Twitter Marketing According To The Onion - How We Won The #Oscars, The #SuperBowl And Turned #HorseMasturbation Into A Trending Topic In Service Of Our TV Shows

Baratunde Thurston (The Onion), Matt Kirsch (The Onion)
Social Media
Location: New York West Level:
Average rating: ****.
(4.67, 3 ratings)

The Onion’s digital presence has come a long way from the once-weekly issue upload schedule of the mid 1990s. Putting the brand where its community is active has been a key part of that transition with Twitter providing the most dramatic example. After stumbling across the potential value of bringing The Onion’s unique journalistic coverage to live events, the company found itself with increased web traffic, new ad sales opportunities, more followers and a new, exciting way to extend its creative process into a new medium. Examples of this transition can be seen in The Onion’s dominance of popular events such as the State Of The Union (our tweets were more popular than President Obama’s), the Oscars (our news anchor doubled her followers in a matter of hours) and the Super Bowl (we had one of the most retweeted posts across all of Twitter).

Looking to expand the reach and relevance of two half-hour television shows, The Onion used many of the live event lessons learned on Twitter to help extend the worlds of “Onion News Network” and “Onion SportsDome” by creating events (and hashtags like #HorseMasturbation or #ObamaHatesHisDog) around each show. In the process, The Onion empowered its show characters to interact with the audience, tweet during commercial breaks and speak far beyond their time on-air.

In this session, The Onion will provide unprecedented access to the thinking and tools behind its effective Twitter dominance. Audience members will learn of the successes and failures of America’s Finest News Source to gain followers/mentions, increase interest in the brand and drive Twitter activity to specific goals far beyond Twitter, such as tuning in live Fridays at 10pm on IFC. This talk will provide a lesson in creativity but also new ways to structure and organize that creativity for maximum impact.

It was recently announced that “Onion News Network” was renewed for another season on IFC – returning this fall, which will coincide nicely with Web 2.0. Thus, on some level, our social media efforts were successful! We’re in the midst of planning our marketing for Season Two which will include the application of lessons learned during our first go-around. We won’t rest until people are simultaneously watching our show on television while tweeting with the anchor from their phones, liking posts on Facebook via their laptops, taking polls on using their tablets and, of course, clicking on all the ads. This is the future of digital marketing, Onion-style.

Photo of Baratunde Thurston

Baratunde Thurston

The Onion

Baratunde Thurston is a politically-active, technology-loving comedian from the future. He co-founded the black political blog, Jack and Jill Politics and serves as Director of Digital for The Onion. He has written for Vanity Fair and the UK Independent, hosted Popular Science’s Future Of on Discovery Science and appears on cable news regularly to say smart things in funny ways. Then-candidate Barack Obama called him “someone I need to know.” Baratunde travels the world speaking and advising and performs standup regularly in NYC. He resides in Brooklyn, lives on Twitter and has over 30 years experience being black. His first book, How To Be Black, will be published in February 2012 by Harper Collins.

Photo of Matt Kirsch

Matt Kirsch

The Onion

Matt Kirsch is a brooklyn-based writer and the Product Manager at The Onion. He is the writer/creator of the Webby-honored comedy series, “duder” and an inaugural member of the Writer’s Guild digital media caucus.

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Kenneth Liu
10/13/2011 5:40pm EDT

Interesting to hear a very frank and hilarious discussion of how The Onion uses Twitter.

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