Facebook aims to friend TV biz

Social network looks to distinguish itself from Twitter

There hasn’t been a new episode of “Dallas” since August, but you wouldn’t know that from the TNT series’ Facebook page.


The second-season premiere may not be until Jan. 28, but fans who have stayed tuned to “Dallas” on the social network have been treated to a steady churn of posts from the show’s characters. In contrast to the radio silence most series maintain between seasons, TNT has gone so far as to produce clips that touch on the show’s storylines, such as a political ad for Sue Ellen Ewing, a character running for governor of Texas.


The online presence for “Dallas” is evidence not only of TNT getting out the vote for the coming season but of Facebook’s own campaign within the TV industry to establish itself as a must-have marketing vehicle. That hasn’t been easy given how aggressive Twitter has been in the social-media space, but the “Dallas” promotional strategy may be a prime example of how Facebook is trying to do something different.


Twitter and a bustling cottage industry of social-TV specialists from GetGlue to Shazam have drawn attention as companions for connecting with friends on digital platforms while watching TV; the TV biz has embraced this boost to viewer engagement, giving screentime in various forms to social-media call-to-actions like the increasingly ubiquitous Twitter hashtag.But Facebook doesn’t put much importance on either being on air or in-show. Its execs take a broader view that sees promotion for a show playing out in its fans’ news feeds long before and after any one episode, to the extent exemplified by “Dallas” for TNT, which commissioned a timeline that illustrated the rich history of the iconic series five months before its debut last June.


“We’re not looking for someone with their laptop open while the show is on,” said Howie Stein, strategist of global creative solutions at Facebook, where he focuses on the entertainment industry. “We think the industry is blinded by the ‘during’; Facebook is much broader than that.”


While Facebook does steady business from studios and networks who pay to get the word out across its massive platform, the company has spent the past year evangelizing throughout Hollywood for its ability to build customized promotional presences for clients as it did with “Dallas” and many corporations outside the category, from Nike to American Express. It’s a far cry from the days when all a TV property could do was set up a simple fan page on Facebook.


“That’s like throwing a pebble into an ocean,” said Kay Madati, head of entertainment and media global marketing solutions at Facebook.


Madati came to the company ago nearly two years ago from CNN, where he worked with Facebook from the other side of the table on various programming collaborations. Based in Facebook’s Playa Vista satellite office, he runs point for Facebook in Hollywood along with Stein, who previously worked at FremantleMedia.


Facebook drew notice in 2012 for being integrated into some of the biggest TV events of the year, from CNN’s election coverage to NBCUniversal’s Olympics. Less apparent is its role in the regular episodic programming where it has provided support, from Fox’s “Touch” to NBC’s “Ready For Love,” and that’s something Facebook wants to change.


The TV industry is still trying to feel its way around the best way to use social media to promote its programs, but what’s clear so far is that no campaign is executed without some thought given to social along with the usual offline mix of 30-second TV spots or billboards.


“The power of social as we see it now is that one-to-one connection with consumers, arguably the most valuable relationship that we have,” said Jesse Redniss, senior VP of digital at USA Network.


Perhaps the most overlooked element social media platforms bring to marketing is user data that helps target campaigns to desired audience segments. Facebook has always been more conservative than Twitter on this front, but Ben Blatt, director of digital strategy at ABC Entertainment, has seen signs of improvement. “As Facebook opens up more, the possibilities for a TV network will open up too,” he said.


Tricia Melton, senior VP of brand and entertainment marketing for TBS, TNT and TCM, doesn’t see social-media marketing as an either-or when it comes to Facebook or Twitter. Each, she believes, brings distinctly different attributes. While Twitter is a better showcase for in-the-moment reactions and direct contact with the talent, Facebook worked better for what she wanted to bring to “Dallas.”


“With Facebook, you can use a lot of photography and video, which was appropriate in the context of the storytelling we wanted to be doing on the platform,” she said. “There’s also more of an emphasis on social conversation and community than what Twitter brings to the table.”


Madati thinks there’s room for more than one social network at the table. “I don’t see us as competitors at all, it’s complementary,” he said. “People follow shows on both platforms.”


By the numbers




The number of users who heard of the show on Facebook and planned to watch it vs. the general population (53% vs 26%)




The increase in fans through media. “Dallas” now has 1 million fans — meaning that TNT can reach 125 million friends of fans through “friends of connections” targeting on Facebook.




Engagement rates for “Dallas” on news feeds, compared to right-hand side placements on Facebook


Source: Facebook, TNT

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