VH1's Facebook Strategist: Give Fans Access To Stars

People are paying attention to VH1 on Facebook these days. The brand’s page has accumulated 3.1 million fans as of this posting, and another 28,000 Facebookers are talking about it.

And it’s only one page of a bundle the network has launched on the social network. So, we tracked down the man behind the buzz to learn what steps he took to build up VH1′s presence on Facebook.

Nigel Cox-Hagan, executive vice president of the creative group and consumer marketing at VH1, talks social strategy. He’s charged with overseeing the channel’s music marketing and VH1 digital marketing teams plus consumer and trade advertising that VH1 creates and places.

Previously, Cox-Hagan was creative director of promotion for MTV2 where he developed launch branding and ongoing promotional plans. Before that, he put his degree in film and communications to work as an MTV producer and director, creating on-air image campaigns, channel branding and show packaging, which yielded a handful of Broadcast Design Awards and a Peabody Award.

How would you sum up VH1′s Facebook strategy?

The first part of our strategy was just to be on Facebook and have a strong presence. The second part was to branch out beyond just a VH1 page to create pages for each show, allowing consumers to fully explore and engage with each franchise. We cross-pollinate between the shows, so a Mob Wives fan can also be a Single Ladies fan. Viewers connect with the shows through contests and talent interaction.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in terms of your Facebook strategy?

It’s a highly competitive medium. Innovation is always the challenge. You want to provide something that appeals to and engages fans. A challenge specific to VH1 is how many franchises we have and how they differ from one another (for example, Pop Up Video, Basketball Wives LA, Tough Love). We must cater to different genres and meet each franchise’s specific interests and unique attributes.

When hiring marketers now, you mentioned VH1 looks for the social skill set – how do you gauge if applicants are social enough?

Being educated in social media is now a necessity for all aspects of marketing. Social is touching every aspect of what we do now, from partnerships to street teams to promotions to events. Media companies in general are much more fluent in social now. You have to update your skills on the digital platforms all the time. Sometimes you go to seminars, sometimes the learning is trial-and-error.

How big is your staff for Facebook pages?

We are still in the process of ramping up oversight. We have about 20 people for the various pages. But while we have social specialists in our organization, all of our marketing disciplines interact with Facebook – so everyone has to be cross-trained to work across social mediums. Every marketing person touches Facebook in some way.

How much cash does maintenance of Facebook presence require?

There’s no easy answer. As far as what we directly spend on Facebook, somewhere between $50,00 and $80,000 over the course of a year.

What’s beyond the sudden push to be more social?

The VH1 brand has been social from the beginning and used Facebook for years. Like any media entity, we’ve noted for many years the growth in social media. We’ve adopted and experimented with multiple social platforms. As the mediums have evolved, our efforts have also evolved.

For example, we created individual show pages in response to seeing that each franchise had its own deep following. We developed a more targeted Facebook strategy. We concentrate content around each franchise and want fans to cross over. Among our our most popular pages now are the VH1 main Facebook page, “Basketball Wives,” “Celebrity Rehab,” “Mob Wives,” and “Tough Love.”

Isn’t there a concern in putting so much effort and energy into a social network that could start charging brands – or vanish one day?

Facebook has done a remarkable job of creating a community and a platform that is successful and intuitive. I’m confident it will be around for many years. Putting time and effort into social space is how we learn and progress in developing the tools to explore whatever might come next. The world has gone social – we don’t see that changing.

What is behind VH1′s Facebook success?

First, an existing and dedicated fanbase for our programming. The VH1 brand attracts passionate and loyal viewers who want to be engaged, no matter what show they are into – from “Pop Up Video” and “Tough Love” to “Basketball Wives.”

Secondly, it’s VH1′s willingness to dissolve the line between our talent and our fans. We’ve created a community where the fan, viewer or follower has a chance to interact with the talent they love. We’ve had the most success on Facebook with promotions.

What’s VH1 going to excite fans with next?

“Basketball Wives Miami, Livestream.” On December 8, we’ll stream a Basketball Wives Season 4 photo shoot in Miami. The Facebook event, hosted by VH1 blogger, Liz Black, will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern. You can watch the feed on a Basketball Wives Facebook tab experience on the show’s Facebook page.

Lead image courtesy of VH1.

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