‘Social listening is so important’: Hulu adapts social strategy to follow fans’ interest

Much of the online chatter following the release of the limited series “The Dropout” this past spring focused on star Amanda Seyfried’s performance as Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. Hulu’s internal social team took notice, and adapted its social ad strategy to support that conversation, according to Brittany Mehciz, vp of social media for Hulu’s original series.

“We saw 30% of all of the Twitter conversation for that title was centered around Amanda Seyfried’s performance on the show, which I think we’ve seen that kind of play out in the recent Emmy nomination,” said Mehciz, adding that Seyfried was nominated for lead actress in a limited series. “When we see that conversation is really targeted around her and her performance and portrayal, then we know that we want to kind of scale our social efforts and content to support that.”

Finding ways to tweak strategies to account for social sentiment has become commonplace for the streaming service. While Hulu does make social marketing plans for each of its original series, the company keeps tabs on social sentiment — i.e. what’s working and what’s not — and adapts its social strategy to account for what fans of its shows are focused on and then engage with them on that level. 

“Social listening is so important for our campaigns,” said Mehciz, who oversees paid and earned social for Hulu. “We could build a whole campaign that’s focused on one thing and then, you know, the show comes out and we notice that fans are glomming onto something completely differently. We have to be able to adjust and pivot quickly.”

When it comes to ad dollars and making pivots for various shows’ campaigns, Hulu approaches each title differently. Tentpole titles may have similar percentages of ad spending across social channels, whereas more niche titles have “a really calculated approach” so that “we make those dollars work to drive the most efficiency,” explained Mehciz. It’s unclear how Hulu breaks up its social ad budget for each show, as Mehciz said it varies for each title. 

“How we allocate those dollars across the various platforms just varies so much,” said Mehciz. “The D’Amelio show is a show that’s inherently TikTok forward. So a spend on TikTok might be a lot larger there than [that of] The Handmaid’s Tale where our audience is huge on Facebook. And so we try to mimic that kind of audience behavior with where we’re putting our dollars and finding that efficiency.” 

Overall, each show’s budget may have anywhere from 20% to 40% dedicated to paid social. 

So far this year, Hulu has spent roughly $106.8 million on advertising, with 36% of its monthly spend dedicated to Facebook, 24% to Instagram, 9% to TikTok, 18% to Snapchat and less than 1% to Twitter, per Pathmatics data. Throughout 2021, the company spent $144.7 million on advertising, according to Pathmatics. 

Finding ways to tweak and adapt social ad strategies for various shows to factor in what viewers are focused on makes sense to Mack McKelvey, CEO and founder of strategic marketing firm SalientMG. 

“Platforms’ social media strategies are still heavily focused on driving tune-in,” said McKelvey. “Hulu’s community engagement model of interacting within social channels once shows are trending is in line with many other social-conscious brand strategies. But will they go further? Trivia on ‘now-airing’ shows, live social interactions with showrunners and talent represent large social opportunities for streaming platforms.”

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