Watching TV has never been as interactive as it is today. Social Media has become the new ‘word of mouth’. Yes, we could discuss our favourite programmes with our friends and family – but why not create a conversation for the world to see? Well, that is exactly what some of the most popular productions are doing, and they’re doing it well.
Indeed, if a show is ‘doing it right’, social media will be going mad with shares, comments, Tweets, discussions – regardless of whether or not it has its own Social accounts. Some of the biggest shows on TV have got wise to the benefits of joining in these conversations, by becoming the central point to which everyone goes, and by controlling the content that is shared.
Shows such as Games of Thrones (27 million followers), Pretty Little Liars (25 million) and Downton Abbey (over 3 million) have all embarked on unique and consistent campaigns to excite and entice fans, leading them into an inclusive world with compelling “extra” content with which they are encouraged to engage, participate and share ideas. All these shows have quickly realised that they can capitalise on this lust for extra information.
Fans love “Behind the Scenes” content, specifically, seeing how the production comes together; they love to see outtakes and actors having fun on set; they lap up additional background material on the period or world in which the series is set. The top shows have recognised this desire for ‘more’ and have acted accordingly by updating their Social Media on a regular basis with varied content.
Game of Thrones has almost 25 million followers on Facebook and Twitter combined and, because they share content every couple of days, this figure grows daily. They use a selection of pictures, videos, interactive quizzes, and merchandise to maintain the fans’ interest, and with hundreds of comments after each post, it’s not hard to see why. Pretty Little Liars is another show that has ruled the social media game, with highly active accounts and a cast who are also avid independent users.
With over 100 million Tweets from 2010 to the present day, it is the most Tweeted about TV show ever. The campaign was successful in maintaining a very high level of engagement with fans in between seasons and this has ensured that the show never really left the minds of its fans.
It is important to look at what the most popular TV shows are doing, because they haven’t got to where they are without putting in the hard work, on and off the set. However, I wanted to consider other less well-known, but very up and coming shows that are using social media in somewhat different ways, and are thus working to shape the future of how we watch our favourite programmes.
For example, the 2015 Norwegian TV drama Skam, translated in English to Shame. While you may not have heard of it yet, it is a production that is taking Scandinavia – and beyond – by storm. Set in Oslo, following the lives of a group of teenagers in high school, it is gaining popularity very quickly. What makes it different from other shows is not just its raw and honest material and performances, but its connection and innovative use of social media.
For Skam, it isn’t just about releasing ‘teasers’ or suggestions for fans to check in on, or behind the scenes footage. The concept of this show is that the social media accounts of the production and its characters are updated in real time. This ‘real time’ release is something special, because it is different, novel, clever and addictive. So, for example, if someone is going on a date at 8pm Wednesday, then a short clip of that date will be shown on Wednesday around 8pm. A text between two secret lovers may then be shared on the Thursday, all in preparation for the upcoming episode on Friday night. In this way, the weekly episode brings all the ‘clues’ together.
Indeed, fans can follow all of the characters’ fictional lives on social media. They can interact with them and their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts throughout the week, as they would do a normal friend. This makes an audience feel as if they are involved within the story, and have been party to secret information, making the production come alive and seem far more personal to its viewers than we have previously seen.
The fact that fans are given access to such personal information in real time can help create a sense of unity with the character. The effect is that fans can almost feel as if the character is their ‘friend’, because they are not just a weekly occurrence in an episode. The characters become ‘real’ people, with feelings, emotions and secrets, just like everybody else. And, as this is the way a great number of us already communicate with our friends, family, work and wider circles, it is not unrealistic to ‘maintain’ a friendship like this. Thus, the production and its characters feel incredibly realistic and relatable, which encourages fans to build a ‘bond’ with them.
These techniques ensure that all fans are constantly checking the social media pages for the next ‘clue’ because they are desperate not to miss out. Thus, the way Skam works is different from other major productions because social media actually becomes part of the watching experience, not just a subsidiary of it. Indeed, if you have not checked the social media update, you will not only be missing out on vital information for the upcoming episode, you will also be excluded from conversations about it with your peers. This is not something to be underestimated!
The producers of the show call it an ‘immersive experience’ because of all this extra interaction. They discuss and celebrate this shift away from simply staring at a single screen. This kind of viewing, especially for the younger generation, will become the norm, just as it is the norm to browse a second screen (Read Blog on the Second Screen Here) (phone, tablet, laptop) whilst watching TV. It will soon become second nature to be as immersed in a television show as possible, and that will include keeping up to date with these daily check ups. In the case of Skam, the show has undoubtedly done something right as its fans have been described as a cult, because of their sheer devotion towards it.
Essentially, Skam producers have successfully used social media to elevate the watching experience of their show – and since so much of our technology is becoming interactive (virtual reality, social media, gaming, etc.), these kinds of social strategies look to become the future of our TV shows. When productions get it right – as Skam and Pretty Little Liars have proved – they play on an audiences’ lust for escapism, for temporary transportation into another ‘world’. The techniques utilised by Skam simply mean that this ‘presence’ in this other ‘world’ is prolonged and deepened, and thus becomes more real and more memorable. All these elements together work to make a production the most successful it can be.
Thanks for reading,