What Late Night TV Can Teach You About Audience Building

October 1, 2013 Bria Jordan

Recently it was revealed that Jimmy Kimmel was behind the infamous ‘Twerk Fail!’ in which a young woman accidentally sets herself on fire:

As the above clip explains, the video was released without promotion, and quickly garnered over 9.4 million views – in a week. It also featured heavily on many mainstream news stations, including Fox, MSNBC, CNN, HLN, Global news, and programs like the Talk, The View, and Inside Edition. Jimmy’s reveal video has almost as many views as the original.

This is just one example of how late night TV programs build an audience through the use of videos. By utilizing social media and news aggregator sites, late night talk shows are increasing viewership and related financial goals. More importantly, it’s demonstrated an ability to build an audience through the use of social commentary, social sharing and excellent comedic timing and relevance.

Don’t believe me? You’re probably aware of the controversy surrounding Robin Thicke’s song Blurred Lines. Its video and lyrics have been a source of contention, particularly the video’s nudity and the song’s rap lyrics (I’m not repeating its vulgarity here, but it’s quite crass). At the height of its popularity, Robin Thicke joined Jimmy Fallon and his house band The Roots to perform a version of Blurred Lines as a part of its Classroom Instruments series:

The premise is simple: recreate a family friendly song on the instruments of your childhood. Choosing to cover a popular song and adding a twist creates interest within its pre-existing audience. In addition to the social icons, the ‘about’ section has several links to NBC and Jimmy Fallon’s sites and social media platforms, simultaneously increasing its link building while creating an easy opportunity to increase its audience.  It currently has over 11 million views and 95,000 comments.

Using Social Media, Jimmy Fallon’s #hashtag experiment, “Late Night Hashtags”, have been a consistent source of both social media traffic and trending successes. The experiments are based on crowd-sourcing answers from the public, with great comedic success:

In several cases, the #hashtag ends up trending nationally in the United States, indicating a large amount of audience interaction. It’s also a cost effective solution for the production, as they generate content while increasing their audience, without a large overhead. It’s a mutually beneficial situation: the audience base loves the interaction, and the network increases revenue.

What Marketers Can Takeaway

So what can you learn from Late Night talk shows? For one, timing matters. The Real Housewives of Late Night wouldn’t be so clever if there were no more Real Housewives shows to lampoon, and the Game of Desks bit wouldn’t be as funny if the show was unpopular. As we saw with the Twerk video, creating something that relates to current issues and trends can be an easy way to build an audience, while simultaneously drawing attention to the brand.

Secondly, the Social Media interactions teach us several important lessons. Regular interactions through platforms such as Twitter can make a huge difference in your Social Media strategy and web presence. Identifying and focusing on the platforms that work for you can improve ROI in a cost-effective manner.

Also, it’s always important to understand how to address the needs of the audience. In these cases, the humorous element appeals to a broader base of people with a common need: they want to be entertained. While this won’t always be the case with your business, using humour as an icebreaker may be the best way to gain traction with your demographic (Hi, Blendtec). It is then up to you to understand and address their needs in a timely, straightforward way, in order to build on this initial success. If humour isn’t the ideal way to build an audience, perhaps a brainstorming session will help you discover a way to add value to their experience. Regardless of what you choose to do, being honest, approachable and knowledgeable will never go out of style, so have fun with it and see what happens!

About the Author

Bria Jordan is a Search Engine Optimization and Social Media consultant. A published writer for the last 14 years, she can often be found celebrating her off-time by bicycling through the city or cooking. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two cats.

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