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Interesting case study: ‘Glee’ giveaways

November 18, 2009

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Video: “Bust Your Windows” from “Glee”

Lots of people are talking about “Glee,” the Fox musical comedy that debuted its pilot in May but waited until September to start the remained of its first season.

It doesn’t hurt that it’s a well-done show with a pretty cast and funny material. The music’s catchy, too, which would be a basic requirement about a misfit glee club at a typical high school in Ohio. Critics love it.

Most shows will tease next week’s episode with a short 15-second preview. What’s interesting is how the network marketing machine has put out tons of video clips for “Glee,” usually featuring an upcoming song.

In fact, up to a fourth of the Oct. 21 episode was available online for free before it even aired.

Is this the very definition of giving your content away for a big payoff? Is Fox giving away too much?

Early signs show it’s been a winning strategy.

It’s 42nd in the Nielsen ratings, but does well among the 18-49 crowd, the one hotly pursued by advertisers.

And when it comes to fans in social media, “Glee” is a bona fide hit:

“We’ve got over 700,000 Facebook fans, up from 17,000 when we launched,” says Hardie Tankersley, the network’s vice president of online content and strategy. “All the major characters have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. Sue Sylvester [played by Jane Lynch] has her own Twitter account.”

And when it comes to music fans wanting instant gratification, “Glee” is a money-making phenomenon:

More than 2 million songs by the “Glee” cast have been purchased on iTunes. Last week, six selections from the show were among iTunes’ Top 200 downloaded songs. Nine episodes were among the Top 200 in TV sales. And “Glee: The Music, Vol. 1,” released Nov. 3, sold 113,000 copies its first week to capture the No. 4 spot on the Billboard 200 chart.

And the producers aren’t content to sit still. Look at their next step:

The number of tribute videos may really go through the roof in the next few months if a novel initiative by the show’s producers pans out.

“Based on fan demands, we’re going to include instrumental versions only on some special editions of the soundtracks as an added element,” says (executive producer Dante) Di Loreto. The second soundtrack will be released early next month.

“It’ll make it easier,” he says, “for people to do karaoke versions of our songs.”

The takeaway lessons of “Glee”:

  1. Make something good.
  2. Give away some freebies.
  3. Give away more freebies for fans to make into their own tributes.
  4. Sell later.

Are you a Gleek (the nickname for “Glee” fans)? How is “Glee” doing with its social media marketing?

• • •

Learn more about using social media to connect to fans in our courses.

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