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TLC, Twitter, and (Very) Smart Marketing

Back in October, on the season premiere night of Long Island Medium, TLC decided to try a new marketing strategy, one involving Twitter.  A few days before the big event, I happened to catch the promos, and they advertised two things:

          a live commentary from Theresa Caputo during the premiere’s commercial breaks (it’s her show)

          a chance to win free readings from Theresa through a live Twitter contest being held during the show’s premiere.

Thanks to the magic of DVR, I zip through a lot of the television programs I’ve recorded while logging miles on my treadmill, usually in the mornings.

But for a real-time Twitter contest happening on national television, I was about to make an exception.

Twitter is my darling. I am always keen on learning about new ways to harness its unique social media power. Even with the reasonably watchful eye I keep on innovations in the social media scene, I hadn’t yet encountered a Twitter marketing needle being threaded as perfectly as @TLC was set to do.

How could I resist tuning in to find out how this marketing experiment would turn out?

A particular set of my friends and I get a real kick out of Long Island Medium, and I have watched – and enjoyed – plenty of episodes. I even have friends (yes, in that same circle) who have bought tickets to events hosted by Theresa Caputo, in the hopes of being one of the lucky ones in the audience to receive a reading from her.

Whether or not you believe in the idea of mediums, or in Theresa Caputo, one thing I will say for certain about her is that she understands the power of laughter, especially when it follows on the heels of deep, painful emotions. When she leaves a room, everyone is always smiling.

I think that’s her personal brand of magic, and why she is a good fit for a reality TV show.

Where TLC really got my attention, however, was not with the possibility of winning a free reading with the Long Island Medium; rather, it was with their use of the Twitter-based contest, with winner updates being reported live during the show. And by Theresa, no less.

Would this idea really work? Did it have marketing merit? Would people respond?

Long Island Medium

The live show ran from 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM ET. I decided to track TLC’s number of Twitter followers starting from the pre-show at 8:00 PM, right on through to 11:00 PM. Here are the results:

8:00 PM – @TLC had 276,797 followers

To get in on the fun, and to contribute to the experience, I tweeted the following at 8:02 PM:

“The season premiere of #LongIslandMedium is starting now on @TLC! Love the readings, love the family! #faith #hope #tears #laughter”

8:11 PM – @TLC had 283,696 followers

8:27 PM – @TLC had 295,387 followers

8:55 PM – @TLC had 314,684 followers

9:11 PM – @TLC had 328,458 followers

(Remember, these aren’t just casual Twitter followers, these are FANS. )

9:34 PM – @TLC had 339,621 followers

9:55PM – @TLC had 347,075 followers

(I wish I’d thought to look up their Klout and Kred scores before all this began, just as points of reference!)

10:15 PM – @TLC had 349,091 followers

10:34 PM – @TLC had 353,141 followers

11:00 PM – @TLC had 353,502 followers

That is a net gain of 76,705 followers on Twitter, with an average of 25,568 new followers per hour.

For a point of reference, if @TLC was able to maintain that pace, continuing to add 25,000 new followers per hour for one year, they’d have 219,125,000. A bit extreme as an example, I know, but simply a way to illustrate just how exceptional @TLC’s pace of new followers was during that live event.

For another point of reference, it has taken me over two years of dedicated work, blogging, tweeting, interacting, interviewing, being interviewed, and more, to reach 54,000 followers on Twitter.  My own pace averages out to 3 new followers an hour. 

[pullquote]“Generating more than one million Tweets throughout the day, LONG ISLAND MEDIUM drove TLC’s most social night ever – with upwards of 165,000 fans of Caputo tweeting while watching the show. The #LongIslandMedium hashtag was used more than 880,000 times – trending on Twitter in the U.S. along with eight other terms and hashtags.”[/pullquote]

Another point I consider well-planned was the manner in which @TLC used Twitter’s “Direct Messaging” feature to allow the winners of the contest to claim their prize privately, but in plain sight.

What that boils down to is that a major cable network found a way to interact directly and instantaneously with viewers (more importantly, with fans) without either party needing to supply private contact information until/unless they chose to share it.

I think this part is especially important because many of the participants were venturing into Twitter territory for the very first time in order to participate in the Long Island Medium contest. Almost all of the contestant profiles I clicked on showed only a handful of Twitter follows/followers, and even fewer tweets. In many cases, there was only one tweet and it included the hashtag #LongIslandMedium and a sentence about winning a reading from Theresa, as per the rules of the contest.

Ingenious. No wonder I’m such a fan!

But, if I may say it, here is the flaw in your marketing plan, TLC. You need to follow up. Don’t lose that one-of-a-kind momentum your smart cross-over marketing generated with your viewers, and with Teresa’s fans.

Find new ways to keep these “proven” fans of Long Island Medium actively involved with each episode, keep them hopeful and engaged, right up to the season finale.

Consider having a season-long contest for users who tweet weekly about the show. Heck, make an app for it, get viewers to download the app so that their “scores” can be tracked, both by them and by you. (And by Twitter, naturally.)

If they tweet, say, 15 weeks out of the 20-week run of the show’s season, they are automatically entered into a drawing for a special one-night event to be held by Theresa in some awesome location. (But only if they’ve used the app to track their stats, of course. )

If you want to go big, you could use the app to run simultaneous contests which would really be all about promoting the sponsors of the special one-night event, the grand prize. I’m thinking a hotel chain (contestants choose the location of the event?), an airline (contestants get to choose the in-flight movie?), and who knows which other businesses (travel bureaus? restaurant chains? merchandisers?) would be willing to donate products or services as a tradeoff for the marketing exposure your contest would provide to them.

This Long Island Medium season-long contest could even be a fantastic way to involve self-published authors!

Personally, with gratitude for the one-of-a-kind exposure being included as a “sponsor” of the contest would provide me, I’d be very, very happy to donate a hundred signed copies of my books to contestants who, by season’s end, score enough to win a prize, but not enough for a trip to the special one-night event. I’ll bet there are tens of thousands of other self-published and indie authors who would also jump at the chance to connect with a television audience.

Through your smart and successful marketing idea, TLC, you were able to go direct to your “consumers,” the people who watch your channel, and to build Brand loyalty in a whole new way. The evidence is clear on that point.

Prepare to be copied by your competitors.

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