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A Q&A with Sabrina Caluori about HBO Connect: the network’s ‘digital marketing secret weapon’

HBO-Logo2HBO Connect is continuing to become a larger part of HBO’s digital strategy. In fact, when we asked Sabrina Caluori, HBO’s VP of Social Media/Marketing, about how HBO Connect tied into the network’s overall social media and social TV strategy, she was unabashed about its significance: “It is our digital marketing secret weapon. We have the ability to dream up social media activations big and small and give them a platform agnostic home in a branded environment – without big build costs each and every time.” HBO Connect uses Mass Relevance’s capabilities and the landing page for each HBO show will be able to integrate its tools differently according to its own strategy. We spoke with Caluori about the updates to HBO Connect, the role of Mass Relevance, and where she thinks social TV is headed.

Lost Remote: It’s been awhile since we’ve chatted about HBO Connect, can you give us an update? 
Sabrina Caluori: Definitely, throughout 2013 HBO Connect has been an important part of our digital marketing mix. In addition to housing over 200 Q&As with stars from HBO and Cinemax, HBO Connect has acted as the social marketing hub for Girls, Game of Thrones, The Newsroom, Boardwalk Empire and HBO Boxing.

LR: Tell me about the new look of HBO Connect.
Caluori: Today’s update of HBO Connect (connect.hbo.com) focused on two major themes – content and context. The most significant changes are to the program landing pages. We’ve added new content sources including Instagram, Youtube, Vine and GetGlue. Additionally, these pages have evolved from being an aggregation of what everyone is saying on Twitter to a highly-curated representation of the most impactful media and topics.

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LR: What are some of the most interesting new features that you are introducing with HBO Connect? 
Caluori: The most important feature we’ve built into this release is flexibility. There are no “one size fits all” social media strategies – every single program is different. As such, it is important that the HBO Connect platform can adapt to meet our needs as marketers across every programming type – drama, comedy, sports and documentaries. The platform leverages “best in class” technology partners such as Mass Relevance and Storify to provide us with tools we need to keep the site fresh on an on-going basis.

LR: Can you talk a little more about the role of Mass Relevance?
Caluori:
 We’re using Mass Relevance to power the curation of the social feeds. As we’ve evolved the Connect platform, it’s been incredibly important for us to find the balance between dynamic and hand-published content. We want to ensure that the pages are as fresh as possible but they also need to be relevant – hence the use of Mass Relevance. Additionally, we’re using their product studio extensively in this new release. We have the ability to insert photo walls, tweet battles, flock to unlock or social leaderboards into many sections of the site without additional build or integration time.

LR: What have you learned from users of HBO Connect that helped to inform the changes? 
Caluori: We know that there’s an incredible amount of noise in the social media space today. More and more, users are looking for a strong POV. They’re looking for curators. HBO Connect is a curated social media destination for fans of our brand and programming.

LR: How does HBO Connect tie into your overall social/social TV strategy?
Caluori:
 It is our digital marketing secret weapon. We have the ability to dream up social media activations big and small and give them a platform agnostic home in a branded environment – without big build costs each and every time.

LR: Where do you think social TV is headed? Anything we should look out for in particular?
Caluori:  For a while it felt like Social TV and Second Screen had become synonymous. But the very concept of “second screen” is limiting. At HBO, we’re constantly thinking about how we extend the worlds, the fandom and the celebrity of our programming into the digital ecosystem. Most of the time we’re focused on the space between the episodes.

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