Late Night Talk Shows Influence Digital Trends

June 9, 2015

Talk shows have always influenced American culture—from the golden days of Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson, to the modern age of late night newcomers and an endless variety of digital competitors. These shows offer entertainment, variety, and opinions that viewers care about, driven by a single voice. Each night, talk show hosts are invited into your living room (or whatever screen you prefer) and build relationships that drive influence. Advancements in technology have created new ways to connect and stir engagement through digital and social channels that are being leveraged by talk show hosts and brands alike.

The Evolution Of Influence

As long-standing talk show icons step down, modern influences have taken the spotlight in late night. This new generation of talk show hosts ushers in a new era of digital influence, but their predecessors have laid the foundation for influencing viewers around the world since the dawn of media.

Since that start of talk shows, consumers have built relationships with hosts by tuning in nightly to laugh, learn, and be entertained. Early talk shows affected trends in music, pop culture, and media; but as a wave of social influence has grown, today’s hosts have integrated digital components into their shows and generate amazing reactions from fans. Modern talk shows leverage social media to make fans a part of the experience through social conversations. These conversations sprout by creating trending topics than span across the net and grow by producing sharable content that keep users engaged long after their TVs have been turned off. Talk show hosts are leveraging connected technology and user engagement to build a legacy. These same digital elements can be applied by your brand to build meaningful relationships and drive online engagement. Stay visible, define your brand voice, and consistently engage with quality content and new mediums.

Social Engagement

Social media offers unique ways for brands to build connections with users. Jimmy Fallon brings social media into his show to craft an experience that entertains and engages across multiple platforms and mediums. In fact, Fallon grew social engagement for the show by more than 12 times in the week following Leno’s departure. The social structure of Fallon’s Tonight Show drives success by allowing fans a chance to get involved. Each week he creates trending topics across social platforms and encouraging user feedback, which he integrates into the show’s content. Fallon engages fans with a new hashtag each week that consistently ranks in the top 10 trending hashtags on Twitter within just a few hours. This has developed one of the most popular and engagement segments for any late night talk show and even got my own mother to join Twitter so she can join in on the fun.

Jimmy Kimmel is another late night pioneer of digital engagement. Notorious in the digital space for his pranks and viral videos, Kimmel has created a whole new side of late night by fully embracing digital mediums. His team creates videos and secretly launches them without any tie to his brand only to claims ownership once they have circulated on the net and generated a buzz. This method of digital engagement has brought a lot of attention and credibility to the brand and its ability to produce quality content users want to see. hosts have seen great success by understanding their audiences, engaging them with a variety of content, and most importantly, having fun. Digital channels offer an opportunity to bring instant feedback and build connections with fans in a platform that has never seen such high levels of engagement. Constructing comprehensive digital strategies has helped these brands connections with an entirely different audience, expand their fan base, and establish authority in the industry.

Real World Change

When executed properly, brands can leverage digital platforms to drive real world change. John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight, is an excellent example of how to harness the power of digital strategy to generate results. Known for his political rants and outreach, Oliver has leveraged his time in the spotlight the drive users to take action. Recent campaigns such as #JeffWeCan, targeted to bring awareness to the corruption of major tobacco corporations, levered a mix of social, digital, and traditional methods to raise awareness and provoke user engagement. John Oliver brought the campaign to life with a digital coverage of traditional campaigns in countries affected by corrupt policies, a mascot – Jeff The Diseased Lung (which he offered to give to Philip Morris free of charge), and strong social focus (#JeffWeCan) that tied to a message of community involvement.

Campaigns like this can make a lot of noise by offer users education and entertainment and tapping into consumer pain points and interests. Increase the real world reach of your campaigns by:

  • Simplifying your message
  • Deliver engaging content
  • Encourage sharing and make it easy
  • Use multiple channels effectively
  • Focus on visual media
  • Provide a very clear Call To Action

Creating Messages That Engage

The best ways to build real life connections from digital tactics is to understand the needs and interests of your audience. Define what gets your audience excited and compels them to take action. Create content focused around those interests and encourage users to become a part of your brand and share influence by sharing things worth talking about. Today’s talk show hosts have found success by being innovative and unexpected. They often create new segments, like lip sync battles, that generate great reactions from fans (sometimes enough to create its own spinoff). We encourage your brand to branch outside of traditional outlets and experiment with new mediums and tones to build audience interaction and brand visibility.


Late night talk shows offer a great example of how to transform a stagnant industry with new content mediums and tactics for engagement. Next time you sit down to watch a monologue, catch a trending hashtag, or watch a viral video, ask yourself how your brand could be leveraging digital strategies in more engaging ways. With proper execution, your brand can share a portion of the spotlight and rub shoulders with the who’s who of digital engagement.

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