Comedy Central Looks Towards Social Media 2.0

A second era of social marketing continues to emerge. If the first was about attracting followers and likers, Social Media 2.0 is increasingly about that tired, yet crucial concept of engagement.

Sparking “communities” around shows was a focus of Turner’s upfront presentation last week and Comedy Central marketer Don Steele emphasized it out again Monday.

Across its various iterations, Comedy Central has more than 100 million devotees in social media. Because of shows that derive such passion like “The Daily Show,” the network may have had an easier time than most in ramping up the numbers. Still, its challenge remains the same one all successful social marketers are going to face moving forward: how to turn consumers into avid participants.



“We’re not just a passive thing you sit on a couch and watch … so this relationship we have with people in social is really how we fuel this conversation and really how we fuel our brand,” Steele said at the MediaPost OMMA Social event.

So, Steele’s title has a mix of 2005 and 2015. He’s vice president of digital marketing and fan engagement.

At Comedy Central, Steele might describe Social Media 1.0 as more about push messaging, sending out tune-in messages or links to exclusive video.

“Years ago in social it was very much about kind of telling people what you wanted them to know or what you felt they needed to know,” he said.

Now, the focus has moved to giving the people what they want in order to generate dialogue via retweets and other kinds of sharing. The interaction doesn’t necessarily have to be directly about a show. That should be a natural result.

An example: Comedy Central’s young male audience has an interest in wrestling, so when word broke the sport would be leaving the Olympics, the network tweeted some wrestling jokes. Steele said they became a “currency” people passed along.

(Irreverence and the quest for an Internet ripple can go too far, though. On Tuesday, reports began to surface about “Daily Show” co-creator Lizz Winstead tweeting that the Oklahoma tornado was meant to “target conservatives.” She later apologized.)

Over the past year and a half, Steele said Comedy Central has worked to make social media a maypole of the marketing and other arms of the company. He said the network works hard to find ways to capitalize on the various opportunities different platforms offer. Messaging doesn’t necessarily travel well.

“What works on Twitter is not going to work well on Tumblr,” Steele said. “What works on Instagram may not be a good photo for Pinterest.”

On Instagram, the network doesn’t use “selfies,” pictures of oneself. Instead, it goes with “shelfies,” photos of a display. So, it might offer up a photo of a “South Park” toy if the show has a new season or some other related plaything if it’s trying boost ticket sales for a live event.

Comedy Central also spends considerable energy on social media analytics, which can include looking at what entities or personalities its Twitter followers are following. Some of its research is aimed at timing: discovering what messages work best when -- such as a prompt on Sunday morning encouraging people to marathon-view episodes of “Workaholics.”

Another aspect of Social Media 2.0 is advertisers would like to buy packages that allow them to play a role in a network’s social media incarnations as a way of broadening a sponsorship. Steele indicated that the sales force at Comedy Central has been knocking on his door. If a brand like Comedy Central finds a model that threads the needle, so marketing doesn’t pollute the social media environment, advertisers might pay a premium.

But that's a hot potato.

“Our audience is so super duper savvy in this space that if we piss them off and they un-follow us, then we’ve kind of lost an important part of our brand,” he said.

It's one arena where Comedy Central doesn't want to have people laughing.

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