I doubt it has escaped anyone’s attention that there is a thing called ”social media” that many people around the globe are pretty obsessed about. I also doubt anyone in the television industry has failed to notice that this activity on social media is having an increasing impact on viewing habits and the popularity of shows. As with every trend or bandwagon, it’s hard to get it just right and considerably easier to get it just a little bit wrong. Here are five handy tips for anyone setting out to incorporate social media into their content output:
1. Don’t overdo it
My grandmother, sitting in her rocking chair in a farmhouse in the countryside in Ostrobothnia, Finland, said of her cooking that ”för mytji å för liite skämmer allt”, which roughly translates to ”too much or too little makes for a bad whole”. The same absolutely goes for television shows today.
While the hashtag earlier was a novelty, it’s increasingly becoming a bit of nuisance, as every show promotes their own hashtags, not necessarily giving the audience a viable reason for using it or interacting with the content in any way.
The solution is to make sure that no matter how many or how often you promote hashtags in the context of your content, make sure it has a given, noticeable impact in one way or another, thereby rewarding the active members of the audience sufficiently.
An example is the campaign ”Riojas 19” that we’ve talked about earlier on this blog, where Twitter activity was central for the audience to engage and claim their own stake in the Game of Thrones’ world of Westeros. Every tweet counted, and had a tangible effect on the audience members’ fortunes.
2. Be genuine
People who love your content – or are at least interested in it – know that you are looking to connect them to your show in one way or another, to be able to show to future sponsors and broadcasters that ”hey, our show has a following and you should give us more sponsorship money / renew us for another season” (delete as appropriate). People on the whole have also grasped the concept of ”if you’re not paying, you’re the product being sold”, and most are very – perhaps surprisingly – ok with that. Basically – don’t try to fool anyone, because they won’t be fooled. More likely, you’ll have a bunch of upset former fans on your hands.
An example of how to use your fans in a way that gives you maximum exposure – albeit briefly – by using their feeds to promote your content, while still staying true to the content they love in a way that doesn’t make them upset, comes from Teen Wolf in France, where the company Darewin ”hacked Twitters graphic code” last autumn to make it appear as if the tweets of fans had been slashed by a werewolf’s claws. A runaway success, this (relatively) simple but very visible campaign garnered 10.000 retweets in one week.
3. It’s not an audience anymore
Or rather, it’s an enhanced audience. Just as television has become enhanced and all other kinds of content as well, the audience is most definitely an enhanced one compared to earlier eras. They are your collaborators, your marketing channel, your possible content creators, your – and their own – way to fame and fortune. This is why it’s essential to engage them in ways that are meaningful for them, that connect to your content in the right way and that ultimately celebrate their engagement in your content in such a way that they feel like valued members of your ”family”.
One example is the community around the wildly popular series Orange is the New Black, who have succeeded admirably in their effort to create ”authentic, one-to-one relationships with the fans”, additionally giving them a voice to be heard by the production and the cast.
4. Throw transmedia storytelling methods into the fray
Regular readers of this blog know that I am a passionate advocate of using transmedia storytelling methods when creating almost any kind of content. Building story worlds is as essential for documentaries as it is for drama series, as essential for sport events as it is for feature films. By building the story world – which can be fictional, non-fictional or anything in between – with characters, rules and audience engagement principles integrated from the very beginning, in intimate sync with each other, it is possible to harness social media interaction in ways that perfectly fit your overall content. Examples include the sprawling universe of the Doctor Who franchise, the interesting experimentation going on with the Defiance project and host of other, more or less successful ventures. What is certain is that, without applying transmedia storytelling methods, these projects would be less than they are today.
5. Stay true to the spirit of social media
The quip is one of the most effective aspects of social media, especially if you want to achieve the possibility of virality. Write a funny enough post on Facebook, a funny enough gif on Tumblr or a funny enough sentence in less than 140 characters on Twitter, and you have the chance to be immortalized globally (for upwards of 1,5 minutes or so). It doesn’t even have to be a particulary good quip, as the most retweeted tweet of the World Cup shows (which was Mario Balotelli of Italy demanding a kiss from the Queen if Italy would’ve beaten Costa Rica).
Looking at television, a great example is – again – from the world of Game of Thrones, who in the run-up to the latest series realized that King Joffrey was the most hated fictional character on the Internet (roughly 3.5 times more ”hated” than any other). Launching the ”Roast Joffrey” event, they embraced the power of humanity to come up with quick, dirty and more or less funny insults in a way that resonated extremely well with the target audience.