Late Night TV: Which Show is Winning in Social?

By Kate Dunham • 8 months ago • 1 Comments

The kings of late night television all approach social media in different ways. Some regularly trend on Twitter—some don’t even tweet. So who’s the most “social?” One can definitely make the case for Jimmy Fallon, who every week asks his 11.3 million Twitter followers to play a hashtag game like #PolarVortexSongs or #awkwarddate and features the answers on his show. Jimmy Kimmel is also a big player in social, especially when it comes to viral videos—don’t worry, you weren’t the only one who fell for his “Worst Twerk Fail EVER” video. After losing his hosting gig of The Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien was forced to stay off the air for nine months, so he took to the social web. He often credits social media as a key force in the success of his TBS show Conan, and he regularly features some social aspects in his show. He’s currently on a quest to become the King of LinkedIn.

While not as social media savvy as the Jimmys and Conan, Craig Ferguson and Jay Leno do have their own Twitter handles and Leno has been known to incorporate some social into his show with segments like “Tweet B4 the Tweet”. David Letterman is the only late night host that does not have his own Twitter. In fact, he’s pretty proud of the fact that he “doesn’t get the Twitters.”

We were curious to see if the more “social” hosts were rewarded with more love in social media. To find out we’ve been tracking each show and host in the uberVU platform for the past month (leading up to end of Leno’s run on The Tonight Show) and set them up in a Social Media Face Off to see who reigns supreme in social.

To track the shows in social, we’ve included mentions for the shows themselves: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, Conan and Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. We’ve also included the shows’ Twitter handles and the hosts’ personal handles in the searches. Most of the hosts utilize their personal handles for their show more than the shows’ official handles, so we didn’t think it would be fair to exclude them despite the fact that Letterman doesn’t tweet.

And just for fun, we’ve added in Late Night with Seth Meyers, which premieres on February 24. New to the late night game (but not social), Meyers is taking over Late Night from Jimmy Fallon when Fallon takes over The Tonight Show for Leno, whose run ended last night. So even though his show hasn’t aired yet, we thought it would be fun to see where Meyers’ pre-premiere buzz stands in the mix.

Let’s find out which show is winning in social.

Round One: Mentions

Late Night Talk Shows - social mentions

When it comes to mentions, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon blows away the competition with 320,282 total mentions. That’s almost more than three times as many mentions as the show in second place—Jimmy Kimmel Live. Kimmel brought in 108,174 mentions, followed by The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’s respectable 93,397 mentions. The Late Show with David Letterman comes in third with 59,128 mentions, just squeaking by Conan’s 55,535 mentions. The soon-to-debut Late Night with Seth Meyers pulled in 34,909 mentions and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson comes in last with 27,528 mentions.

As you can see from the line graph, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon had a large spike in mentions on both January 15 and January 24. The first spike was thanks to Fallon and New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen’s parody of Springsteen’s hit “Born to Run”, that poked fun at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s scandal over the closure of three lanes of the George Washington Bridge. It’s pretty amazing—no wonder it took off in social.

The spike on January 24 was due to a bombardment of tweets from Justin Bieber’s online army. The night before (when the army was in bed), Fallon made a joke about Justin Bieber’s recent arrest in his opening monologue. And let’s just say the internet woke up to the news and it was not happy about it. Check out the show’s conversation map for the day of January 24th.

Jimmy Fallon - Justin Beiber conversation map

Apparently the singer’s fans viewed Fallon and Bieber as friends and they were shocked—SHOCKED!—that the comedian would use the singer as joke material.

So even though one of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’s major spikes was filled with negative sentiment, the show’s mentions did consistently soar above the other shows, so we still give it the win in round one.

Winner: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Round Two: Sentiment

A very important metric in social media is sentiment. How exactly does the social web feel about these TV shows? Were the mentions of each show positive, negative, or neutral? Round two is pretty close with all shows posting similar numbers. The shows with the highest percentage of positive mentions were the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson with 29% and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno with 26%.

Late Night Talk Show Battle - social sentiment

Craig Ferguson - social sentiment

Late Night with Seth Meyers beat out Leno with 27% positivity, so it will be interesting to see if it can will still lead the pack in sentiment after premiere night.

Winner: Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

Round Three: Conversation Mapping

The conversation maps in the uberVU platform show the most-talked about topics for a particular keyword or company name (in this case, the names of the talk shows and their hosts). Each show ranked for words and phrases you would expect for a talk show like “watch”, “tonight” and the names of their celebrity guests. What was really impressive is that “love” appeared on all seven maps.

Both Jimmys saw additional positive words on their maps. “Great” appeared on the map for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and “funny” ranked for Jimmy Kimmel Live. We think they would be pretty happy about that.

Jimmy Fallon conversation map

Jimmy Kimmel conversation map

Winner: It’s a tie between Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live

Round Four: Engagement

In round three we’ll find out which show is driving the most engagement across Twitter and Facebook by comparing how many times mentions of each shows were RTed, Liked and Shared.

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno are pretty close in Likes, no doubt due to the press around the The Tonight Show changes—the hosts names have been mentioned side-by-side a lot lately. Looks like social is going to miss Leno, but at the same time is excited for Jimmy to take over the reins; Leno just barely edges out Fallon to take the win in Likes.

Late Night Talk Show Battle - Likes

When it comes to Shares, the Jimmys blow away the competition, tripling the efforts of the other shows—viral videos anyone? In the end, Jimmy Kimmel Live takes the win.

Late Night Talk Show Battle - Shares

The Jimmys also outshine the competition on Twitter, but Late Night with Jimmy Fallon absolutely takes off with 127,262 RTs—that’s more than three times as many as Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Late Night Talk Show Battle - RTs

With a clear win in RTs and a very close second in Likes and shares, Jimmy Fallon is a real contender in all three engagement categories so we give him the win.

Winner: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Overall Winner: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon is definitely the most “social” host and it looks like that did in fact help him earn more love in social media. With wins in mentions, engagement and a tie in conversation mapping, we declare the winner of this talk show edition of Social Media Face Off to be Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

The Social Effect

Using the uberVU platform, we were able to compare the shows based on several different social media metrics, but television shows are historically judged on only one major metric—ratings. So yes, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon clearly won in our social matchup, but does Fallon’s social media prowess pay off in ratings? According to Variety, the show is averaging 1.93 million viewers, up 19% from last year. Its direct competition at the 12:25 am time slot—Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson—is down 4% this year, averaging 1.47 million viewers. Was social media the difference? Perhaps. Fallon’s popular hashtag games—which regularly trend on Twitter—could be getting more people to tune in.

A huge benefit to these hosts being active in social is they are developing a very engaged fan base. When Jimmy Kimmel airs viewer videos and posts them on YouTube, he’s not only recognizing his fans but inspiring others to send videos. When Fallon reads the best responses to his hashtag games on air, he’s giving his social fans a little moment in the spotlight. Wouldn’t you tune in to a show if there was a chance your video or joke was going to be featured? Not only do these hosts gain a very loyal and engaged audience, but they also have access to loads of free, user generated content. When you have to come up with content for a hour-long show five days a week, that’s a gold mine.

The real power some of these shows have tapped into is being able to package up and share pieces of the show across the social web. Someone who’s never tuned in could see a video on YouTube or a skit trending on Twitter. While we can’t prove that leads directly to ratings, it most certainly helps these shows live longer and reach more people than they could have without social. And in our book, that’s a win.

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