Business Strategy

3 Lessons You Can Learn from the USA Network’s Social TV Experiments

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Every organization is trying to integrate social media.

But social TV?

The USA Network is embarking on their second interactive campaign with the TV Show Suites, called “Suits Recruits”. It will give fans the opportunity to “join the team at Pearson Hardman and help [the lead characters] Harvey and Mike work on an on-going case”, according to Mashable.

This idea might seem outlandish. But if you want to innovate and create new areas of growth for your organization, then you need to be willing to experiment with new ideas.

And as you’ll see from the early results, their risks have clearly paid off.

Here are 3 lessons you can learn about making social media work for your organization.

Social Media Comic - New School vs. Old School Marketing
Image courtesy of seanrnicholson

1. Understand Your Audience

The first step to any marketing strategy is to have an in-depth understanding of your audience.

And not just their demographics. But what makes them tick. Why do they like you? What are their pains and fears?

How are you the cure?

This is the first step to creating content. And online, all marketing begins with content. That’s how you get people to discover you, engage with you, and trust you before subscribing, buying, or “Liking”.

If you can’t create interesting content ideas, then it’s usually because you don’t understand what your audience wants.

This understanding of your audience also guides your marketing decisions. It will give you insight into how to get traffic to your website, and what online marketing channels to pick.

The USA Network gets this. And the results of their first foray into social TV, called #HashTagKiller for the TV show Psych, prove the point:

In the first 12 hours of being online, more than 13,000 unique visitors visited Of those visitors, 10,000 signed up for the game. At its peak Wednesday afternoon, the website was fielding over 6,000 requests a minute. And the average user spent more than 12 and a half minutes on the site. Additionally, 22% of visitors returned at least once within the first 12 hours.

With so much engagement early on, you can tell this campaign was going to be a hit. And it clearly shows that they have a great understanding of that particular audience, and what they want.

If they try the same tactics with a different audience, then their results will suffer.

But Senior VP of Digital at USA, Jesse Redniss, acknowledges this important concept.

“We’ve taken what we learned from ‘HashTag’ and applied those lessons to ‘Recruits’. Suits and Psych have different audiences and that means we have to approach social in slightly different ways”.

The ways you reach people and get them to engage are unique to your circumstances. This crucial concept can be the different between a campaign succeeding, or failing.

For example, Pinterest for one business might be the perfect marketing channel, while it’s a complete waste of time for others.

2. Provide Unique Content & Experience

Statistics have shown that 36.9% of Facebook users and 43.5% of Twitter users people usually Like or Follow a company to receive special offers.

But with content and entertainment businesses, there are no exclusive discounts to give.

So how do you excite and engage people instead? Provide them with unique content and a delightful experience.

When you understand the motivations behind why people like you, then you can figure out what to give them to keep them engaged and make them feel appreciated.

In the case of “Suits Recruits”, they’re using an actual plot. Jesse Redniss, SVP of digital at USA Network, said “The storyline was actually something that was originally intended to be an episode of the show”.

According to Mashable,

Moreover, video with the Suits cast was shot for use within the experience. What’s interesting to note about these videos is that they can act as stand-alone webisodes.

While “Suits Recruits” is a parallel storyline to the main Suits arc, there will be some potential overlap in the future. The interactive experience will roll out over three days each week and coincide with what’s happening on Suits on the air.

In fact, the plan is to re-purpose the clips on the main Suits websites — as well as on DVD — after “Suits Recruits” ends.

From there, it was all about optimizing the experience to be more interaction, easy and pain-free.

The entire experience is heavily integrated with Facebook, to make it easy and accessible for almost everyone. And they’re making the site a hub of conversations for the show. The USA Network has their own “USA Chatter” platform that helps users discuss their shows in real-time.

3. Everyone Needs to Be On-Board

Finally in order to succeed, social media can’t be an isolated department of function of an organization.

The best results come when your tactics are integrated.

When the USA Network originally came up with the “Hashtag Killer” idea for the show Psych, everyone got involved. The producers, writers, and cast all contributed from the beginning, and were an integral part to the entire experience.

From Mashable:

After the idea was hatched, Psych writers got to work on a script. In addition to the online elements of the game, stars James Roday and Dule Hill also star in video clips that will roll out as part of the game each week. The clips are designed to mimic the look and feel of the show. During the week, players can log into to get more clues and messages and continue to try to track down the killer and solve the case.

Some top social media analysts are already predicting that social media roles will cease to exist in a few years. Instead, you’ll have more social businesses. The entire Marketing & Communications departments will get involved, and organizations as a whole will be “social”.

Because “social” is more of a mindset than a tactic. That’s why social media can’t save your brand.

But it can be used to enhance the users experience. If you can get users to stay engaged longer, then you have a better chance of turning them into loyal fans.

That’s the definition of social media.

And when you can get people to stick around longer, you stand a better chance of getting honest feedback, selling more, and growing your organization.

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