We all have that one time of year that we enthusiastically anticipate and look forward to: for the women pinning adorable and picturesque holiday-themed decorations on Pinterest in the middle of July, it’s Christmas. For guys whose inboxes fill up with emails about the office Fantasy Football league, it’s football season.
For me, it’s fall television season. The summer is the television equivalent of a drought (unless you happen to have a weakness for The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I might.) The land of basic cable runs dry: people are reduced to reruns and analyzing the shocking, unexpected twist in the season finale of their favorite show over and over again. But, when September rolls around, new shows debut and familiar ones return. I become unusually gambler-like and place bets on which new shows will be successful enough to be renewed, and I count down the days until Thomas Gibson’s brooding yet simultaneously alluring face again graces my television screen when the new season of Criminal Minds premieres on CBS. (T minus 30 days.)
Fall television season is a mere few weeks away. I’ve already been using TV Guide’s Day-by-Day Fall TV Schedule to determine my plan of attack as far as which shows I’ll watch live and which shows I’ll DVR (So far it’s looking like The Mindy Project and New Girl, respectively.)
Networks try to target TV junkies like me, so they spend a tremendous amount of money promoting their new fall lineups. In 2011, NBC spent $33 million to promote eight new shows (that doesn’t include advertising it ran on its own networks!). But the advertising buck doesn’t stop there: networks run campaigns on Twitter and Facebook in order to generate buzz and generate viewers. These campaigns might not receive the financial backing that television advertisements do, but I think they’re just as important, because people integrate social media into their television-watching experience. Consider this:
- 66% of people visiting social networking sites simultaneously watch TV programs.
- 41% of people watching a TV show tweet about that show.
- Of those who tweet about TV shows, 76% do so while watching programs live.
To talk Twitter, a solid social media campaign is #nothingbutgood: it appeals to people through channels that they’re already using. It’s an effective way to capture attention, interest, and ultimately, viewers.
Which shows run the best social media campaigns? Here are four shows that use Twitter and Facebook to their full potential.
#1 American Horror Story
American Horror Story successfully used social media right from the get go. When FX started airing promos for season one of American Horror Story last July, it prominently featured the hashtag #AHSFX on the bottom of the screen. Providing people with a ready-made hashtag is a great social media marketing strategy, because it’s like a subtle call-to-action: it implicitly asks viewers to tweet about the show. It’s also a smart tactic to generate engagement, because it provides people with direction. Hashtags are like Charlie Sheen or that latest episode of Honey Boo Boo: random, sometimes lacking rhyme and reason, and all over the place. American Horror Story makes it easy for people by telling them which hashtag to use; viewers can then monitor this hashtag and engage with others who are using this same hashtag, which is key, because social media is all about connecting and conversing.
American Horror Story also engages fans through a fantastic Facebook campaign. The show keeps fans updated about the upcoming season through Facebook Fan Exclusives, short videos available exclusively to Facebook fans that offer clues into season two. A new teaser video is posted nearly every day, and they have some impressive social sharing stats: several have upwards of 20,000 likes, and the first two have over 10,000 shares. They’re extremely creepy, unnerving, and confusing (a nun carrying a bucket full of body parts through a woodland setting, for one) but I just can’t stop watching them.
In addition to skillfully frightening yet enthralling fans, the show’s Facebook page also keeps fans in the loop on all of the American Horror Story buzz that is circulating in the press. The page is filled with links to different articles from Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood Reporter, The Huffington Post, and TV Line.
The bottom line: one of the best things about the American Horror Story social media campaign is that it’s not overtly promotional. Of course, the show wants viewers, but the vibe I get from the show’s Twitter and Facebook pages is that the show also wants to capture and maintain the interest of fans, whether that’s through exclusive videos, news about the upcoming season, or answers to fans’ questions:
Last fall, the show dominated Twitter’s Trending Topics throughout several episodes. It also took the number two spot on GetGlue (a social network through which people can “check-in” to, rate, and share their favorite TV shows) in early October. I expect season two will be no different, especially since Adam Levine will be appearing in more than one episode. Nice pick, Ryan Murphy.
#2 New Girl
New Girl and social media go together like Zooey Deschanel and quirkiness. The Fox show, which is starting its second season in September, not only features an adorkable female protagonist, but also finds a way to seamlessly integrate such adorkableness into its social media campaign.
Here are some of the creative, inventive ways in which New Girl engages its cult-like following:
- All aboard the New Girl Party Bus
The party school bus that appeared in an episode is touring the US of A throughout the summer, stopping at various concerts, bars, and beaches. Fans access information about specific locations through Facebook. They can follow the tour on Twitter through the New Girl account and tweet using the #NewGirlBusTour hashtag.
- Get the deets on Pandora parties via social media
New Girl announced on Facebook and Twitter that The New Girl main characters from the show created their own Pandora stations. Fans can sign in and listen to the stations, all of which expertly capture the quirkiness, eccentricity, and ridiculousness that is the cast of New Girl.
- Add to the Douchebag Jar
For those of you who aren’t fans of the show, allow me to briefly explain the Douchebag Jar. Every time the character Schmidt commits a crime of douchebaggery, he must put money in the jar. New Girl launched a website entitled addtothejar.com, which allows fans to access exclusive content, such as videos with cast members. In order to access this content, fans must fill up the jar, though not with money, rather with Facebook shares. New Girl posts a new video, and then people must share it a certain number of times on Facebook in order to “unlock” new content. So far, the jar is filled with over 18,500 shares.
- Live Q&A’s
Fans had the opportunity to ask the show’s male cast members questions through Facebook or by using the hashtag #FOXTuesdays; the guys then answered questions in a live webcast.
The bottom line: New Girl’s social media campaign functions as an extension of the show. It’s witty (Like Zooey Deschanel), laugh-out-loud worthy (like Schmidt), and smart (like Winston—perhaps).
#3 The Voice
Adam Levine, we meet again.
The social media campaign for NBC’s The Voice encompasses not only Facebook and Twitter, but also Pinterest and Tumblr. I think that oftentimes brands, people, and businesses create multiple social media accounts as a symptom of shiny object syndrome and then fail to develop these accounts. The Voice, however, does all of its accounts justice. It uses Twitter and Facebook to keep fans updated on past contestants, offer behind-the-scenes video clips, and give access to sneak peeks from Season 3.
The Voice also has a Facebook app called The Fifth Coach that allows viewers to vote for their favorite crooners through Facebook (the app also works on Facebook mobile). When people vote, their choice is shared with their friends, epitomizing the phrase “social TV.” It also enables people to access videos and blog posts. According to Lost Remote, this app is the first of its kind.
The Voice is an innovator in other respects too. I think The Voice’s social media campaign stands out from the crowd, because it successfully uses Tumblr and Pinterest, something which I haven’t seen many other TV shows do. Pins and GIFs are all the rage right now, so it makes sense for The Voice to incorporate them into their social media efforts, but again, it’s clear that the show doesn’t treat Tumblr and Pinterest as merely the newest, latest thing. It solidly develops these accounts.
The Voice Pinterest account features memes, pictures of fan art, and both glam shots and candids of the celebrity judges. The show’s Tumblr is filled with humorous GIFs, mainly of the Adam Levine and Blake Shelton variety.
The bottom line: I think one of the secrets to the success of The Voice’s campaign is the fact that the show maintains a fun, light, and relaxed tone across all channels. People use Twitter and Facebook as leisure activities, and they’re on these sites for down time, thus, maintaining a sense of levity and lightheartedness is a smart marketing move. I think that imbuing the majority of posts with a humorous tone makes people want to join in on the conversation. Who wouldn’t want to tweet at the cat named Purrfect whose primary residence is CeeLo green’s lap?
#4- Cougar Town
I’ll admit I’m cheating a little bit here, as Cougar Town is technically not a fall 2012 TV show; its season premiere is set for some time in January 2013. However, I think the Courteney Cox-led sitcom has one of the best social media strategies of any television shows.
Last year, ABC indefinitely postponed the premiere date for season three of Cougar Town and cut the length of the season. Rather than pinning the survival of the sitcom on the ABC network, one of the show’s creators, Bill Lawrence, embarked on a social media blitzkrieg. Lawrence reached out to fans through Twitter and went on a nation-wide, self-funded, social media driven tour to promote Cougar Town, holding fan parties and episode screenings in bars throughout the U.S. (NYC, Philly, L.A., and Chicago, to name a few cities). He announced and publicized all events through Twitter. I was lucky enough to attend the party in Philadelphia, where I got free wine, saw two episodes of the new season, and met three cast members (hey, Josh Hopkins). ABC brought Cougar Town back, and the show’s fourth season is underway at TBS.
One of the things that makes Cougar Town’s social media strategy work so well is the fact that every single cast member and writer has an active (and entertaining) Twitter account. They offer behind-the-scenes photos and updates on season four and host giveaways, sometimes involving free wine and sometimes involving t-shirts:
And here’s evidence that Cougar Town really does have a devoted legion of fans:
The bottom line: Cougar Town’s social media campaign allows people to attend parties, drink wine, and meet cast members—for free. It’s one of the best campaigns out there.
Until fall television season officially arrives, I’ll be staying up to date on the following four shows through Twitter and Facebook (and also marking down the days on my calendar until the return of Criminal Minds).