HBO Max delights fans around the world with award-winning movies and documentaries, as well as its buzzed-about original programming. When the network rebooted classic teen soap opera Gossip Girl for contemporary audiences, it wanted to keep digitally savvy Gen Z engaged with the twists and turns of the Upper East Side high school elite.
The network understood that Instagram remains widely popular among its target audience, making it a key element of the show’s plotline, with the titular character running an Instagram account instead of a blog. Eight main characters on the show received their own fictionalized Instagram accounts, sharing in-character photos and reels with fans – one lead character account has over 100,000 followers.
To encourage fans to tune in every week, the network worked with Amplify.ai, a conversational messaging platform, to send marketing messages through Instagram. Using marketing messages, the network sent weekly reminders written in the irreverent tone of Gossip Girl herself – “Now grab your popcorn, take a seat, and stay tuned” – straight to fans’ Instagram direct messages.
Fans opted-in to receive marketing messages by clicking on Ads that Click to Instagram Direct or sending messages to the show’s Instagram account. Using Ads that Click to Instagram Direct enables HBO Max to grow its list of engaged fans without taking on additional costs; the feature also helps the network learn which sorts of content most excites certain viewers, allowing them to effectively segment the kinds of messages they send. Whenever a fan commented on the show’s Instagram posts sharing their excitement about watching, the network used the private replies feature to send a direct message to that fan inviting them to receive marketing messages and engage with other content.
Giving fans an easy way of connecting with the show, straight from their phones at any time and any place allows the network to build active fan communities beyond traditional marketing campaigns. While typical opt-in rates for SMS messages average roughly four percent and email open rates average 21 percent, fan enthusiasm around weekly reminders and the latest Gossip Girl scoops through marketing messages in Instagram far exceeded industry benchmarks for traditional communication channels.
“Through Ads that Click to Instagram Direct, we quickly and seamlessly grew our list of fans eager to get involved with the show throughout the season. Viewers are more likely to stay engaged with the show via marketing messages in Instagram, and we saw 90 percent open rates for our weekly reminders,” says Sean Boyle, VP, Brand & Originals Media, HBO. “Fans enjoy the immediacy of connecting over Instagram, with roughly 58 percent of the fans messaged through private replies starting to chat with us, contributing to a high 34 percent opt-in rate for marketing messages.”
According to Boyle, “Using marketing messages in Instagram allows us to organically and cost-effectively generate fan enthusiasm by reaching our viewers on one of their most active, frequently used communication channels.”
To create more interactive fan experiences and draw viewers even deeper into the world of the show, HBO Max used marketing messages in Instagram to develop its “Gossip Girl Tipster” campaign. Working with Amplify.ai, HBO Max developed a virtual assistant enabling fans to become gossip tipsters actively participating in the story. When fans received their weekly updates through marketing messages in Instagram, they had the option to “create a tip” based on prompts related to that week’s show.
“For instance, the assistant might ask, “my oh my, who’s got more skeletons in their closet than meets the eye?” enabling fans to enter a character name. Offering fans the ability to respond via buttons or to type their answers, the virtual assistant continually sent hints about the locations, characters, and relationships that drive plotlines.
The “Gossip Girl Tipster” campaign drove over 167,000 messages with fans in total. As fans became players in their favorite storylines, they created incredibly high MadLib engagement rates ,” says Manoj Malhotra, CTO, Amplify.ai. “Through marketing messages in Instagram, we can explore strong creative concepts that fully immerse fans in their favorite shows, contributing to a 38 percent total engagement with marketing messages in Instagram – over 1.7 times the industry benchmark.”
Inspired by the high engagement with Gossip Girl fans, HBO Max plans to share marketing messages in Instagram with loyal viewers for its other popular shows.
“With marketing messages in Instagram, we have a powerful and highly scalable way of connecting with fans by inviting them to join their favorite stories, whenever they want, by bringing the action right to them no matter where they are,” says Boyle.
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