VH1’s Winning Linear and Social Formula: Love + Hip Hop + Atlanta
Season 4 of VH1’s hit series ‘Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta‘ returned last week to strong linear and social ratings. A 2.5 rating among adults 18-49 and 3.5 million total viewers were good enough to make it the series highest ever season premiere. On Twitter, 644,00 tweets were sent by 127,000 unique authors (Nielsen Social), and tweets about the show resulted in 16 national trending topics.
Stoking the social fire for its hit show, VH1 has pulled out all the stops. New this season is ‘Love & Hip Hop Atlanta: The Afterparty LIVE!,’ a 30-minute interactive after-show. The network has partnered with Telescope to integrate a live Twitter feed into the show and have the capacity to take and feature real-time questions from fans via Facebook and Twitter.
The first episode of ‘Afterparty LIVE!’ drove 28,000 tweets and more than 18,000 fans questions were submitted via #askStevieJ and #askMimi for the Q&A segment.
For more on the social and digital tactics being employed for Season 4, we exchanged emails with VH1’s Tom Chirico, Vice President of Social and Digital Engagement, and Dave Perry, Vice President of Future TV and Cross-Platform Innovation.
LostRemote: How has the social strategy evolved for Season 4 compared to past seasons?
Tom Chirico: For Season 3 of LHH we did a fairly major overhaul of our content, engagement strategy, and voice for the show which paid off tremendously with last seasons demonstrating huge lifts in social engagement and viewership across all platforms. Season 4 has been more about refining what was working to craft an even better experience. For example, in Season 3 we noticed an exponential lift in social volume during commercial breaks vs. during the show time when fans have 100% focus on the content. We’ve now tailored our commercial breaks to have social ‘pop-up polls’ where we engage fans on Twitter to vote or take sides on an issue and tally the results live during each break. Also we’re ensuring that we’re leveraging advancements to the platforms our fans are most activate on and ones they’re just starting to adopt. A huge priority for us this season with both LHH and the #LHHAfterParty has been giving our fans live access to our show talent and experiences via Periscope and SnapChat. There we’ve been hosting live chats with casts, inside looks at the rehearsal for the aftershow, tours of the set and a whole lot more to come. Finally a new partnering we’re working with across all our major shows but starting this past week with LHH ATL is WhipClip which is enabling us to share video clips of key show moments right as they happen on air. We’re monitoring which moments through both shows are driving conversation then clipping those in real time to give fans yet another medium to share. It’s such a richer experience to give fans the ability to share the scene they just saw vs. an image or GIF of a singular moment.
LR: What are examples of social learnings that you’ve taken from ‘Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta’ and have applied to other VH1 shows?
Chirico: Given the veracious fan base and massive conversation volume for LHH ATL, we’ve been able to mine a wealth of data to inform activations for our other programs. A few notable learnings would be:
Tailor your engagement strategy based on your audience viewing patterns and platforms. Few shows have the huge ‘live-live’ linear+social audience of LHH and as all viewers are shifting their viewing windows and devices we take a beat with each show to determine where those eyeballs are and thus where we engage. For example, our long-running program Mob Wives has a noteable time-shifted audience which informed our past season’s partnership with Shazam to ensure fans could have an engaging experience with the show when they watch it most – time shifted, or on other platforms and devices.
The ‘reality’ doesn’t stop when your show’s off air. Our LHH casts lives are as active and public out-of-season as they are within it. We ensure we’ve got a 365 day news cycle, partnerships with key bloggers and outlets, as well as content and fan engagement opportunities year-round with our reality casts to enable our fans to stay informed in all the drama.
TV air-time still drives a high volume of social engagement. We’ve done numerous tests with LHH to determine the impact of on-air social calls to action and messaging and universally we’ve seen that when we’re both messaging AND rewarding fans with content and recognition on both platforms, we see engagement go through the roof. When we’re crafting ‘Social TV’ experiences (which we bake into the strategy of all our programming) we now look at the most authentic and value adding ways we can use both screens to create greater impact for fans.
LR: You partnered with Telescope to bring live social interaction with cast members to ‘Love & Hip Hop Atlanta: The Afterparty LIVE!’ – it has only been a week but what are some takeaways from introducing this feature?
Dave Perry: Telescope have been amazing partners and while it’s just been one episode we’ve already learned so much that we’re implanting for future weeks.
With so many different types of Social TV experiences we want to implement across the series, we constantly remind ourselves that we have to find a balance. We know we have the willing audience to participate but at the same time we want to ensure we’re giving our guests and host time to provide great insight and commentary the fans want to hear and share.
On-air promos with clear social calls-to-action’s during the LHH ATL premiere episode really help to drive engagement during the live Afterparty. When we seed clear messaging and engagement opportunities adjacent to dramatic moments of the premiere, we’ve seen sustained spikes in UGC continuing through to the Afterparty vs. simply asking fans to reflect on those moments that have come and gone. You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot and the reactions are fresh.
Planning, resources, media management, and timing are crucial for Live Social TV. To do this, we worked to align all of VH1’s fan touch points (OnAir, Social, and Digital) to ensure that the show experience is unified across all platforms. Ranging from digitally publishing highlighted UGC elements from the linear show, to syncing our second screen platforms to allow for real-time interactions with the Afterparty guests; it all comes down to having a shared vision and relentlessly working to communicate that vision.
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