'The Ricki Lake Show' Kicks Off Social Marketing Campaign (Exclusive Video)

Ricki Lake Portrait Studio - H 2012

Ricki Lake Portrait Studio - H 2012

The host's EP and 20th Television's head of production tell THR about Oprah Winfrey's yet-to-be-filled vacancy and their plan to build an audience in advance of the Sept. 10 premiere.

Almost four months to the day shy of Ricki Lake's Sept 10 return to television, the once and future talk show host is kicking off an expansive social media campaign with 20th Television.

"Friends of Ricki," billed as a social-TV community, is intended to serve as an online (and offline) counterpart to The Ricki Lake Show. It's had a soft launch on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but with an unveiling of a tutorial video, the 43-year-old is now taking steps to build her audience before the show even premieres.

"One of the reasons we decided to make the trailer is to make it user friendly," executive producer Lisa Kridos tells The Hollywood Reporter. "You don't want to assume that everyone has this stuff down, so we wanted to keep it open."

In its early days, Friends of Ricki has garnered roughly 4,500 Twitter followers and 2,000 Facebook Likes -- with Lake coming to the project with 149,857 Twitter followers of her own. Her commitment to the medium was one of the strategies discussed early in the development of the project.

"A lot of shows are presentations and we, at the heart of our show, want to be a conversation," 20th TV head of production and development Stephen Brown tells THR, noting the focus on participation they're trying to build. "It's true engagement, it's not just broadcasting."  

In addition to daily topics and focused discussions on the various Friends of Ricki forums, the group will also host meet-ups in key markets, where women already following the host can take their conversations offline.

Lake's launch comes at an especially competitive time for talk shows. Steve Harvey, Jeff Probst and, most dauntingly, Katie Couric all enter the daytime market this fall. But Kridos and Brown feel they're tapping into specific market that's not being tended to.

"At the end of the day, people are going to turn into the person they want to watch," says Kridos. "It's exciting to us that Ricki's our talent because women really related to her. And this is filling a void that we don't have right now."

That void, left by Oprah Winfrey in 2010, is something they plan to fill, at least a little, before making it to air.

"Look, nobody is going to be the new Oprah, but that audience is still there and they still want to engage," says Brown. "I think the most important thing is giving them a way to do that and feel like they're heard, being catered to and being considered. That's what Oprah did. She made you feel like you were part of that group, that club."

Watch Ricki Lake's new video below: