HBO’s Entourage of Social Marketing Efforts

The fall TV season has brought with it a new season of “Entourage,” HBO’s hit show about a rising celebrity and his eclectic band of almost-brothers. Sure, the show is engrossing, but what’s more impressive is their online marketing efforts.

The marketing masterminds behind the series have plotted a unique approach to gaining and retaining an online fan base through the HBO “Entourage” site and social networks like Facebook.

Like other HBO offerings (“The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City”), “Entourage” has spawned a subculture of fanatic followers in its four previous seasons. While working with a dedicated fan base definitely bodes well for a successful online marketing strategy, a significant challenge always remains: how can marketers engage an online audience whose loyalties lie in following the program on TV?

The solution in this case is a combination of community-oriented site features and social networking. On HBO’s “Entourage” site, users can link to a community section that acts as a portal to access all facets of the show’s CGM and social media endeavors.

At the heart of it all is the official “Entourage” Wiki, which “wants a meaningful relationship with fans” who know about every aspect of the show. That knowledge is dutifully being plugged into the site, which already features exclusive content like detailed character bios and the real-life people who inspired them.

Like any wiki, this one has the power to engage Internet users by playing to their desire to display their expertise, attracting content-hungry users in the process. This kind of interaction is what online marketers dream about, particularly when it produces a source of ongoing content that requires little corporate maintenance.

The “Entourage” community section also serves to drive fans to a Facebook Page — a sensible initiative given the apparent passion of the “Entourage” community. There, users can find video clips, fan photos, and a healthy base of over 76,000 users who are active on the discussion board and fill their free time by posting episode reviews.

Where things get really interesting is in the show’s Facebook updates. Most interactive marketers using Facebook to connect with consumers will tell you this is where its real value lies, and “Entourage” has taken full advantage of the direct response-style access to show fans that updates provide. Every few days, “Entourage” page fans receive a message relating to show promotions, online games, upcoming episodes, and news that’s being discussed on the community and wiki sites.

In one note, administrators point to a trailer created by a fan for the fictional TV series that stars one of the show’s characters, and invite fans to demonstrate their own devotion. “We’re watching, so upload a video you’ve made, play around on the ‘Entourage’ Wiki or link us to the killer fan page you’ve created. It’s all up to you,” the post reads.

The implication is that HBO cares about its fans and what they have to say, along with how and where they’re most comfortable saying it. It’s a message that goes a long way with an audience that’s accustomed to expressing itself online, but not necessarily used to being heard. The effort to generate cross-site traffic, meanwhile, can only boost brand interaction as fans feed their need to know everything they can about the show.

The “Entourage” community page offers another feature designed to bolster the devotion of fans: an unofficial “featured fan” contest that highlights fans for their various show-related efforts. Currently in the spotlight is a Netherlands fan who took the time to immortalize the best quotes from character Ari Gold. His prize? Just a shout-out from HBO and an assumed increase in site traffic — and because he’s such a fan, that’s good enough for him.

The kind of unadulterated dedication exemplified by the fans of this show is exceptional, and so requires an equally exceptional online marketing strategy. HBO has struck gold with its effective employment of community-oriented content channels and the open way it consistently speaks to its users across them all. The result is an ever more strengthened and supportive camp of “Entourage” watchers to keep the show — and its legacy — alive and well.

Join us for a new Webcast, High-Touch Personalization, The Successful Marketer’s Secret Ingredient, September 29 at 2 p.m. EDT.

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