In the days since Jay Leno’s last night hosting The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon‘s social-media team has ramped up and dramatically increased The Tonight Show social-media engagement — positioning NBC’s decades-old late night for social-media dominance online even before Fallon debuts this evening as host of The Tonight Show.

The Jimmy Wars Go Online - Fallon versus KimmelAccording to analyst RelishMIX, Fallon’s team jumped The Tonight Show engagement by 12.3 times (see graphic) in the seven days following Leno’s final show February 5, compared with 2.5 times for rival Jimmy Kimmel’s team. Engagement means, basically, how many people are watching, sharing and reposting a show’s content, according to RelishMIX CEO Marc Karzen. The company tracks social-media effectiveness and engagement for TV shows, movies and video games, analyzing how much fans of a given show are watching YouTube videos (and for how long), how often they’re posting and reposting material, and otherwise sharing and talking about the show on social media over time. “The graphic shows us that once Leno stepped aside, the Fallon machine quickly pulled the trigger on grabbing all of the Leno social channels in order to own those fans,” Karzen said. “The big tactical battle for 11:30 will be fought between Fallon, Kimmel, (David) Letterman and Arsenio (Hall) to deliver even more socially engaging segments that extend beyond the broadcast.”

Jimmy Fallon Tonight show screen cap for story

Fallon’s social-media acuity likely played a role in NBC’s decision to install him at The Tonight Show while predecessor Leno was still doing well in traditional TV ratings.

Today, Fallon’s team has been posting hour-by-hour countdown photos taken of a new Tonight Show coffee mug at various New York City landmarks, and posting them across the web, as well getting traction for an amusing congratulatory tweet by Gloria Fallon, his sister. They also announced the availability of a Tonight Show mobile app on Google’s Play app store.


ABC Kimmel live tweetThe Leno problems with younger, social-media-savvy audiences had been exposed when ABC moved Jimmy Kimmel Live into a head-to-head slot at the start of 2013. Since then, Kimmel’s team has continued to build a strong, sometimes quite innovative presence on social-media platforms, as shown by his live-tweeting last Friday when the network replayed in primetime the Jimmy Kimmel Live episode featuring the cast of The Monuments Men, including director-star George Clooney.

“Talk shows, and particularly the Jimmys, have very good grasps of the power and importance of the social-media universe in driving online audience to offline,” Karzen said. “How that unfolds this year is going to be very exciting. What is crazy is that, outside of the talk shows, the networks don’t get social at all!”