The Food Network hadn’t done live programming in 12 years until November, when it decided to steal a page from Butterball and turn itself into a live hotline for Thanksgiving cooking help.
The network’s foray into live, social TV was an instant success, thanks in no small part to a line-up of celebrity chefs that included Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, Melissa d’Arabian, Alex Guarnaschelli, Sunny Anderson, Anne Burrell and Ted Allen.
“Thanksgiving is literally the Superbowl for the Food Network,” Susie Fogelson, senior vice president of marketing, creative services and brand strategy for the Food Network, said in a South by Southwest Interactive Festival panel on social television.
Promoted on the air, foodnetwork.com and on social channels, Thanksgiving Live on Food Network encouraged frazzled cooks to engage via email, Twitter, Facebook and Skype to get culinary answers instantly.
Not only did viewers and participants get tips so their stuffing would not be dry, the network achieved its business goals as well:
- 20,000 new Facebook fans in just two hours
- 2 million impressions across the network’s web properties
- Five trending topics on Twitter during a traditionally quiet Saturday afternoon
In the SxSW session “TVEngagement: Does Social Media Drive TV Ratings?,” Text 100 VP Tara O’Donnell quizzed Fogelson and executives from MTV, Bravo and the music-matching app Shazam about the business wisdom behind multi-screen viewing.
Ellen Stone, vice president of marketing for Bravo, stressed the need to provide consumers engaging with their favorite shows additional content they would not receive if they were watching live or having a conversation outside of the Bravo social space.
Using the right platform at the right time is key, said Stone.
“I want twitter during the show. Facebook is a community for a long-term relationship, as long as we keep it fresh,” said Stone, whose social TV success include the Real Housewives franchise and a Bravo’s inaugural New Year’s Eve broadcast, which featured Andy Cohen and garnered FourSquare check-ins every 2 seconds.
Colin Helms, senior vice president at MTV Digital Media, pointed to a Nielsen study that equated a 9% increase in social buzz about a program to a 1% increase in ratings.
“We feel really strongly that there’s a correlation there,” he said, adding that MTV watches in real-time the social engagement through Twitter – where MTV is frequently involved in trending topics – and through the MTV WatchWith app.
“Any TV show is going to be social whether you drive it or not. It’s really whether you amplify it or not,” said Helms, who attributed much of MTV’s success in building a social community of 100 million fans to direct involvement by MTV talent.
An MTV Jersey Shore spinoff featuring Pauly D provided Helms’s team to spiff Facebook fans with a video made just for them. It was the top streamed video for the day, outpacing even full-length episodes of shows, said Helms.
Panelists also pointed out a danger of giving talent too much free reign in the social media outreach for a particular show, cautioning that they are brands unto themselves and are not easy to control.
“They are very feisty and sometimes will say things that are very off brand, like douchebag. They may not keep their messaging brand-friendly,” said Fogelson, refusing to divulge which celebrity uttered the offensive reference.