What Conan O'Brien Can Teach Us about Social Video Marketing

What Conan O'Brien Can Teach Us about Social Video Marketing
May 31, 2012

He may not have lasted long as host of The Tonight Show, but has Conan O’Brien created a new position for himself as the celebrity face of the social video revolution?

Sure, the ratings for his show on TBS still lag a bit behind the Stewart-Colbert tag team on Comedy Central (and of course, Letterman and Leno). But a recent article from the Hollywood Reporter shows that Conan has supplemented those numbers by embracing a key component of any great content marketing strategy: it’s about quality, not just quantity.

This excerpt from the article jumped out at me in particular:

"Here's what Conan is doing that's very smart -- advertisers don't only want large numbers for specific demos; they want an engaged audience," says Larry Chiagouris, marketing professor at Pace University's Lubin School of Business and former chair of the Advertising Research Foundation. "The more you engage with your audience, the more you develop a relationship with them, they tune in and pay attention to the commercial messages. The average Conan viewer is more engaged with his program than the average viewer of Jay Leno's. I would bet on it."

The scenario here is a lot like what smaller companies are faced with when figuring out their own content strategies. Competing with the big boys is a challenge, so how do you increase brand awareness and attract new customers with limited resources?

Conan was never going to be able to challenge Dave and Jay in ratings on TBS, but you could argue that he’s found a way to build a more loyal, engaged audience by utilizing new marketing channels and opportunities. For example, here are some Conan-approved tactics that any organization can learn something from.

#1. Know your audience

While The Tonight Show audience tends to be a bit long in the tooth, Conan’s viewers skew younger (TBS data claims he outperforms every other late-light show in the 18-to-34 demo, with an average viewer age of only 35). Recognizing new opportunities to reach a young, tech-savvy audience, he and his team have invested heavily in social media and viral content.

“Advertisers want to be where the consumer is … Facebook, Twitter. The key demo is 18-to-34 -- that's the sweet spot,” MEC Entertainment’s Chet Fenster tells the Reporter.

The lesson: By researching where your key targets live online and understanding their interests, companies can similarly choose the best marketing channels to deliver their messages. Speaking of which…

#2. Don’t ignore social media

By making extra efforts to engage with young people who consider Twitter and Facebook a way of life, Conan has sailed past many of his late-night counterparts when it comes to social communication. He currently has more Twitter followers and Facebook fans than competitors with similar target demos, like Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel.

The lesson: It’s not just about having a presence on these platforms – you have to work it. What sets Conan apart from most of his competition is that his show puts an emphasis on these channels as a way to engage with people and generate buzz in a quality way. Similarly, organizations need to really make an effort with social media marketing if they want to see results.

#3. Embrace on-demand video

The flexibility provided by DVRs and online streaming continues to minimize the importance of live, “appointment” viewing. As Conan tells the Reporter: “It's about so much more than who watches the show at 11 p.m. Who watches it at 1 a.m.? Who watches the clip online the next day? Who sees the ad with that clip? This is where it's all going.”

According to the article, Conan’s TeamCoco.com website streamed over 12 million videos in March 2012, a 22% increase from the previous year. As Social Media Examiner recently reported, a greater investment in video is the top focus point for many marketers in 2012, and it seems Conan and company are ahead of the game here as well.

They’ve also gone mobile, creating a sponsored tablet app that “allows viewers to experience video clips and other bonus content in real time and has streamed 1 million episodes since its February launch.”

The lesson: Mobile video content is a HUGE consideration for companies right now (Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi likens it to people having access to little TV sets at all times). But video in general has also become increasingly popular amongst buyers. From a marketing perspective, more video not only opens your messages up to a whole new audience of potential customers, but also increases the chances of your content going viral.

For Conan, all of these efforts have started to pay off. The article states that over the past six months, his average audience has grown to 1.1 million viewers (for a while it came in at under a million). And that doesn’t even take into account additional views and revenue the show generates from sponsored videos and apps online.

Of course, most people aren’t late-night TV hosts, but the lessons are still the same. There’s a whole world of opportunity out there for marketers in regards to social media and video. Not even Triumph the Insult Comic Dog can deny that.