Ready to hear something really uncanny? The TV show Supernatural, about two demon-hunting brothers that drive cross country vanquishing all kinds of evil creatures, has been on the air for nearly a decade, against all odds and despite the fact that its viewership (as measured by Nielsen ratings) is pretty modest. In fact, Supernatural’s real time viewership (that is the, number of people who watch the show as it airs on the CW) is so unremarkable that if it belonged to any other show there’s no doubt it would have been staked through the heart long ago.
And yet, season after season, Supernatural rises from the dead. It’s the kind of phenomenon that exemplifies the extent to which fans have been able to leverage the power of the web to affect the landscape of television.
As NPR reports, Supernatural's secret to remaining in the zeitgeist is an unrelenting online fandom that uses social media and the web to connect and build a community around anything and everything related to the show. That includes message boards, huge “fanfic” sites, a near omnipresence on Tumblr, and continued chatter on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Supernatural isn’t alone in its ability to cultivate passion for its characters and stories on social media. The TV show Scandal became a huge hit last year, in large part because of the way viewers took to social media to react in real time to every twist and turn. In the words of the LA Times, it became must-tweet TV.
Other cult TV shows have also benefitted from the fervent love of their online followers. It’s hard to think that the NBC show Community, with its penchant for incredibly obscure inside jokes and meta humor, would still be on the air if it didn’t have such a devoted and vocal online following. What’s more, social media played a key role in ensuring the return of the show’s original creator, Dan Harmon. After a falling out with NBC, Harmon was fired, only to retake the reins last year after fans made it clear they wanted him in control of their favorite show.
Veronica Mars may have solved her last case on TV years ago, but interest in the show lived on thanks to the Internet, so much so that even though its last episode aired in 2007, a new movie is set to be released later this year. The film was crowdfunded through Kickstarter, a maverick move that would have been unthinkable before the era of social media. The reignited love for Veronica Mars and the excitement about the upcoming movie has sparked so much interest that on top of a feature film, there’s also a brand new spinoff in the works set to premiere as a web series.
Social media has become such an integral part of the TV watching experience that traditional metrics just aren’t an appropriate gauge for a show’s popularity and cultural clout anymore. Recognizing that social media has fundamentally changed the way people interact with TV shows, Nielsen launched Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings at the end of last year. It’s a move that signals an expanding role for social TV data in shaping programming, and a growing influence from fans who now have an unprecedented power in shaping what’s on their screens.
Looking at the bigger picture, these case studies in TV shows whose destinies have been shaped by social media say something about the immeasurable value of fandom, stoked by social media. It’s a kind of loyalty that persists and is rekindled over and over by virtue of people having a space to celebrate the things they love online. That’s a testament to the kind of online communities that social media has been able to foster and a sure sign that their power to affect culture at large will only continue to expand.
Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” We don’t know if Einstein ever envisioned a world of digital information dominated by social media, but he may as well have been talking about marketing in the era of Facebook and Twitter. If you’re not embracing all the marketing tools the web has to offer, you may be playing it too safe. If the idea of making mistakes has you shying away from social media, check out these four common pitfalls.
Trying to be Everywhere at Once
Are you on every social media platform imaginable? It’s a good idea to have a presence on multiple networks, but don’t spread yourself too thin by thinking that you have to be everywhere at once! Instead, think about your target demographic and then discover which platforms your target audience is using the most. This article from Nonprofit Quarterly offers a great breakdown of some statistics surrounding social media and the types of users that can be found on each network. If you know information about your target audience, such as age or income, you can zero in on the social channels that these users are most likely to be engaging through.
Jumping In Without a Plan
Just like any other aspect of your overall marketing plan, your social media strategy needs to follow a plan. Social media is an incredible dynamic tool. Different organizations and businesses will harness its power in the way that best suits their needs. Before you start publishing and engaging with fans, ask yourself, “What can I do through social media that I’m not already achieving through other marketing approaches?” Some of your goals might include growing awareness around your brand, providing round-the-clock customer service online, or boosting revenue from your online store during the holiday season. Check out this list of the 12 Most Attainable Goals on Social Media to get the ball rolling.
Being a Broadcaster
Many marketers accustomed to traditional forms of communication may easily slip into this common pitfall. The old dynamic of publishing as a one-way street doesn’t work with digital marketing, so look for opportunities to improve engagement whenever you can. Using social media is as much about creating a space for customers to talk about you (and to you) as it is about you broadcasting information them. As part of your social media plan, you might consider setting some ground rules around how much of your content constitutes broadcasting and how much of it is geared towards maximizing engagement.
Measuring Too Much or Too Little
We’re living in an era where many decisions are built on big data, and many social networks have built-in tools that can give you great insight into the habits of your fans. Learning that most of your Facebook followers are from out of state might make you change the way you approach your business. Monitoring the type of content that garners the most engagement might also shape the kind of information you publish and ultimately help you grow your online following. But getting too bogged down with numbers can be detrimental to your overall strategy. On the other hand, tracking and logging every “like” and “retweet” is unlikely to yield any gains. Focus on tracking the outcomes that are most closely linked to your overall marketing goals and you’ll find it easier to parse out useful data from the white noise.Are you a veteran when it comes to using social media to grow your business? Or are you just starting to dip your toes in the water? In either case, there is always something to learn! Share your own stories of pitfalls you’ve encountered below.
You spend time, energy, and money making sure your social media presence is known to your customers. As a business owner, you may not have time to look at every graph and chart provided by your social media manager. With social media still being a new marketing tactic for some businesses, how can you tell if your efforts are successful? What metrics should you be examining?
You should have Google Analytics or another program installed to track all the visitors to your website. Examine your traffic from all social media platforms. Create a chart that identifies your top sources. Over time you'll be able to see which have the most growth potential.
2. Visitor Retention
This is different from traffic reporting. Understanding the time people spend on your website when they are referred from social media is important. If you see that your visitors are leaving quickly, then you should consider updating the design and/or copy of your landing page. Also, look at the information you are providing. Are you just selling your products or giving useful information? Remember, interesting information goes a long way, and overselling a product turns fans away from your business.
3. Audience Reports
The purpose of social media is mostly to engage and interact with followers. Just remember you want those followers to grow in numbers. It's always good to keep records of how many new followers or likes you are receiving weekly.
4. Engagement Reports
Interacting with your followers is a key component of social media. Record the number of active members vs. total members. If you find that you have a low percentage of active members, perhaps you need to start a campaign to reach out to those members who have not participated in any social media conversations lately.
5. Conversion Rate
It would be unrealistic to say you aren't selling something on your social media site. Just like any other medium, you want to keep a good handle on what drove your consumer to make a purchase. Creating a unique code for your social media fans to use at checkout, or a coupon fans can print out and redeem in your brick and mortar store, is the most direct way to track sales.
Are you giving people something to talk about? Be on the lookout for how often your brand gets mentioned. For Twitter you should create a #hashtag so you can look at what has been said about your business when you do a search.
7. Sharing Report
As a child we heard things like, "Sharing is Caring". The sharing report has the same idea behind it. Look over how many shares your Facebook posts have created. How many friends of friends have shared your posts with their network? It’s important to know that your content is worth spreading.
8. Blogger Breakdown
You share your ideas and tips with the world via Blogger or Wordpress, but are your readers connecting with your information? Remember to make sure that you turn on the "Allow Comments" section on these blogging sites. Encourage opinions from your readers. Always add in social media buttons like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. Make it easy for your follower to spread your word by the click of a button.