May 11

Social Media Hit or Miss: Battle of Television Giants, The History Channel vs. HBO

Here’s our take on which brands have made an impression, for better and for worse, across the social media sphere this week. Brands are chosen based on compelling recommendations, best practices and overall reach and impact. 

Fourscore and Nine Million Facebook Fans Ago…

Bringing HBO Girls to Life on Twitter
This week, The History Channel is approaching 10 million fans on Facebook (9,949,077 as of 2pm today).  According to Evan Silverman, the SVP of Digital at A&E, History is the second TV network ever to reach that point.   To bring attention to this achievement, they are highlighting their 10 favorite features on, starting with one of their favorite infographics, Halloween By The Numbers.How’d they do it?  They combined interesting and relevant wall content – “This Day in History,” “History in the Headlines,” etc. – with fun social games that made it easy for their fans to get involved. For instance, the channel’s Pawn Stars game has “tallied more than a quarter-billion game plays” while the Top Shotgame averages “100,000 daily views.”  In the end, they’ve proven that history is more than what you studied in high school.#BrandHit Learnings:

  • “It’s about scale and engagement”: Silverman said it best – “It’s very easy in the digital space to be blinded by the flavor of the week, but it’s important to measure a network’s success by how many people are actually engaging with their offerings.”  While strictly measuring fan numbers is valuable, it’s also important to see what your fans are engaging with on your page.  Once they’re a fan, what are you doing to keep their attention?
  • Go beyond the Wall: With Facebook’s upgrade to Timeline, a lot of focus (and rightly so) has been on Wall content and how to engage fans within that space.  But what about the apps?  The History Channel has had great success with fun social games because they know that their fans enjoy social gaming. Remember to askyour fans what they’d like to see.  Try some things out.  See what sticks and what doesn’t – the great thing about social media is that it’s ever evolving.  Don’t be afraid to think out of the box and beyond the Wall.
The new HBO hit Girls has gotten quite a bit of attention over the last few weeks – whether you think it’s a great show or not, Mark Drapeau of the Huffington Post accurately points out that HBO is missing the social media boat for this particular show.  During the 30-minute programs, main character Hannah Horvath tweets about what’s happening in her life and what she’s thinking about.  What’s missing, then, is the connection back to “real life.”  There is no official HBO “Hannah Horvath” Twitter account.  With a Facebook fan base of just over 45,000 Likes and a Twitter following of over 22,000, HBO has an excellent opportunity to connect with its fans and bring Hannah (and other characters) to life via social media.
#BrandMiss Learnings:

  • Characters are people, too: Fans of a particular show often relate to characters in a deeply personal way, thinking of them not only as faces on a TV screen, but almost as real life friends or family.  Embrace that connection (on a healthy level) and don’t forget to be creative – yes, we can launch Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for the show, but what about the characters?  They’re what fans are tuning in for – make sure to think about opportunities to bring their story to life as well.
  • Find opportunities for new content: Consumers are now expecting television to go beyond the TV screen with online webisodes, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage or additional character background info.  Social TV is no longer a “trend” – fans are flipping between their smartphones, tablets and their TV – brands must continue to find innovative ways to keep viewers involved on each of those channels.