Last week, we hailed Conan O’Brien as the king of social media. And he deserves the title. Since leaving NBC, he’s lit the Web on fire and connected with millions of fans through Team Coco, his gang of digital staffers. The freckled late-night host is drawing big crowds on Twitter and Facebook. Fans can check out his Tumblr and Flickr pages, YouTube videos, and check in to his Conan blimp on Foursquare. This week, Team Coco launched a poll on TeamCoco.com that lets fans vote for Conan’s first guest. (The Pope? Vladimir Putin?) And today, he’s launching a 24-hour live “behind the scenes” Webcast.
To find out more about Conan’s innovative use of social media, we spoke with John Wooden, GM and executive producer of Team Coco Digital.
Fast Company: Tell me about your involvement with Team Coco.
John Wooden: I’m GM and executive producer of Team Coco Digital. It’s part of Conan’s production company Conaco. We have a team of 8 people working full time.
Who are they? Social media gurus? Hilarious writers? Twitter experts?
All of the above. Sometimes wrapped into one person.
What’s the focus currently of Team Coco?
Right now, our focus is on preparing for the launch of the show, so we’re trying to give the fans as much information as we can leading up to November 8th. TeamCoco.com first launched in March to support the cross country tour. In August, we relaunched it as a teaser site for the new show. And then we launched Team Coco branded satellites on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Foursquare and Flickr and YouTube.
How much brainstorming and work goes into Conan’s tweets? Are writers involved?
Conan’s Twitter account is his. Those are his tweets. Everything else is coming from Team Coco.
Conan has been responding to fan questions recently. How do you decide which questions to choose?
We narrow it down–we get thousands of thousands of questions. But Conan always chooses the question he wants to answer.
How involved is Conan in Team Coco?
He’s deeply involved. We’re plotting our digital content strategy with him. We’ve been doing a series of Webisodes with Conan, and we’re developing more great stuff for the Web.
I should also add that the we’re gearing up for a relaunch of Team Coco, to coincide with the launch of the show. It’ll be a much more robust offering, with tons of video from the show.
Under TBS? Will that mean more employees?
We’re staffed up to run Team Coco, and we’re remaining at TeamCoco.com. TeamCoco.com will remain the hub of all things Conan. There will not be a TBS.com show page for Conan’s show.
Was it the aim to make Team Coco a branded destination?
What’s so unique about Team Coco as a brand is that it sprung organically from a grassroots movement within social media. That’s in our DNA. We’re committed to maintaining Team Coco and building the fan base. Look for us to be extremely active and have a robust presence on all the main social media networks.
The show is only a few weeks away. What else can we expect?
There’s so much awesome stuff. The blimp is in effect for the rest of the month. We will continue to be run Webisodes. We just yesterday rolled out a poll where we’re letting the Internet choose the first guest of the show.
TBS is fine with that?
That feels like the antithesis of NBC.
TBS is fantastic. They’re incredibly supportive of our digital strategy.
Will Conan continue to use social media on his show like, say, Jimmy Fallon?
You can safely say that we will. What we’re aiming for is an unprecedented degree of cross-platform integration.
As part of our Influence Project, we’re trying to figure out how to measure influence online. How does Team Coco spread influence?
Ultimately, we don’t think of it in these terms. It’s purely a matter of entertaining people. We use the outlets available to us to entertain. To the extent that it results in more followers or friends or fans, that’s great. That’s a reflection to us that we’re doing something right.
Heading up Team Coco must be a dream job.
I’m not complaining.