Two weeks ago I gave my presentation on Social TV, specifically how it has impacted AMC. There was just so much information on this topic, so I wanted to further explain some of the insights I garnered from my research. My takeaways were:
1. Use Social Media to Find an Audience.
Finding an audience is about attracting new audience members as well as encouraging existing audience members to watch live. Every show has an online presence, whether it has mainstream success or is relegated to cult status. Just because a show doesn’t bring in huge viewing numbers doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a loyal fanbase that can be accessed through social media. It’s only a matter of finding where the existing audience is, and engaging them to watch episodes as they air. It’s also important to use social media to find new audience members. It’s a mistake to believe that if a show is good enough, the viewers will find it. It took viewers five years to find Breaking Bad, and viewers didn’t find Arrested Development until after it was cancelled.
2. Continue the Conversation.
One thing that has become obvious to me throughout the course of the class is that people seek engagement. Social media should be used as a forum for viewer engagement by continuing the conversation beyond the time a show is airing as well as during the show. The Walking Dead is particularly good at this through their social media campaigns and the Talking Dead, which airs directly after the episodes. Cast members live-tweet episodes and answer questions directly from fans with #TWDChat. AMC also uses #StorySync during episodes of The Walking Dead, where viewers can weigh-in on events as they are happening.
The day a new episode airs is no longer the only day viewers are watching. People are always catching up with shows, whether it’s through Netflix, DVR, or piracy. We now have so many viewing options that allow us to watch television when it’s most convenient for us. Networks need to provide content throughout the week, as well as during the off-seasons to engage the viewers who are catching up at different times. You never know when all of the conversations are happening, so networks need to post on social media constantly. AMC tweets throughout the week to encourage viewers to catch up with the latest episodes, and posts on instagram to increase anticipation for the next episode.
4. Tailor Social Strategy for Different Shows.
One of the biggest mistakes networks make with their social media strategies is not using the correct channels to engage their viewers. Despite appearances, social media doesn’t end at Twitter and Facebook. Shows that capitalize on shock value tend to do well on Twitter because those viewers love the immediacy of it. However, shows that move at a slower pace and are more cerebral (i.e. MadMen on AMC or Rectify on Sundance) do not have as much engagement on Twitter. Fan responses are analytical rather than reactionary, and fans are more engaged in blog-type formats than stream-of-thought formats.
Downsides AKA Spoilers
Networks don’t tend to post spoilers from their official channels, but will use the threat of spoilers to encourage viewers to catch up with the latest episode. Spoilers are posted by fans, who aren’t regulated by the networks, and it’s not likely that this dynamic will change. Spoilers are the incentive to watch live, and telling fans not to post spoilers would be limiting their engagement by not allowing them to talk about what they just saw. At this point, the only surefire way to avoid spoilers is to watch live…sorry. Any effort to reduce spoilers would be like telling viewers that it doesn’t matter when they watch the show, which is not in the best interest of these networks.
The concern with spoilers is whether it will scare off potential audience members. However, I have my doubts that spoilers will really stop viewers from starting a new show. If you haven’t started a show yet and you encounter a spoiler, you won’t remember it by the time you start the show because the information is meaningless until you understand it in the context of the show. I can talk about Game of Thrones in front of friends who haven’t seen the show because they don’t know the names of characters, so it doesn’t mean anything to them if they hear that one of the characters died.
Side Note: Let’s be real, with some exceptions, it’s probably our own fault if shows get spoiled for us. If I start a show, decide to google it halfway through watching it, and read that my favorite character is killed off in the next episode, then that’s my own fault. However, I do understand that sometimes we just can’t help it. So if one day your “friend” spoils a show for you, then you should probably just stop being friends with them.