclusive off-season content to its fans online. “Teen Wolf” saw an increase not only in followers but a solid increase in on-air ratings from Season 1 to Season 2.

He and Levitt also talked about the advantage of leveraging show talent for social initiatives. “Having talent definitely helps,” said Burrell. “But also keep in mind that for a lot of television networks, especially when they’re launching a new series, there are occasions when no one knows the talent yet. They may or may not even have Twitter account.”

Andy Robbins, COO and EVP of interactive at creative agency bpg, spoke to the agency side of social strategies. His is a “show and tell” philosophy, saying that social success comes from being proactive and being the one to establish the social conversation.

“Sharing means word of mouth and word of mouth means buzz,” said Robbins.

His team worked on a campaign for Lifetime, reinvigorating its social core, as well as Homeland: Aftermath, the Web experience that filled in the blanks between Seasons 1 and 2 of Showtime’s “Homeland.”

Robbins and bpg also believe in a brand’s “big idea” – finding that hook for each show, each network brand, each new launch. That hook, according to him, is what makes people follow what a brand is doing and what makes them care enough to share it with their friends. The best way to frame this conversation is to establish a tone for each project and let that flow throughout everything.

“Try things,” said Robbins. “That’s what makes you relatable. Have a voice. Have a POV.”

  Save as PDF