From Facebook documentaries to Instagram novela and from Twitter game shows to Snapchat comedy programmes, social media already showcases a variety of custom-made genres. To reach a younger audience, content producers have to use these platforms, because that’s where their audience is.
Last June, Discovery Communications decided to stream the TV documentary Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper on Facebook first. The documentary examines an initiative introduced by President Barack Obama in 2014 that encourages communities to help young men of colour move through school and youth programmes toward education and careers. Since its aim is to spark social change, it made an appropriate piece of content to screen on Facebook. Discovery also encouraged people to post about the mentors in their lives, learn more about getting involved and sign up for special watch parties for the linear broadcast of the programme. This was the first time Facebook has streamed the company’s longform content.
Facebook’s next step in the content game is live broadcast. Live streaming video apps have been around for a few years, but it really kicked off last year with the app Meerkat, followed shortly by Twitter’s Periscope, which allowed users to directly interact with their viewers. Never one to be one-upped, Facebook introduced the ability to livestream video in August with a feature called Live, but it was initially only for celebrities. Now, Facebook has finally began rolling out Live for all users. What this means for content producers is easy to imagine. From sports over news to entertainment, it offers great opportunities.
Another platforms which is an interesting place regarding the art of social storytelling is Instagram. While most of us use Instagram to share Mayfair-filtered selfies and food photos, writer and photographer Rachel Hulin is using Instagram to publish her new novel Hey Harry Hey Matilda (top photo). The novel charts the relationship between 30-something twins Harry and Matilda Goodman. Harry is an English professor and Matilda is an artist who works as a wedding photographer to pay the bills. The story is told using using emails sent between the two siblings as Instagram captions. An interactive website accompanies the Instagram account, creating a multimedia experience. Readers can listen to music and learn humorous tidbits about the two characters. And David Bowie, no less, is to live on in an Instagram miniseries based on his last album, Blackstar, it was revealed this week.
Snapchat has been linked with broadcasters since the release of its Discover feature last year. Now, Comedy Central’s first scripted original series has been released for Snapchat users’ eyes only. In December, the cable TV network launched Stalled, starring The Next Great Burger host and comedian Owen Benjamin. Running each day on Comedy Central’s Snapchat Discover channel, Stalled tells the story of an apathetic mall worker (played by Benjamin) who would rather spend his time being lazy in the bathroom than doing his job. Throughout the series’ episodes, Benjamin’s character ends up meeting an odd mix of other mall employees who show up to use the bathroom, portrayed by comedians like Nick Swardson, Esther Povitsky, and James Davis.
Not only scripted works on social media though. When I was a social media producer for Sony Pictures Television in the UK, we played Who wants to be a Millionaire? on Twitter every Friday afternoon. With the help of Twitter UK, we adapted the game show to the social media platform and called it Twillionaire.
Social media is an exciting space for content creators. You can not only adapt existing TV formats for social media, but also explore genres in completely new ways and add different layers. I look forward to seeing Facebook reality shows and Periscope talent contests in my newsfeeds very soon!
Top image: HEY Harry, HEY Matilda