How Social Media Supported Conan O’Brien

Posted Apr 12, 2010

Today Conan O’Brien has sign a deal with TV network TBS to return as a late night talk show host. On January 7, 2010 NBC executives including Jeff Zucker met with Jay Leno and Conan to discuss how to get Leno out of prime time where his ratings were on a downward spiral.

NBC suggested that O’Brien would remain as the host of The Tonight Show, but he would be moved to 12:05AM and Leno would host a 30 minute show starting at 11:35PM. O’Brien did not like that idea, so NBC reached a deal with O’Brien where he would exit The Tonight Show for $45 million. Conan’s staff would receive $12 million of that $45 million.

What happened after Conan’s departure from NBC was astonishing. Millions of people rallied on the Internet to show their support for him. The support skyrocketed even more when O’Brien joined Twitter. The outcome of O’Brien’s campaign could be used as a case study of how important it is to integrate a social media plan within your own business.

Below are additional examples of how social media played a role in helping O’Brien stay relevant.


The Digg community is strongly opinionated and strongly affluent. As it turns out the Digg community highly favors Conan O’Brien. Below are some examples of how the Digg community supports O’Brien:
– 5000+ Diggs – An Open Letter to Conan O’Brien from Revision3 offering him a job [Digg link]
– 4800+ Diggs – Conan O’Brien Puts Tonight Show for Sale on Craigslist [Digg link]
– 4700+ Diggs – Conan O?Brien Says He Won?t Do Tonight Show at 12:05 [Digg link]
– 3000+ Diggs – BREAKING! Conan O’Brien coming to TBS [Digg link]
– 2400+ Diggs – Conan O’Brien’s Tweets Now Updating on Billboards (pics) [Digg link]


Mike Mitchell and his friends created a Facebook campaign called I’m With Coco. Above is a picture that Mitchell drew. He created a Facebook Fan Page called I’m with Coco / Conan O’Brien. Today that Facebook Fan Page has over 980,000 fans. Some of the other Facebook groups and Pages include:

Keep Conan O’brien – 32,666 fans
Conan O’BRIEN – 7,391 fans
Late Night with Conan O’Brien – 42,397 fans
We Support Conan O’Brien – 1,435 fans
Save Conan O’brien – 4,927 fans
I’m with Coco – Support Conan O’Brien – 23,286 fans
and the list goes on.

I did a search for Conan O’Brien in Facebook and there are over 500 group results and 281 Fan Page results. O’Brien’s marketing team created a website called Teamcoco as a result of the Facebook Fan Page.


Hulu allows their users to add tags to TV shows that are hosted on the video streaming website. Since Hulu hosts The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan fans decided to attack Leno with some creative profanity. If you go to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’s profile page on Hulu, you will see Tags such as: sellout, retire, grandpa show, corporate shill, for the comatose, eff leno, judas, creep, lenodict arnold, go away jay, tasteless, over the hill, lame, scumbag, crickets, linklicker, anvil face, traitor, asspiss, douchenozzle, sell out, jay llama, phony, horrendous, brett favor, circus clown, gag reflex, tool, asscabinet, egomaniac, slime bucket, cowpattie, dong huffier, pompous, satan, assburger, zombie, schemer, dingleberry, sleazebag, slimebag, and yawner.


Just like the Digg community supported Conan O’Brien — Conan was supported massively on Reddit too. The Reddit community is very smiler to the Digg community — diverse and affluent. Below are some of the stories that were voted up on Reddit that involve Conan:
– 2447 votes – Conan O’Brien puts his show for sale on Craigslist ( [Reddit link]
– 2393 votes – Dear Conan O’Brien, thank you for making us laugh and may you forever live between 11:35 and 12:35. Love, Reddit. ( [Reddit link]
– 1951 votes – Portrait of Conan O’Brien entirely made out of Cheetos. ( [Reddit link]
– 1278 votes – Conan O’Brien’s Twitter stunt turns tear-jerker ( [Reddit link]


Conan O’Brien created a Twitter account on February 24, 2010. His tweets were mostly jokes, but also provided promotions about his upcoming comedy tour. Within several hours of joining Twitter, he gained more subscribers than Jay Leno has.

His Twitter bio said “I had a show. Then I had a different show. Now I have a Twitter account.” He currenly has over 820,000 followers and decided to follow one person, a girl who lives in Michigan.

O’Brien’s massive following on Twitter allowed him to promote his comedy tour called “The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour.” It would be a 30-city live tour beginning on April 12. Through a partnership with Lamar, O’Brien’s tweets would even be posted on billboards in real-time.


The fact of the matter is that I believe social media helped Conan O’Brien stay relevant and fresh. If he did not use the Facebook Fan Pages as a marketing tool or use Twitter to gain media attention, it is very likely that people would accept the fact that he would not be seen on television again. But O’Brien used social media to keep the hype around himself going and landed a deal on TBS.

He even made sure to get George Lopez’s approval because he knows how important having a clean image is, especially on the Internet.