Social Media: Promotion’s Powerful New Tool

Panelists at the PromaxBDA Station Summit discuss the value, opportunities and problems that stem from Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

Today, it’s hard to imagine successfully marketing and promoting TV shows and building relationships with viewers without tapping into social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and emerging sites like Tout.

In the past few years, social sites that didn’t exist not long ago have radically overhauled the TV industry, including by greatly affecting the marketers tasked with promoting shows and stations with traditional and nontraditional platforms, according to panelists on this morning’s State of the Industry: A View from the Top by Broadcast’s Best at the PromaxBDA Station Summit in Las Vegas.

The panelists discussed a wide range of topics, from social media to political ad dollars, to balancing their work with their personal lives.

“Affiliates want to share reels and share information,” said Nick Belperio, SVP of marketing at Fox Broadcasting Co. “Social media allows them to share and post immediately. It allows me and my department to speak with stations. I see a lot of stations whose news anchors manipulate social media well. They’ll be online while they’re on the air or during commercial breaks. It’s really intimate.”

“We share our strategies with affiliate marketing teams,” said Marla Provencio, EVP-chief marketing officer at ABC Entertainment Group. “We have a webinar specifically for social and digital strategy.”

Still, she warns that TV viewers are turned off by social media that’s too much of a hard sell. Instead, conversations that forge relationships between viewers and TV stations and networks are critically important.


“One of the best ways to utilize Facebook is as a research tool,” Provencio said. We have put promos on Facebook and asked viewers which one they like. But anything you do on these pages has to feel right. It’s totally different from what you’re doing on air. If they feel that we’re selling them something, they flee.”

Scott Blumenthal, EVP of television at LIN Media, said it’s more important for stations to use social media to build their own brand than help another company like Facebook build its brand.

“I don’t give a shit about Facebook,” he said. “We upload content there, but you can’t build a brand on Facebook. From a station standpoint, I don’t think Facebook and social media are the same. Social media has a value. But the way we use social media is on our platforms to help build our brand.”

There is a place for social media and one of those is to help stations figure out what their viewers are talking about.

“Our clearest example of how it can work was when Hurricane Irene was coming,” said Valari Staab, president of NBC Owned Television Stations. “On social media, it became clearer and clearer that it would hit in Connecticut. The station was following social media. It was exploding. They went on the air early because they realized their viewers were already following it. You can use it to learn what your market is interested in.”

The panel, which was moderated by Jonathan Block-Verk, president-CEO of PromaxBDA, also discussed allocating spots for promos and commercials, particularly when many markets are flush with political ad dollars.

“I think it’s very short-sighted to give up promotional spots for political advertising,” said Blumenthal. “There are always bottom feeders, the low-price advertisers. They take the risks, so in political periods they take the risk of being bumped for political advertising.”

NBC’s Staab said there should be some give and take between promos and commercials during political seasons.

“In the world we live in, it’s hard not to take the dollars when they’re there,” she said. “You create a balance of power between your promotion manager and general sales manager. If the promotion manager gives you time now, you have to give something back in return, like avails in non-election quarters.”

Staab also discussed shifting the company’s promotions from a network focus to its 10 stations.

“Before the NBC Universal-Comcast merger, stations were dealing with very limited resources,” she said. “In the last year, we put in 10 promotion departments at all of our stations. It didn’t cost more than it cost to do it at a corporate level.

“These people now have tremendously more resources than they used to have. They all have off-channel marketing budgets, so they have more resources than they’ve had in a long time.”

The panelists also discussed marketing strategies that are effective in promoting TV shows.

“One of the real pleasures of working at Fox is that we tend to do things on a big scale,” said Belperio. “Affiliate marketing is part of that, which is very gratifying. We buy more promotional material than anybody. We try to make sure our affiliates can take that out to events and give to clients, even if it’s just a temporary tattoo for American Idol.”

Fox also provides content to stations that they can sell. “For the summer, we produce a half-hour fall preview schedule. It gives the stations an opportunity to sell that inventory and it’s a great promotional tool for us. So, we can benefit each other,” Belperio said.

ABC’s Provencio pointed to the effectiveness of sampling network shows on other platforms before they debut on traditional TV. “It’s shortsighted to worry that free sampling will take away form a show’s premiere rating,” she said. “It’s more important to get viewers invested in your programming.

“Fox’s free sampling of New Girl to the marketplace was phenomenal,” Provencio said. “Fox helped everybody figure out about what free sampling can do. We did some free sampling for Modern Family but it was limited, like on airplanes. But to see you can attract so many people with New Girl’s free sampling, and then deliver a phenomenal rating when it premiered, was great.”

Block-Verk ended the panel with a topic that touches just about everyone in the room — marketing’s notoriously long hours, asking the panelists how they balance work and their personal lives.

“Your family — your children and spouse — come first,” said Staab. “But whatever you’re doing, be there. If you’re with your family, be 100% with your family. If you’re at your job, be 100% there. You can’t have it all at the same time. You have it all over the course of your lifetime.”

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