[Interview] Gaurav Lulla decodes Viacom18's social media strategy

Social Samosa
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social media strategy
Social media is the third eye for television channels – the one that gives them insights on what is working well and what not. It is also their first consumer touch point, their first moment of truth! Further understanding the nuances of social media for the Television Industry, Social Samosa gets in touch with Gaurav Lulla, Head – Digital Media, Youth and English Entertainment Cluster, Viacom 18.

What is your objective from social media as a marketer?

Every social platform serves a different purpose in our overall digital strategy. Facebook allows us to effectively scout for prospective viewers of the channel, Twitter helps us with first-hand consumer engagement, giving us instant feedback and Instagram helps us build a fan base through image and video-based narratives.

How do you use social media to ensure content dissemination amongst your TG?

We reach out to our TG through (a) contextual interest based targeting and (b) deep social listening. The primary objective of our creatives’ narrative is to go beyond the viewers’ awareness and enter their consideration set. Social media as a platform has probably the shortest attention spans and hence we alter narratives to suit each social platform.

Twitter has time and again stated that it is one of the most apt marketing platforms for television channels. What are your thoughts on it?

Twitter undoubtedly allows for organic aggregation of buzz around a show. But as a platform it's very unforgiving to a direct sell, e.g. plugging a show tune-in may not be effective. But it definitely simplifies the task of bringing together the fans (and critics) of a TV show.

Viewers often live tweet their reaction to shows when they're aired. How do you leverage this? How do you plan to engage with these audience?

The cutting-edge programming on our channels lend itself very well to live tweeting.  Live tweeting has been very effective, from during the biggest award shows on Vh1 to Comedy Central giving its unique opinion on current events. For Colors Infinity, live tweeting was especially instrumental during Stage 2 and Vogue BFF. Viewers have responded very positively to the live-tweet contest during Vogue BFF episodes, as they stand to win exclusive merchandise autographed by the celebs. Live tweeting also works for Instant Premieres on Colors Infinity, as we air the latest blockbuster shows within 12 hours of the U.S. In sync with the international trend of ‘binge watching’, our Live Binge properties get a lot of traction online as the viewers can enjoy the entire new season in one go on the same day. Thus Live Tweeting works even better when done in conjunction with other innovations.

How has social media changed content consumption habits of Indian viewers?

Social media has allowed the audience to be more demanding and be specific about their likes and dislikes. As a broadcaster, the amount of feedback we receive on our shows is tremendous. The possibility of two-way conversation has made consumers feel more connected as well as in control of what they would like to watch on our channels. We actually used this very effectively in our recent initiative Infinity on Demand where we asked consumers to tell us what they would like to binge watch on the weekend through our website. The overwhelming response totally vindicated the initiative.

You are one of the first Indian brands to leverage Snapchat. Take us through your Snapchat strategy.

For us, Snapchat is an experiment across all three brands. We are currently testing the platform to see what works and what doesn't. As a platform Snapchat puts a lot of pressure on brands to be authentic and real. Curated creatives are not appreciated by the users. Currently we are toying with initiatives such as covering the best gigs in the country live. This is coherent with Vh1, since the brand is already at the epicenter of the party scene across India.

Humor works very well on social media and hence we are using the Comedy Central handle to share a daily dose of the 'Happy Place' through light-hearted memes and emojis.

On Colors Infinity, we are using the Snapchat effectively to build characters of our iconic shows in ways other platforms don't allow. We are currently dabbling with fan-fiction and trivia told through comic strips or figurines.

We are very bullish on Snapchat as an AV medium to connect with our younger audiences and once tools such as geo filters are launched in India, we expect it to be an integral part of our social initiatives.

Social media is one of the best tools to know what your viewers feel about any content. How do you apply social listening and use the data?

Social listening is a very crucial activity for our brands. Vh1 uses social listening to understand emerging trends and preferences in music and lifestyle. Comedy Central rides on trending topics and provides a unique point of view in its signature style. Social listening allows Colors Infinity to connect directly with existing fans of the blockbuster global franchises we bring to India.

Any campaigns in the pipeline?

Our social media communication will always be in sync with our progressive and cutting-edge content on air. Many new initiatives and innovations will be deployed soon, to enhance our editorial supremacy and further develop newer content formats to engage with our evolving audiences. Keep following us, as there will never be a dull moment!

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