[Interview] In Conversation with Dhawal Katkar, Turner International On HBO’s Social Media Strategy

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Dhawal Katkar, Sr. Director & Network Head - English Entertainment, Sout...We interviewed Spokesperson: Mr. Dhawal Katkar, Sr. Director & Network Head – English Entertainment, South Asia, Turner International India Pvt. Ltd who shared social media strategies for HBO & revealed how they focus more on building a close connect with their audiences online. He added that – “Social media is working as a marketing arm for the channel”. Read on to know how HBO‘s social media strategy looks forward to listening to its audience’s expectations, likes & dislikes.

What are the communication objectives of HBO India & how does social media marketing help in achieving them? Is driving viewership from social media an important objective? If so, how do you achieve this?

All marketing efforts for HBO are focussed on tune-in messaging, since the genre is largely title-driven. Hence the objective is to grab the attention of the target audience by emphasising the blockbuster content & drive home the telecast details.

Internet is the 3rd highest reach medium after TV & Print and unarguably the most engaging, primarily due to social media. The higher the interaction with the audience on a specific film, the greater the probability of this involvement being translated into tune-ins for that film ( & due to social media these people sharing the tune in details of the great HBO content with their friends) .  That largely sums up HBO’s social media strategy.

Outline your social media policies for us. What is the level of involvement of your employees in taking the word to the social world about HBO?

Our social media updates are naturally within the Hollywood zone, in sync with the brand. The entire team’s passion for the brand extends into their own social media usage, with ‘shares’, ‘likes’ & ‘retweets’ galore !

Does an external social media agency manage your communications online? If so, how does it work seamlessly to keep up to your processes?

HBO’s social media agency is OMLogic. They have an extremely enthusiastic & dedicated team who love the brand so much that all premiere campaign brainstorming is done over a movie screening & snacks session !  Over the years while they have easily aligned to our processes, their brand loyalty is often reflected in healthy debates with us over a certain campaign approach/ ideation, etc since we all work as a single team to take the HBO brand to newer heights.

What are the three major social media platforms that an entertainment channel of your calibre needs to be on?

As per usage patterns, the heirarchy is largely Facebook, Twitter & Youtube.  While overall size (fan base) does matter, since some time now, the focus has been on maximum engagement.

How has social media evolved in India ever since you have launched your channel in the country?

Its been growing by leaps & bounds! As mentioned earlier, engagement is primary. Facebook has started witnessing some level of ‘burnouts’, but double the number of new accounts are being added.  As we know from recent news, they are providing a lot of paid tools to marketers. Twitter is fast coming into its own & not everyone has yet started using this medium to its full potential.  Some brands have started investing into G+ but the user base itself is too low, currently.

Tell us a little more about your content strategy for social media & how well does it gel with your communication objective across platforms – Social, PR & TV Advertising.

Social media is working as a marketing arm for the channel & hence the content is a reflection.  We use this platform for more direct & personal communication with our audience. Messaging is synchronised across media & layouts adapted to suit the specific medium.

How much of your total marketing spend do you allocate to social media marketing in terms of percentage? Has it increased over the years? How much percent do you plan to allocate in the new financial year? Is it because you are getting a better ROI & exposure?

While we cannot comment on specific budgets, we invest significantly in digital as our audience is digital and social media savvy. This investment is only going to increase with the growth of the medium. Our ROI on social and digital investment is solid as we know that this medium is specific and measurable

Digital is growing exponentially & as the audience increases consumption of this medium, the marketing efforts will obviously be intensified in the direction where this is maximum Reach.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your social media campaign? What analytical tools do you employ? Does it give you an indication of what your viewers want from your programming & social presence?

Measurement metrics employed depend on the digital tools used in the campaign. There are benchmarks/targets set in terms of impressions, clicks & results evaluated on parameters that show a direct impact on our own channels (FB/Youtube).

A major reason for encouraging engagement is to have our ‘ear on the ground’, so we get a pulse of what our audience likes, dislikes, expects & rejects – the audience is certainly forthright in expressing their opinion !

What is your plan of action in case of a crisis situation? Does your social media presence help manage it effectively?

Depending on the nature of the crisis, TV & social media can both be used as immediate media. E.g. Using a scroll across the channel / Real-time post on FB on Twitter.  While television provides Reach, social media’s virality gives an edge.