As associate producer of Fan Engagement for Comedy Central, Jeff Stevens establishes a daily conversation with fans, bringing the network’s voice to life over social.
Every day at Comedy Central, Jeff Stevens, Associate Producer for Fan Engagement, engages with the network’s male Millennial audience on the digital platforms to which they’re constantly connected and brings Comedy Central’s social media presence to the many screens that it occupies. Whether he’s working on the editorial calendar for the CC brand on social (which includes Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Tumblr), live tweeting a show at 11 pm or dreaming up and executing cool fan outreach and consumer marketing programs, Jeff lives and breathes the Comedy Central brand.
Can you tell me about your job and how you got started at Comedy Central?
I joined Comedy Central’s multi-platform production team in 2007, working on the programming and design of comedycentral.com
. Last year I was promoted to the fan engagement team, which is the social arm from the digital marketing team for Comedy Central. The engagement team consists of six team members, and our primary focus is to develop a strategy and establish a daily conversation with the fans, as well as to bring the CC voice to life.
We do our best to get fan tweets and shout outs on-air and applaud our fans every day. I became more of a social media strategist in 2009 when I was participating in strategic ways to amplify our social marketing. For example, when Inside Amy Schumer
premiered this spring, we took the consumer marketing approach, which consisted of numerous billboards of Amy Schumer with her dress top down, and her chest censored and what we termed “nudified.” We took that existing creative and then we in real time during the premiere we “nudified” about 120 superfans, celebrities, and people that were talking about Amy Schumer’s new show. We got some really great fan reactions about the fact that we created custom content of those superfans. We carved out about one every minute from 4-11 pm
What are some innovative ways you’ve started using social media?
Comedy Central was one of the first big brands on Vine, Twitter’s new video app. It launched in January and the day of its launch CC had its first ever Vine, featuring that bear-coat picture [made famous by Workaholics]. We are using Vine in different ways – it’s a place for talent to take over our account and actually feed out video content from sketches in 6 seconds or less. We’re also partnering with our on-air producers and our site producers to shoot Vines from a set while shows are in production. We’re doing that really well and I was told by some brand execs that CC is setting the bar for what comedy is on Vine, which is really cool.
I’ve had a part in making sure that not only does CC merely have a presence on Instagram, but also that we’re doing some fun stuff. Just in the way that people take selfies, we’re doing “shelfies” and taking pictures of shelves around the office.
What exactly is “fan engagement”?
I’ve worked on “fan engagement” really since about 2008, talking to fans. People were always tweeting at us during our premiere episodes and making sure that we were listening but we replied and were interacting with them in real time. I’m in the business of making our fans’ days, daily. It’s really beneficial to hear back once we tweet at them a joke or a thanks or a greeting or just making sure that we acknowledge them, we favorite them, we retweet them. I’ve heard that CC is the biggest brand in comedy. It’s not just about being a network, but it’s about being everywhere that comedy is. We’re on social, we’re on at live events. Every standup event you go to, you make sure that there’s CC in there somewhere. When we’re on TV it’s not just about our programs, it’s about making sure that we have an array of cool stuff beyond broadcasting. I love what I do because I live and breathe the brand daily. Like I said, I ran the homepage since I’ve been here so I was updating the homepage every day of my life and making sure that it was the coolest homepage ever. Now my focus is making sure that the voice is focused.
How did you become so digitally savvy?
I have a ton of marketing background and production background, but really I think the biggest thing is that I was an early adopter. I took to these platforms—Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram—when they first launched and experimented with them and played in the space before they became so popular. I’m always credited for being a super early adopter on emerging platforms and media.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Finding sleep! When I’m here in the office then I go home and I work because we’re always on, always making sure that we’re listening and live tweeting at night, after everyone’s left the office. I have a cute French bulldog that always hates when I’m live tweeting. She starts distracting me.
It’s a challenge to keep up with the trends and to choose battles in terms of deciding what’s funny to comment on. After Kim K. had her baby, I’m not sure that we decided whether we want to tweet about that or not. It’s also hard legally—we want to make sure that we have all the right procedures in place.
What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
Outside of work I do improvisational work and acting. Right after college, I thought that improv was the best thing for me not only to keep me on my feet, but to keep me funny when I can be. There’s a great improv comedy community here in New York. Besides finding time to be on stage, I recently starting making my own own pickles and cooking; I love trying new recipes. I should also mention Olive, my French bulldog. When I’m not at work we spend a lot of time visiting the park or going for walks. And she’s become pretty popular on social too! I also just tweeting for myself and creating personal content with my friends on Vine.
What has been the most exciting experience you’ve had as a member of the CC Fan Engagement Team?
During an internal meeting I got a shout out from Key and Peele during the intro video for the meeting. They said “Jeff Stevens, who works ‘til 11 o’clock and comes in the next day at 11 o’clock: how does that guy get any m-ther f-ckin sleep?”
I think just being recognized for all my social efforts was great. We basically created the engagement team from all the unique practices that we’d been doing for the last three years. So when we actually saw all that talent and put it in the right place that was a great day for me. That’s what I was driven here to be doing and that’s what I want to continue to do. It brings me joy and is very humbling to be recognized for my efforts. Also I’m part of the CC softball team and we won back-to-back championships for the last two years!
What is the most gratifying part of your job?
I think that the most gratifying part of our daily conversation with our fans is not only when they tweet back, but also when their friends see that they’ve been recognized by CC. It’s sort of a trickle or domino effect where we have engagement with one fan and then their followers see and are like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that just happened to you” or “Whoa! CC just followed you, that’s so cool, I’m now following them.” That’s the plan to begin with, not only make a conversation, but also to make sure that it is amplified in the right direction. Usually it’s done through word of mouth and stuff like that, but the new word of mouth is through social.
My favorite part about my job is seeing fans’ tweets on-air and actually seeing the future of where social TV is going. We try to make sure this is all done in real time—to find something funny and have it up there 30 seconds later. That’s the future of what we’re leaning toward. We make sure that not only the tweets on-air are funny and enhance the experience, rather than distract or overlay the content. CC is not trying to just be a broadcast network that’s satelliting from NY. We are living comedy with our fans. Giving kudos to the guy who got his friends to tweet at and follow CC by putting his tweet on-air means he can actually say to his Mom “I was on TV today.” That’s probably the best or most fun part of my job.