Dan Lewis On Sesame Street In Social Media [Interview]

Are you friends with Cookie Monster on Facebook? Are you following Big Bird’s tweets? Have you subscribed to the Sesame Street YouTube channel to catch all of Elmo’s latest videos? Sesame Street is taking over the world of social media, and I had a chance to find out a little bit about the wonderfully childish campaign from Dan Lewis, Sesame Workshop’s Director of New Media Communications. Check out the interview, as well as some fun Sesame Street videos, after the jump!

Dan joined the Sesame Street team in January of this year, with the objective of creating and implementing a comprehensive strategy to leverage social media. He has been forging ahead in all areas of the social media arena, giving Sesame Street’s presence a boost on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and more. I was curious to find out more about Sesame Street’s social media campaign, including who is the most popular Sesame Street character on the social web, what it’s like working with a well-known and loved brand like Sesame Street, and who the children’s show’s main audience is in the social media world. Find out what Dan had to say in the interview below:

Social Times: Dan, you joined Sesame Street’s team in January. What steps have you taken to grow and diversify Sesame Street’s social media presence in your first eight months there?

Dan Lewis: I focused early on increasing our Facebook presence – we didn’t have pages for characters, for example.   The Twitter account was pretty new still, and it’s pretty easy to grow a following for Sesame Street on social media channels generally because we’re so loveable, who wouldn’t want to hear Cookie Monster’s and Grover’s tweets? (And yes, I mean “hear” – I challenge you to read a character’s tweets without hearing their voice in your head. It’s impossible.)

Tumblr’s new ground for us entirely. I like the idea that we can “speak” directly to fans in a very visual, Sesame way.   We can literally put up a video with little to context, and it self-propagates. Elmo came into my office, called into the Tumblr and just said hi to his friends listening – it went crazy, with almost 300 notes.   It’s wonderful.

ST: Is there a specific Sesame Street character that is most popular in social media?

DL: You know where the phrase “om nom nom” comes from? 🙂

ST: When your characters engage on social networks like Facebook, do you create new content specifically for these campaigns? (For instance, are Cookie Monster’s Facebook videos created solely for Facebook?)

DL: Yep! We have a few characters tweeting right now – Cookie Monster, Grover, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird, with occasional appearances from others. Oscar, Bert, Ernie, and Rosita are joining in soon. All of that content is uniquely written for Twitter, but we do get creative: most of Cookie Monster’s Facebook videos (which we also put on Tumblr) are actually his tweets!

But that said, keep an eye out: we have something very obviously Facebook specific coming soon.

ST: Sesame Street’s primary audience is small children, whereas social media is more of an adult concept. I’m sure the majority of people following Sesame Street on Twitter and “liking” Sesame Street on Facebook are adults reminiscing, or parents with kids who love the show. How does this influence your content? Are you catering more to an adult audience, a parent audience, or kids?

DL: Parents and fans, which aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, are the intended audience.   But we’re still Sesame Street, and we’re still a non-profit, so the content is definitely child-friendly. It’s honestly not very different because we’re looking to appeal to the child inside all of us anyway.

And the show has always understood that, too.   A lot of the jokes are meant for adults (typically parents co-viewing with children). Take our Mad Men spoof – no toddler is going to understand the parody there. The same is true for celebrity appearances. We have Will.i.am on the show this year (debuting 9/27!) doing this fantastic song. To little kids, he’s just some guy singing.

ST: On a personal note, I have found the Will.i.am song to be so amazing and inspirational that I made it my new ring tone! And now back to the questions.

It must be nice to promote a brand like Sesame Street that is already well-known and loved. However, I’d image that because Sesame Street is so popular, fans must have higher expectations for your content. What do you see as the pros and cons of marketing a well-known brand like Sesame Street through social media?

DL: It’s WONDERFUL working with Sesame Street content and characters. The love for Sesame is effusive. As long as we’re true to the attributes that we have been for 41 years, as I am certain we will be, we’re not too afraid of the pitfalls out there.

ST: Please feel free to elaborate on any campaigns or add any information that you think would be interesting to our readers.

DL: Sure! We’ve done a few other things, too.   For example, we partnered with YouTube to do an “Ask Elmo” interview using their Moderator tool – that goes up on 9/24 in anticipation of Season 41’s debut. The call-out video ran over 100k views. Over 1,300 questions asked and 21,000 votes cast! It’s exciting.