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November 10th, 2010

Why Conan O’Brien Won Social Media

Asking if you’re a Letterman or Leno person can ignite fiery conversations akin to those if you should ask an Apple devotee’s take on Windows 7 or a Chevy die-hard’s advice on repairing your Ford Explorer. No matter which side of the argument you come down on in this particular area, I think we can all agree that Conan O’Brien has been slowly but surely winning at The Internet in the last several months, all of it culminating in this week’s debut of his new show on TBS.

From a funny Twitter account (where he only follows one random person back) to the Team Coco Facebook page and a series of videos that takes the viewer behind the scenes of his preparations for his new show, he’s been all over the place.

The thing that’s struck me as I’ve watched this effort progress is that it’s succeeded in a way that isn’t necessarily tied to the social channels he’s used. It’s not like he’s been engaged in a ton of Twitter or Facebook conversations – though he has used them for audience input for some gags – or anything else that would be part of anyone’s initial presentation if they were laying out a strategy for him and his team.

Instead it’s succeeded because it’s just really, really funny. And that’s what we expect from O’Brien. He didn’t set out to maximize the value of his acquired Twitter fanbase or any other Powerpoint bullet point. He and his team set out to make people laugh, remaining true to the off-kilter and largely self-deprecating personality he’d built up over his years on late night TV.

In other words, the campaign just gave O’Brien a venue. What he did with it was all him and completely authentic.

That’s where it comes back to not mattering that he used social media channels to do that. If Twitter and YouTube hadn’t been available to him he’d have stood at train stations and charmed people there.

It’s important to remember that it’s not the tools. It’s the manner in which they’re used that counts.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

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