I loved that show when I was little.
So, I was excited to see that LeVar Burton is running a Kickstarter campaign to bring back Reading Rainbow. It’s been super successful, raising over $2.5 million in the first two days.
I was reading LeVar’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit and realized that the story of Reading Rainbow has more to teach than just literacy.
Targeting was as vital to Reading Rainbow’s success as it is to your social media strategy.
The original goal of Reading Rainbow was to address the problem of children losing progress on their reading skills during summer break. LeVar and his collaborators decided that the best way to reach kids during the summer was to go where they already were: sitting in front of the television.
In 1981, the first episode of Reading Rainbow was created to try and use the power of TV to improve literacy in children.
At first there weren’t a ton of viewers, but before long it reached a tipping point. Every kid my age knew about it. We watched it in school. We watched it at home. We watched it over the summer.
It was a success. Not only was it popular, but research determined that it worked, too. Kids who watched Reading Rainbow over the summer came back to school reading at a higher level than before the break.
(This is hugely important because kids who don’t learn to read well are much more likely to drop out of school and generally have fewer opportunities in life. Early literacy is vital.)
So, what’s the targeting trick here? Reading Rainbow figured out where the target audience was and went there. Not just that, but they timed it so they were there when the audience was there and when they could make the most impact: the summer.
Think about that in terms of a social media strategy.
To succeed on social media, you need to go where your audience is. If the people you’re trying to reach are on Facebook, you should be on Facebook. If they’re on Pinterest or Reddit, you should be too.
Showing up is only part of it, though. You have to be at the right place at the right time and understand why your audience is there.
People don’t spend all their time on a single web property or app. They do different things on different sites at different times.
Someone wanting to hire a dog trainer might ask for advice on Facebook, but they aren’t going to browse Pinterest for that quest.
When shopping for a new set of furniture they might well be browsing Pinterest for some inspiration and asking friends for advice on Facebook.
Maybe they go to Pinterest at the early stages of the new furniture search. Then as they narrow down their choices they might head over to Facebook to get some opinions. Then when they’re out at the store browsing, they head to Instagram or Twitter.
An interior designer could make the most of this by posting lots of photos of awesome interiors and furniture on Pinterest. This is mostly to get some awareness going.
Then a Facebook campaign could focus a bit more directly by appealing to people having a hard time deciding on their furniture. This could generate some business.
Finally, an Instagram or Twitter strategy could focus on directly engaging with people posting pictures of high end furniture they just bought.
This is how you need to shape your social media strategy. Go where your audience is, when they’re there, and understand why they’re there.
This is how you join the conversation.
It’s also how I know this new incarnation of Reading Rainbow is going to be a success. The Kickstarter is not to bring back the TV show. It’s to bring Reading Rainbow to the web, tablets, phones, and classrooms.
They’re going where their target audience is, and they understand the role of timing. During the school year, they can focus on helping teachers bring the content into the classrooms. Over the summer they can put their resources into keeping kids connected, reading, and loving it.
How awesome is that?!
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out the Kickstarter!