The upfronts are happening this week, which means the major broadcast television networks are trotting out their shiniest, new toys of the 2013-14 season. (More on the actual shows and my summative observations later this week.) The networks are also using this time to proclaim all the ways they’re integrating social and digital technologies.
Opening reel of Fox upfront is digital pros talking about TV and social with showrunner comments from JJ Abrams, James Brooks & @mindykaling
— Diane Gordon (@thesurfreport) May 13, 2013
ABC to Live-Stream Its Shows via App
ABC touting its live-TV-streaming mobile app, which is both a good idea and why-isn’t-everyone-already-doing-this? idea #upfronts
— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) May 14, 2013
I’m thrilled that television networks are finally addressing and prioritizing digital initiatives and platforms on a wide scale. But there needs to be solid strategy behind those initiatives. The past forty-eight hours have produced two examples of digital integration — one brilliant, one bad.
Here’s an example of what not to do with social media: NBC’s Fall Sweeps Twitter Contest.
The gist? From May 13 thru June 13, follow the Twitter accounts of NBC’s six new shows. Each new Twitter handle that you follow is an entry into the sweepstakes, in which ONE person (and a guest) wins two trips — one to L.A. to attend a final taping of Jay Leno and one to New York to attend a premiere taping of Jimmy Fallon.
This is a deeply flawed social campaign. It is a lazy attempt to accumulate several thousand followers for its newest shows slated for fall, while offering a low probability of reward. When participants don’t win, they can simply unfollow the show accounts. There’s nothing really keeping them there. The aim of social is to build and foster authentic relationships. It shouldn’t be based upon large numbers of followers or fans, especially when those followers are encouraged to follow for the sake of a nigh-impossible prize. Not to mention, the Twitter handles aren’t even hyperlinked on NBC’s website. How does this encourage people to even explore the shows on social?
Now here is an example of brilliant social promotion:
This latest poster for Hunger Games: Catching Fire continues with the portrait-esque Capitol Couture posters it released in March. It’s gorgeous. Sumptuous. The “painting” evokes emotion. It was shared on the official Hunger Games Instagram account, which links to a website that’s part of the transmedia juggernaut The Hunger Games Network. Check out the number of likes on the Instagram photo: 14.9 thousand, as of this posting.
Are fans winning anything by liking the new poster? No. But the poster sustains and furthers the excitement and buzz surrounding the film’s November release. What’s more: these pieces of content are shareable. Spreadable. Fans want to share the artwork, updates, posters and trailers with their social networks. Their enthusiasm is fierce and energetic and contagious. The creative minds behind this brand storytelling (Ignition Creative) are creating an experience piece by piece. And through that experience — of giving fans shareable, exciting content over an extended period of time — fans are developing a relationship with a film they haven’t even seen yet. Their connection to the franchise and the overarching Hunger Games story is deepening. Once that emotional, relational connection has been made, fans’ loyalty strengthens.
Obviously a television show and film operate differently, and they have very different financial models undergirding them. However the core concept remains the same. Create excellent, shareable content. Connect with fans where they’re at, whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr. And build relationships with your viewers. Create experiences for them. Not experiences hinged upon a sweepstakes. Digital, multi-layered, two-way interactive experiences that deepen the connection between viewer and show. Viewer and writers. Viewer and story.
That’s the direction television needs to go.
Photo from slider: Chicago Architecture Today via Flickr, Creative Commons License