For years, Oprah Winfrey was referred to as “The Queen of Talk Shows”. When her show ended in 2011, it was obvious she wasn’t going anywhere. Fast-forward to today, she’s now known as “The Queen of all Media”, with OWN extending beyond television to multiple digital channels.

During his opening keynote at this year’s Social Media Strategies Summit NYC, Connor LeBas, Director of Marketing and Social Media at OWN, explained how she was able to make this transformation while still maintaining the authenticity that has earned her the respect of millions.

Super Soul Sunday

LeBas started by recalling a bold directive from Oprah: double the number of viewers for Super Soul Sunday, a daytime series that features thought-provoking conversations between Oprah and renowned thought leaders.

As the name suggests, the show airs Sundays, when many people who associated with the word “soul” may be at church. Beyond that, the number of Cord-Cutters (people canceling cable service) and Cord-Nevers (households that never had cable service) has been on the rise for the past few years.

Graph of Cord Cutters and Cord Nevers

Cord-Cutters and Cord-Nevers are still on the rise.

Source: Magna

To reach their goal, LeBas and his team realized Super Soul Sunday had to become a multiplatform brand. They started streaming as a Facebook Live show at the same time as the linear broadcast. OWN further leveraged social by taking quotes from the show and posting them as a text-based image on social. Amazingly, they got 10-20x more engagement than other image posts.

Do Your Thing And Don't Care If They Like It- Tiny Fey

Video content was also repurposed and monetized on social. They discovered 3-5 minute videos were the sweet spot for their audience. Their research also revealed people didn’t mind seeing commercials during this content, so long as they’re relevant.

Lastly, they realized some people wanted to consume content on the go. In response, they created the Super Soul Sunday podcast, which launched as #1 on iTunes.

The result: they surpassed their initial goal by averaging 4 million views per week.

OWN Presents The Know

“Always ask the question, the answer will be yes or no. But if you don’t ask the question, the answer is always no.” — Brandice Daniel, founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row.

When thinking about additional projects, content creators at OWN had a lot of questions. Specifically, would women of color be interested in a dedicated social community? To get the answer, they reached out to over 5,000 women of color.

Their audience research confirmed:

  • They wanted curated content
  • The topics that matter to them
  • They are craving guidance
  • They are comfortable with branded content
  • They trust OWN to curate it
  • They are seeking a connection: a safe space to be real
  • They are positively impacted by social influencers

To solve for this need, OWN recently launched The Know: An OWN Community. Described as “a multi-platform lifestyle content and honest conversations for African-American women, shaped by leading social creators & cultivators”, The Know launched this fall with a Facebook Watch show.

The Know: An OWN Community

The Know: An OWN Community

Episodes feature lifestyle content and honest conversations for women, by women, focusing on career, food, faith, family, fashion, design, relationships, and more.

Fortunately, their research also revealed their audience doesn’t mind being advertised to, so long as it’s relevant. This comes at a time when Facebook, who has funded and supported this project, seeks to leverage Facebook Watch as an alternative for brands who seek to monetize branded content.

In addition to asking how they felt about the content currently available, the survey also collected qualitative data by asking what stories they aren’t seeing. Sourcing content ideas directly from content consumers directly reflect the values of the community they’re building.

Your Turn

LeBas closed by providing input on how other brands can better reach their audience.

  • Where (Media ‘Places & Spaces’) are your consumers that you are not? How can you meet them there?
  • What content could you repurpose to create additional touchpoints?
  • How do your consumers’ preferences vary across touchpoints, and are you adapting to these nuances?
  • Have you explored betas and test programs offered by digital and social platforms?

Unlike OWN, you may not have millions of dollars for audience research, but there are still plenty of options out there. One of my favorites is the Questions sticker within Instagram Stories.

Instagram Question Sticker

Wondering what to write about in your next blog? Ask your audience what headlines they’re following. Not sure which product or service to develop next? Ask your audience which they would prefer, and why. As OWN discovered, Social Listening is the key to providing relevant and engaging experiences.


Terry Rice

Terry Rice, Founder, Terry Rice Consulting & NYU Adjunct

Terry has been in the Digital Marketing field since 2007 – most notably, helping clients achieve their marketing goals while working at Adobe and Facebook. As the founder of Terry Rice Consulting, he continues to provide guidance to various agencies and marketing teams.
Terry also trains individuals as a Digital Marketing instructor at General Assembly. Additionally, he serves as a startup mentor at Techstars and the New York University Entrepreneurial Institute. During his career, he’s worked with various companies including Walmart, Amazon, Bonobos, Spartan Race, and Best Buy.

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