The Road Between

So I have to tell you about last night. But before that, I have to tell you about my life on September 11, 2001.

Yes. 9/11.

Everyone has a 9/11 story. It’s like the day Kennedy was assassinated or the space shuttle Challenger exploded. We remember where we were, what we were doing when we heard that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers…and then it just kept getting worse. It was one of those days that one way or another is part of your life story, whether you want it to be or not. I’ve yet to meet someone who can say that the events of the day didn’t make some impact or scar them in some very deep way. Even if you didn’t know anyone personally who died that day, it felt like you did. If you’re too young to remember the day, in many ways I’m jealous of you. In other ways, I feel you will lack the ability to really relate to the story I’m going to tell, but I trust your imagination is vivid enough that you’ll find a way.

This is the story of how 9/11 changed my life forever.

A friend of mine from my years spent in the hallowed institution known as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced he was getting married. It would be a small wedding, but he wanted me to be there. I was flattered and honored. Before that time and honestly since, I’ve attended so few weddings I can count them on one hand. And I know a lot of people. I just don’t seem to get invited to a lot of weddings. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not upset about this fact — look, we all know people for whom we would gladly bear witness to one of the biggest life-changing moments in their lives…but often, we may not know them well enough for them to justify the cost of another dinner plate at the reception.

My friend was actually not going to be married in Illinois, but rather on the East Coast, specifically, Block Island, which is part of Rhode Island. I was living in Florida, trudging along in my chosen occupation at that time and really only just coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t living the life I wanted. I had finally gotten some stability in my emotional life, having finally determined that I needed to be assessed for my depression issues, and gotten medicated and therapy, which was helping immensely, but wasn’t curing that existential dread that loomed around every corner of my life. The one thing my lifestyle at the time did afford me was vacation time and the financial security that allowed me to travel. Under other circumstances, I might have declined my friend’s invitation to his wedding, but I had never been to the Northeast, and found this as an opportunity to visit New York City for the first time, turning my friend’s life event into a whole exploration and vacation for myself.

You probably know where this is headed, and you’re probably right, but stay with me.

His wedding wasn’t planned on 9/11, in fact it was for many days after — my recollection of the exact date is fuzzy, but for some reason the 16th sticks in my head. I could be off by a day or two on either side, but I know it wasn’t on the 11th because that was the day I had a plane ticket to fly into Laguardia Airport, with the intent to stay in New York for a few days before renting a car to travel to Block Island and attend the wedding. I was traveling with a very close work friend of mine who had been to New York many times, and was originally from Connecticut, though his family had moved to Florida when he was a kid. I was thankful I’d have a guide for my adventures in the Big Apple.

So, of course, the day came — time to fly to New York. We had a morning flight (9 AM) and were at the Orlando Airport early enough to wait around for boarding. I recall looking up at one of the TVs at the gate and watching the weather on CNN — a hurricane that had been moving up the coast was moving off shore. We had perfect flying weather to look forward to…

And then, we didn’t. I’m still not certain whether we learned what was happening from the TV or not. And the order of events in the span of the next few minutes are a little confused for me 13 and a half years later, but I remember we were in the pre-boarding line, waiting for the group number to be called, etc. when the plane stopped boarding. We were delayed. I looked back at the TV for the weather wondering if I had misinterpreted the map I had seen before, and somewhere in this gap we learned what was really going on. The TVs in the passenger gate areas weren’t broadcasting it. We all had to make our way to a bar situated further up the concourse away from the gates, where the TVs were showing real CNN and not the faux-airport CNN, which was still showing weather and headlines that didn’t include the breaking news. It was a little chaotic at this point — none of us knew what was happening, whether we’d be delayed temporarily or if we were grounded. At this point we only knew one plane had hit one tower.

And then the second plane hit. And that was the ballgame.

They started pulling luggage off planes and lining up all the bags in the concourses, so we could all get the bags and go home. It was clear that planes weren’t going to be flying that day, or for many more days in the future. People walked around in a dazed state. I got a panicked phone call from my mother and also from my sister, both of whom knew I was flying to New York and were terrified I was already on a plane headed that way — no one knew how broad the terrorist attack was. Could a flight from Orlando to NYC be similarly targeted as the planes that hit the towers or the planes that hit the Pentagon or crashed into the field in Pennsylvania? Could there have been a planned attack on Walt Disney World? (a very legitimate possibility, as WDW is a prime terrorist target, for obvious reasons.)

While we stood and watched CNN around the circular bar with a couple hundred other people, we watched the first tower fall. We all gasped and a few people cried. It was horrifying. As difficult as it was to tear ourselves away from the screens, we managed to get our bags, which were now available, pack the car and head home.

No one had any idea of the scope of things, and it was paralyzing. It was in this state of complete disbelief and dismay, listening to news on the radio that we drove home in silence. My friend’s phone rang and it was another coworker who knew we were traveling and checking in on us. Upon learning we were fine he suggested we might be needed for ‘all hands on deck’ if anything were to go down at our place of employment — Disney World. The magnitude of the events of the day just kept piling up as we sat in front of my friend’s TV watching endless news, trying to cancel hotel reservations and rental car reservations…We briefly considered renting a car and driving to the wedding, but ultimately decided it was too risky and really unrealistic. Instead we stared blankly at the rubble in New York, DC and Pennsylvania and took stock of what would become the rubble of our lives.

Why am I telling this story? What does it have to do with last night? It’s only in retrospect that I can see clearly that in many ways, if it weren’t for the tragic events of that day, I might not be where I am, doing what I’m doing.

The ripples from that event spread wide — the tourism business in Central Florida dried up immediately. It was devastating — businesses had to cut back, even Disney World — I had only a few months earlier started working in a different department doing project management, a huge step up from my first job at the park, which was doing tech support for computers, servers and networks. I spent a lot of time crawling around on floors, squeezing into tight server closets and generally being both savior and necessary evil to everyone I met in my work capacity. One of the first things that happened when the cutbacks came was that I got moved back to my old job. I was lucky, really. A lot of people got laid off — they at least found a place for me to go. Meanwhile, my sister had only the week before left her job in Chicago and faced other personal challenges. She was ready for a change, and about a month later, my parents and she came to visit and maybe even attempt to heal together, but it also led to a fruitless job search for her. It was quite literally the worst possible time to be looking for a job in Orlando.

I barely remember the months between September of that year and January of the next. My next major recollection was of my paternal grandmother’s death, which was quite sudden and unexpected. I traveled home for the funeral and it was during the days I was with my family, that Julie and I came to the same conclusion — we were extremely unhappy with our lives as they were and felt unfulfilled. We both wanted to move to Los Angeles, so the plan was set. She would go first, flying there in February, sleeping on a college friend’s couch while she looked for a job and a place to live. I’d come later…I was on the slow boat to China. It felt foolish and incredibly impractical that we should both be unemployed bohemians, so I agreed to stay in my position in Orlando. A few weeks before my grandmother’s death I had been moved to the customer support center and out of field tech support, working on a project that would merge the call centers for the East and West Coast divisions of the entire Disney company. WDW had the largest of the call centers, so we were really leading the project effort. I saw in this an opportunity to leverage my position in this project to attempt a relocation. I knew this would take time — a lot of it, in fact, but at this point I was determined to be the master of my own fate. If I couldn’t manage the relocation, I’d quit by the end of the year and join Julie in Los Angeles.

I’ve told this story before — the story of our move cross country, how Julie got her job working for Dustin Hoffman’s production company (and later, for Dusty himself). How I visited her in July to find our apartment, so she could move out of her sublease when the time was up. How in August I was told the relocation might happen, but I had to be patient. Then, how I pushed up the timetable by making the riskiest move I’ve ever made in my life — I essentially packed a bag and moved myself to L.A. unbeknownst to anyone, under the guise of assisting the West Coast operations team, as it was coming into existence (including, the job I wanted). I paid for that initial travel, since I timed it with a “vacation” — traveling first to Las Vegas for a few days, then driving from Vegas to L.A. to attend the first Screenwriting Expo that Creative Screenwriting magazine was holding. Yes, I had already decided on my career and I was putting things in motion to accomplish it. I also had no return ticket purchased, so I meant business.

None of this would have happened had I been able to attend my friend’s wedding. I know this, deep in my bones. I imagine that I would have had a wonderful trip to New York, maybe seeing a show (I was dying to see “The Producers” which was the toast of the town, but tickets were impossible to get), visiting the Empire State Building, then going to the wedding…then returning home, still trapped in a life that was unfulfilling. The tourism industry wouldn’t have dried up. Julie might have gotten a job in Orlando, and we’d have been on a completely different path, or at least a much twistier version of the one we took.

I thought on this a lot last night. Last night, Julie and I celebrated our first TV staffing job, a job we have worked to get for 8 years “officially” as a writing pair, and a lot longer unofficially, as you can track from the dates in this story. As each person came through the door of the bar where we invited people to come celebrate with us, I was genuinely touched and in some cases shocked by who had come to toast our success. There were people there that I had not seen in nearly 8 years, others I’d swapped a few Facebook messages or tweets with, but hadn’t had a real conversation with in the last few years. Every single person who arrived knew how long we had been working toward this goal and understood how much this meant to us. And I now understand how much it meant to a lot of them. For those who had served as our mentors, it was pride that we had accomplished what they hoped that we would, like parents who see their kids off into the world. For our peers, it was excitement and for some even inspiration — we were a motivator. We had done it, and for those who haven’t yet gotten their break, they were happy for us and wanted to follow our success with their own (and boy do we want that to happen too!)

I expected to tell people it was okay to hate me — I know how hard it can be to see someone else get the job you want, but everywhere I turned, I got the same reaction — just happiness, for us. No one was bitter or disillusioned. No one was petty or unkind. I can say with absolute certainty that the amount of pure love I felt was more than I’ve ever experienced in my life. Several times I was overcome by tears of joy and yes, I recognize that sounds ridiculous, but my emotions were so barely contained from all of the congratulations thrown our direction, that as the night went on it became too difficult to keep them down. They broke through, and maybe I looked ridiculous, but I don’t care. I told every person who congratulated me how much I loved them — which probably sounded like the drunken ‘I love you guys!’ that often breaks out after a few drinks, but I meant it sincerely. I loved everyone in that room, everyone who knew us and wanted to tell us how happy they were for us.

Those of you who were there, I am sorry that I was unable to split myself into about 20 different people so that I could have talked to every one of you for more than a few minutes. Wave after wave of new guests came through the door and it took everything I had to try to make sure I was greeting and hugging and talking to every one of them. I’m sad that there are people who got so little of my time, but I appreciate that most everyone understands what it’s like in those situations — large gatherings aren’t really great for in depth conversations, and I look forward to reconnecting with so many people I saw last night. For those who couldn’t be there, the messages and tweets and texts and carrier pigeon messages (okay, maybe not that last one) that were sent were more than enough. I hope to spend time one on one with them too in the near future.

I am not a social creature by nature, but last night all I wanted was to talk to everyone, hug everyone, tell everyone how much I loved them for being in my life and being some part of us getting to this place and having this success. So yeah, I got a little overwhelmed. Hell, I’m all teary-eyed right now as I write just thinking about the joy in my heart, that Grinchy heart that grew three sizes in the span of 6 or 7 hours.

I’m glad that when Julie and I arrived at the bar ahead of our guests, we had about fifteen minutes to ourselves. We toasted each other, and finally were able to acknowledge our accomplishment. I think my biggest regret of the night, was not getting someone to take a photo of the two of us in our euphoria. I know I posed for two pictures, but I wanted to be taking so many more! If for no other reason so that I would have visual reminders of this very singular evening that I can reflect upon on the road ahead, when we hit new bumps and obstacles. When those moments come, I will have this memory to hold onto tightly, the memory of such friendship, support and celebration to remind me that yes, in fact, I do have people in my life who give a damn. If I ever doubted it, I can never doubt again. Last night proved that.

I hope you all get to experience what I experienced, and I very much want to be on the other side of the equation for it — I want to be the one celebrating these people in return, their success and joys — whether they be career or personal. It made me mindful that the avatars I see every day online…they are all real people (well except for those bots that follows me on twitter, but you know what I mean.) They are real people who care enough to get babysitters or pay to valet park their cars and pay for overpriced (but really excellent) drinks in HOLLYWOOD, one of the most inconvenient meeting places in L.A….but then again, all of L.A. is inconvenient, Hollywood just more so.

When you have your success, remember me. Invite me to share in it. I will move heaven and earth to be there, if I can. If I can’t come celebrate it with you, I will let you know how excited and happy I am, and it will be from my heart, just as it was from all of yours.

My path from 9/11 — the beginning of the darkest time in my life to last night — the brightest day in my life. It’s quite a journey, one I honor and appreciate, even though I really wish it hadn’t needed to be so long. But, you know, everyone’s path is different. This was my path. I can accept that.

People asked me last night how I felt, and as the night went on I started to accept the reality — “I feel fucking fantastic!” There is no joy as powerful or as poignant as a joy that is shared with others.

Thank you for sharing with me. Keep in touch.

I love you.

Posted under randomness

This post was written by Shawna on March 28, 2015 1 Comment »

Tags: , , , ,

Fandom in the Social Media Age – Epilogue

I’ll keep this short. I promise.

If you’ve read all of the other posts in this series, I thank you for your time and attention. I know it was a lot to sift through to get to all of the salient points. Some of my conclusions around the stats I laid out for the social media accounts of the TV show ‘The 100′ were linked directly to those numbers. Other conclusions were far more experiential and anecdotal, with little empirical evidence to support them. You may feel that some of my conclusions are wrong. That would be fine with me. In fact, I would love to be proved wrong about many of the things I discovered, if only to better understand the reality.

Here’s the sum of my conclusions into one, big picture.

Today, no matter what creative enterprise you are involved in, whether it is film, tv, music, novels or comics, and no matter your role — producer, writer, artist, actor, director, musician, etc there is a minimum level of social media presence required to help sell your product. For some, it could be as small as a Facebook page. For others, it may require a lot of fan engagement on as many platforms as is reasonable to manage and with multiple accounts. The trick is figuring out just how much of a presence you want, but more importantly, how much you need.

A lot of creators would probably prefer to go back to how things used to operate: I make a thing, I sell the thing. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. No audience interaction. No hawking your wares on social media. But that is not the world we live in anymore.

Today, people can praise or pan your art with the click of a mouse. The mixed blessing of the ‘like/dislike’ — the knee-jerk binary decision process of what is objectively ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ But art is far from objective. We all have different opinions about even the definition of art. Most would define TV as mostly commerce…but what about shows that look more like independent films (something generally acknowledged as artistic) than big-budget blockbusters, (which many people consider artless)? The forms themselves are the art, yet the quality or impact of that art is purely relative.

You could let the audience just decide and stay out of it. Sure, that’s certainly a choice. But it’s a choice with consequences. Audiences want to interact with the creators of the things they like. In forging a relationship, even a tenuous one with those creators, they are more likely and willing to consume more of their content. If you decide to shut out the conversation, you risk alienating an audience that is getting that interaction elsewhere. You risk being made irrelevant.

That might seem extreme, and I certainly don’t think it applies to everyone — there are certain hermetic artists who will always be able to operate in their bubble because they are just THAT GOOD. Most of us will have to do what we can to stay in the game and keep building an audience for our work. You have to be in charge of your own fan club.

Social Media may morph into something else one day…it’s hard to even imagine what it will be. But now that it is here and fully entrenched in our lives, we must accept the reality that fandom thrives in the social construct. One can exist as a fan in isolation, but the fan will always want to share their experience with someone else, and as long as that desire exists, people will gravitate to social media to find their peers and enjoy the content together. As a creator, you have an opportunity to help guide the discussion about your art. All it takes is a willingness to participate and take the good with the bad.

And, there is bad. There are certainly people who exist only to broadcast hate for art that others love. I’ve no conclusions about these people, because I didn’t want to dwell on them, but they are out there. They are the ones who generate noise in an attempt to interfere with the signal and drown it out. Learning to navigate around these people takes time, but can be done, particularly if you can identify where the boundaries of your interaction are and stick to them. The second you step over your own boundaries, prepare for them to smell it, like a weakness to be exploited. The best thing to do is to identify who is being critical but in a way that is reasonable and even beneficial and who is just spewing hatred. The haters must be muted — you cannot allow yourself to be drawn into unwinnable battles with these forces.

Overcoming that, you’ll find that the majority of your fans are wonderfully positive people, who will bring you joy when you are experiencing darkness, and find meaning in your work that you perhaps even missed. Interacting with them can bring a great deal of satisfaction, both for you and the fans. So, why deny yourself that?

I hope those of you who find yourselves in positions which require you to interact with fans on a regular basis are able to draw from my lessons to develop a sound strategy for your social media presence. There is on ‘one size fits all’ solution, but trial and error will help you identify the right strategy for you.

Thanks, once again for visiting my blog and reading this series of posts. I hope to keep the blog going awhile, but if you are interested in me as a writer, there are plenty of archives here from the past 11 years to keep you busy until my next bout of revelations or drivel.

 

Posted under analysis, blogs, writing

This post was written by Shawna on February 18, 2015 2 Comments »

Tags: , , , ,

Fandom in the Social Media Age – Conclusions, Part IV

(Had I known this series of blog posts would be this long, I’d have picked a shorter name for it. Also, the Roman Numeral is for you, Bernie Su.)

If you have managed to read everything I’ve written on this topic so far, congratulations! You have successfully cured your insomnia! Okay, hopefully it isn’t that boring. After all, you are still reading it…hey, why is that? Don’t answer. I might not actually want to know.

When last we met, I was yammering on about the Fandom Life-Cycle. I got about halfway through, saw I was at 3300 words in the post, and decided I’d finish it up here. And I will. I’ll also be spinning out into a couple of other areas once we’ve finished this life-cycle discussion: Anatomy of a Fan(Girl) and The Raising of the Bar.

 The Fandom Life-Cycle

lifecycle

Not to scale. Your mileage may vary.

Last time we talked about the Introduction and Growth phases of the Fandom Life-Cycle, arguably the most heady and exciting time for any fan group. Those phases cover the timeframe when the fandom is forming and new people are joining in constantly increasing numbers. The amount of time this covers can vary for each fandom — some run much shorter cycles than others. Some fandoms last weeks or months, while others can last decades. I think it’s fair to say that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories (and the character) have been through the cycle several times — as Sherlock is revived in popular culture a new flock of fans become enamored, and the cycle picks up and begins again. That’s one of the beautiful things about fandom — it can be constantly renewed and refreshed, if the passion exists in someone to revive it.

Once a fandom experiences a period of sustained growth, it will eventually level out. This is the Maturity Phase. That doesn’t refer to the ages of the people in the fandom, merely that the fandom has reached a level of saturation, and it is maintaining its numbers, but not gaining many new fans. Those who have found the fandom and enjoy it have stayed, and are continuing to enjoy it. Maturity can also be a great time, but it can also lead to great apathy – the fandom is so comfortable and established, it doesn’t work as hard to recruit new members, or the inability to find new fans leads existing ones to simply enjoy the fandom. Evangelizers fade out. The Artists and Critics are still around, generating content, but the creative fuel that the fandom is supplied by, the original content, is either gone or fading. Maturity sometimes happens as a show is still on the air, but fans have dropped out for one reason or another — the audience stays pretty stable and consistent but doesn’t grow. More often, Maturity is reached once a show or book series ends. Once the material that was the basis of the fandom has dissipated, there is less to hold the fandom together. It is from here that the fandom enters the last and often the saddest phase, Decline.

Let me tell you about the Decline Phase. It’s dark and depressing. It’s almost as bad as the Introduction Phase in terms of  fans feeling like the lone voice in the wilderness. Many fans have moved on or are in the process of losing the passion they had in the first place. I personally experienced the Decline Phase in a fandom in 1989. This was the last year “Doctor Who” aired episodes until it was rebooted and revived in 2005. While there were fits and spurts of new content trickling in over the years in the form of original novels and radio plays and the (failed) TV Movie on Fox in 1996, the fandom was in major decline. It had already been difficult to find fellow fans in the 80’s, now it was nearly impossible.

But then something happened — the Internet. As people began to really connect with one another (circa 1995) on the internet, it became easier. And the fans who still had a deep passion for this show kept the small embers of hope alive that it would return. Ten years these embers burned, until finally, Russell T. Davies in his infinite wisdom found the way to revive the franchise. And once David Tennant replaced Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, the fandom was back in a new life-cycle.

That’s the beauty of the life-cycle — from decline can emerge something new and fresh. Fandom is immortal, and like a Time Lord, it regenerates itself, sometimes with the reviving of something old and dear, often with something new and different.

Like any sports fan who has up years and down years for their favorite sports team or the fashion mavens who watch styles go in and out of favor, fandom has similar emotional ebbs and flows — and boy is fandom emotional.

Anatomy of a Fan(girl)

Let’s get this out of the way first: This doesn’t just apply to females. Yes, I included the ‘girl’ in parentheses above, but because “fangirl” is a term which already conjures certain images and impressions. I want to dig deeper than the proverbial fangirl, because honestly, there are many different types of fans.

Is this you?

Is this you?

There are casual fans, of course, but every fangirl and fanboy worth their salt knows they are just poseurs. They don’t REALLY love the thing you love. They like it, sure, but…no one can understand how you feel about this thing. Okay, maybe the thousand other fangirls/boys you find online, maybe they understand…

Picture a fangirl. What does she look like?

Thank you Ellahello for capturing this perfectly.

Thank you Ellahello for capturing this perfectly.

Fangirls have been around a long time.

Fangirls have been around a long time.

The more things change...

The more things change…

It’s a difficult thing to wrap your brain around, unless you have been to this place of insanity — and most fangirls/boys will acknowledge that their intense fervor is a kind of insanity. Just imagine that from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep the majority of your day is spent talking about, writing about, watching, reading, thinking about this particular person/place/thing/show/book/movie/sports team/website. Broadly, we’ve probably all experienced this at one time or another about a crush, a person we became infatuated with, but fangirls/boys seem to do this all the time, and over and over again.

They love to love. Passionately. (We’ll leave the haters for now, because honestly, I’ll never understand someone who devotes so much of their precious time on this Earth hating on things. Unless it is Nazis. Feel free to hate on Nazis as much as you like.)

An example, applied to Pinterest. Found at Toonlet.Com

An example, applied to Pinterest. Found at Toonlet.Com

I love this cartoon, because it applies very broadly to all types of fandom. That last stage though? That could go one of two ways… Sure, the ‘Gratitude’ Phase represented here exists among the healthier of the fan set. But it could also go this way…

... It could go very badly. Thank you GuruPop for posting this.

… It could go very badly. Thank you GuruPop for posting this.

Obsession occurs because our neurotransmitters keep getting pinged. Let’s get a clinical definition of obsession:

At first, like all addictions, obsession is intoxicating. It fills us up, and what a relief that feeling is (especially if we felt empty before). But even if we didn’t feel empty, obsession makes us feel potent, capable, and purposeful.

But also like all addictions, with time obsession unbalances us. We often begin to neglect parts of our lives we shouldn’t. If allowed to become too consuming, obsession causes us to devalue important dimensions of our lives and tolerate their atrophy and even their collapse. But even if our lives remain in balance, if the object of our obsession is taken from us, as my patient’s was from her, we find ourselves devastated, often convinced we’ve lost our last chance at happiness.

Psychology Today

Yep, that sounds about right. But, don’t get me wrong — for fangirls this obsession isn’t always bad. In fact, it can be really great. Consider this from the same article:

Obsession, when made to serve us, can bring out our most capable selves, motivating us to find the creativity and ingenuity to solve incredibly difficult problems. Obsession, in short, can lead us to greatness.

The key here is in controlling and managing the obsession. A majority of fans are perfectly capable of doing this, but every once in awhile you find some that seem to have lost perspective. Sadly, it is that image that plants itself in many minds, as teenage girls and boys who are excessively hormonal and most likely to latch on to obsession, due to the neurotransmitter buttons that keep getting hit (endorphins and dopamine, primarily) and causing good feelings that give fandom the reputation that helped you conjure up that image of a young girl, holding a homemade sign and screaming her fool head off.

Okay, okay! *backs away slowly*

Okay, okay! *backs away slowly*

I can say a lot of these things because I have been a fangirl. About genre television, about musicians. Here’s my high school locker:

I had a lot of TV loves, even back then.

I had a lot of TV loves, even back then.

…or my bedroom wall…

If you can identify most of these people in the photos, you might be a Whovian.

If you can identify most of these people in the photos, you might be a Whovian.

No, you can’t see the Cosplay pictures. So, take it from me, I know what a fan is — they aren’t all crazy. They aren’t all dressed the same, most you can’t even tell looking at them that they’re fans. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and ages. Anyone is a fan. Everyone is a fan.

The difference between a casual fan and a fangirl is in the passion. A casual fan enjoys the content they are consuming, like a great meal at a fine restaurant. They appreciate it, maybe even love it to a degree. The fangirl is like an over-eater at the Bellagio Las Vegas buffet. They will consume and consume seemingly without end. Do they love it and appreciate it? Oh yes, they do, but they must have ALL THE THINGS. When they become fans of a show, they can’t just watch and enjoy. No, they must write about it, create art and gifs, write new stories… They want to live in the world as much as they can and savor all of it. There’s nothing wrong with either path, provided that the fan manages their expectations appropriately.

The Raising of the Bar

It used to be simple: You’d write a book or comic, create a TV show or a film and the fans would come and accept what you give them. Because you’re the creator, you’re the boss, right?

Well, times have changed…sort of.

This is an effect of social media. It used to be that if you wanted to hear what a fan thought about your work, you’d wait for them to write some fan mail sent through the postal system. Or you’d read a review in a magazine or maybe on TV. It was still a closed system. Social media has changed that.

fandomtweet1

A tweet sent to Jason Rothenberg, showrunner for “The 100.”

A collection of tweets to Julie Plec, showrunner/co-creator of "The Vampire Diaries"

A collection of tweets to Julie Plec, showrunner/co-creator of “The Vampire Diaries”

As you can see from the various tweets, a lot of demands and complaints get sent to the creators and/or showrunners constantly. It’s a stream of abuse, prayers, and yes, compliments too. For some, it can be overwhelming. Julie Plec has certainly had her fair share of fandom “feedback” — “The Vampire Diaries” fans are some of the most vocal, concerned about which characters should be put together romantically, what characters should live and die, even what kind of stories they should be telling. And TVD isn’t the only show that gets this kind of fervent attention. Worse, is if a showrunner engages these fans to explain decisions… some fans just can’t accept those decisions.

In the tweet to Jason Rothenberg the person is probably mostly joking, but it reflects an attitude among some fans — Give me what I want. Now. You will do our bidding. They often insist that showrunners bend to their will. In cases where showrunners have listened too closely to fans, it can backfire — very often what fans say they want and what they actually want/need are very different. Of course, most of the time a story decision isn’t predicated on what the fans want at all, but it doesn’t stop the fans from thinking they have influence. If you did what they wanted, you are a saint. If you did something they hate, you’re the devil. Doesn’t matter whether you even know they said they wanted it or not, you will be glorified or demonized regardless.

There is a positive side to this kind of immediate feedback — that is, knowing when your show is generating the right kind of emotion in the fanbase, or when they are so turned off, so apathetic and losing interest that the show needs to change directions. This can be challenging, given how far ahead the show is in production by the time early episodes air. It can make those changes like turning the Titanic around in the ocean. If the majority are excited, scared, pleased and happy with the story, it’s a great feeling. Even negative feelings are better than no feelings at all.

A few of those demanding fans like to hold a specific threat over the show — Do what I want or I will stop watching your show. They are so engaged in the show and feel such a part of it, that they lose sight that their viewership alone will not affect the writers one whit. It’s only when droves of fans leave (enter the Decline Phase) that the writers will sit up and take notice. Of course by then, it might be too late.

So, it’s important to know what your fanbase is saying, but it will always be far more important that the creators of content stick to their storytelling guns. Follow the story and the characters where they lead you, not where the fans want you to go. Ultimately, the creator must be happy with the work they create, even if it means you lose a few fans along the way. In this, social media is a like a siren song — it can be tempting to want to please your fanbase and give them exactly what they want. But that way lies madness. They will never be satisfied, and now you’ve told them that you will do as they say.

One thing I will say about the interaction of fans and creators is that there is a stronger desire to give the audience a great story with surprising twists. We are living in a glorious time of TV (I’d dare call it the Platinum Age, since the Golden Age has already been set in an earlier time). TV shows are richer, more interesting and diverse than ever before in the history of the medium. Because of that, viewers have watched hundreds and hundreds of hours of story in tv and film in their lifetimes. The expectations for a story are now higher. The audience is highly intelligent and intuitive about story. They know when you’re tapdancing to postpone events in the story and just filling up time. They also know when stories ring false. You have to consider how your story plays week to week as well as how it plays when it is “binged” in a few sessions. Binging on TV content is a new normal, and it is accelerating the rate at which people consume content. It isn’t just that they consume it faster, they now consume more, because they can. As they watch more TV and films, they become smarter and even more intuitive about story moves. Go back and watch some “older” TV from the late 70’s or early 80s — Magnum P.I. or even Hill Street Blues, which was considered very advanced and groundbreaking for its time. I bet you can predict what will happen in the stories more than half the time. Why is that? Because those stories were successful in their time and have been replicated over and over since. Subverting expectations is as important as meeting them. Even better is to exceed them, but that is a high bar to clear, indeed.

For all of the content consumed, even by us as creators, it makes us all smarter. It pushes us to take risks with our stories, and ask ourselves, ‘what if the obvious thing didn’t happen?’ or, ‘if this obvious thing does happen, how can the fallout be different than we expect?’ The pressure of fans demanding great story is terrifying to some degree, but to another, it is exactly the kind of catalyst many creators need to build amazing characters and stories. Audiences demand more, and so we must do everything we can to satisfy, without pandering.

Believe it or not (and you probably do believe it by now), there’s a 5th and final part coming — an Epilogue. We will wrap up all this chatter once and for all. It takes a personal bent, my personal experiences and how I feel about the whole thing. You know, if you’re into that.

 

 

Posted under analysis

This post was written by Shawna on February 13, 2015 No Comments »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fandom in the Social Media Age – Conclusions, Part Three

Fandom and the Changing Landscape

Fandom is always a grass-roots thing. It is nearly impossible to manufacture a fandom for a new show, comic, movie, book, etc. Fandom generates from the audience finding that content, connecting with it in a very personal way and then seeking to evangelize about that content with like-minded individuals (other fans) or new recruits. Fandom in its early stages, from my experience is all about finding more people to love the thing, so that thing continues to flourish and thrive.

Early on I stumbled on a real issue for our fans — what they were to be called. Generally speaking, fans find the perfect group identity — “Doctor Who” fans became ‘Whovians,’ “Star Trek” fans are ‘Trekkers/Trekkies,’ even “Harry Potter” fans had identity as ‘Potterheads,’ or even more specifically by the Hogwarts House with which they most identified. Our fans couldn’t quite come up with a name — Calling themselves ‘The Hundreders’ is just nonsensical, so they looked for identifying clues in the show… Delinquents? After all, the kids sent to Earth (the show titled ‘Hundred’) were all prisoners/juvenile delinquents… but then, what about the Grounders? But that felt divisive, rather than inclusive as well. They looked to the writers for guidance, but we weren’t very helpful either. While other show fan groups had identity, our fans felt they lacked one. Thankfully, the debate waned over the months, and I think everyone agreed that a group identity wasn’t necessary… at least, not right now.

It may seem a trifling issue to an outsider, but group identity is really important in fandom. It’s a badge of honor, a way of telling others ‘I love this thing and I want to associate myself with it, even if it is merely by taking on this label.’ I see it in Twitter bios all the time — Whovian. Browncoat. Gleek. Gladiator. (That last one is for “Scandal,” of all things). A group identity isn’t a requirement, and there are just as many shows without a name for the fans as those that do, but it certainly allows fans to coalesce around that identity far easier.

If you want a sense of some of the most devoted fanbases for TV shows right now, I found this article at TV.com highly amusing and mostly valid, given it was written last year.

The way that fans are able to connect and interact with each other today is a miracle compared to even 10 years ago. Of course in the stone age of 20 years ago, if you wanted to find fans of far flung TV shows, like “Doctor Who” (and yes, 20 years ago, you were a complete oddball if you were a Whovian) you had to hope you could find a local club/chapter or travel to a convention to find others of your kind. I once got a pen pal after writing to a club newsletter and connecting with another fan in Virginia who was also a fan. We were pen pals for years, finally met about 8-10 years after our correspondence began (through the MAIL!) Today, it’s as easy as tweeting “hey, anyone like #the100?” and probably a dozen people will pop up in your feed. Or on Tumblr, say “Hey I just started watching this show…” and hashtagging it appropriately and others will find you and you will find blogs of others. So easy.

This ability to find and connect with others means that fandoms spring up far more quickly. The fandom for “The 100″ was pretty small throughout the first season, and didn’t really find a footing until the show finished the season and was headed to Netflix. The old formulas still apply — one person will convince their immediate friends to try out the show and either succeed (in which case, they can get together to watch) or fail (in which case, they go online to find like minds). It was easy to see the sparks begin to really fly and the blaze to grow, once there were artists in the fandom to create fan fiction and artwork.

Fan fiction has been around forever, it seems, and yet we are now in an age where you don’t have to write your fan fiction and hide it from the world — you can share it, have others read it and comment on it! You can take requests from people for situations and characters you want to read about, whether within the canon of the show or far, far outside it — mixing and matching romantic pairings to your liking, resurrecting dead characters and giving them perpetual life, and crossing over between shows, and the latest trend in fan fiction, creating alternate universes for the characters to experience whether it is present day high school to another show entirely (A fan fiction where Clarke, Bellamy, Octavia and Jasper are in ‘Glee’!) The possibilities are endless in fan fiction, so long as there are fans to write it. Within the last couple of years, Amazon and others have found ways to monetize fan fiction. A publisher/author sanctions fan fiction in some manner, allowing the use of the copyrighted characters/story/etc to be used for that purpose and be sold. It’s a limited area, but not completely out of bounds, given the origins of “50 Shades of Grey” from “Twilight” fan fiction.

The Fandom Life-Cycle

I’ve always been interested in the evolution and longevity of fandoms. Some show fandoms slowly peter out over time, but others burn forever. Managing social media for ‘The 100′ gave me a front row seat to the early stages of fandom and allowed me to discover how it developed to where it is now. I’m sure someone has actually done this before, but contextualizing it for myself really helped me understand my own past being in various fan groups as well as how that fandom acts.

Fandom is a bit like a hive-mind at times — it’s a collection of vastly different people oftentimes but they are all drawn together by this one specific show. The differences between people make it fun, but also provide the most danger and conflict — what feels like a perfectly reasonable thought or action to one person could be construed as offensive or out of line by another. And don’t even get me started on what constitutes a ‘spoiler’ and the window within which something can be considered such. (For the record, it appears to be the amount of time until there is a new episode). The hive-mind of fans can be a powerful force, and often it can be a majority or a highly vocal minority of fans that can really overwhelm the uninitiated. Fortunately, I am familiar with the ebb and flow of fandom and was able to weather most of the sturm and drang with minimal psychological damage (at least, as far as I can tell).

The Introduction Phase

The Life-Cycle itself follows the natural life cycle of any organism or group — There is the Introduction, the spark that starts a fandom. In our case, it’s ‘The 100.’ No show = no fanbase. (Note: I am well aware of the books on which ‘The 100′ is very loosely based. There certainly could be a fanbase for the books, but for the purposes of this demonstration, let’s assume there isn’t, since that is a typical scenario.) Once the show premieres, the fans begin to pop up, one by one.

The are the Early Adopters.

The early adopters are the canary in the coal mine. By their actions and words you can start to see where you will draw most of your fans. The fanbase for ‘The 100′ cropped up mostly from the CW’s core demographic — women ages 18-34, with outliers on each side of the age range and gender. The pilot, which is generally acknowledged even by Jason, is very likely the worst episode of the entire show, which isn’t great for creating a fanbase. Early Adopters tend to be able to see past the deficiencies to give the show another chance to impress. Generally, I give a show four episodes beyond the pilot if I find it interesting. If after 4 I’m not invested, I cut it loose. Two exceptions: “Fringe” I gave 6 episodes to, because I actually loved the pilot, and once they figured out what they were doing after 6 episodes, I knew I’d be a lifer. More recently, “Gotham” I have been giving a very large allowance of episodes. It is only at Episode 14 I have begun to really waver. It’s the first episode I have been dragging my feet to watch, because I’m just not sure I want to continue on with it.

For ‘The 100′ it is generally accepted that if you can get through the first 4-5 episodes of the show, you will stick with it. The first three are rocky, but the show begins to take shape at episode 4, moreso with episode 5, and by 6, the show is pretty well on its way. That’s a lot of good will, but the Early Adopters are the ones who make it through those episodes and start recruiting others to watch the show.

This leads to the second group in Fandom: The Evangelizers.

Most people in a fandom exist in at least one category and more often multiple categories. The Evangelizers and the Early Adopters are generally the same people, the difference is that The Evangelizers are the ones drawing new people to the show. There are plenty of Early Adopters who continue to watch but aren’t recruiting more viewers. The Evangelizers are the ones going on social media and shouting from the rooftops that they love this Thing and other people should really try watching this Thing, because they think new people will love it too. These are the fans you want to nurture and support on social media the most. They are the ones putting extra time and effort into building the fanbase.

Throughout the Introduction Phase of the fandom, it’s chaotic. Fans haven’t coalesced, they exist in pockets, but as more people begin to watch and more pockets form, the more likely they are to go on social media and talk about the show. The main benefit of social media to fandom as I’ve said before is the speed and ease with which fans can find each other and really converge into an entity — THE FANDOM. In the past, this process could take years, sometimes even occurring after the show is long gone (original ‘Stark Trek,’ ‘Firefly’) and sometimes the fervor of a fandom can even resurrect the dead. Now of course, the fandom is almost immediate. A show exists, the fandom exists, virtually simultaneously. The question is whether your show will have the ability to grow.

The Growth Phase

The fandom exists, but is still in a delicate state. If the show’s quality falls, it can kill a fandom quickly, before it ever really takes root. The Early Adopters and Evangelizers lose interest and fall out. The fandom falls apart.

But if you can sustain the interest in the show by providing great content, the fandom will enter the Growth Phase. This is where you start to really gain traction. Most of the growth of ‘The 100′ fandom happened after the show arrived on Netflix in the U.S. and premiered its 2nd season, which just happened to be the same day. Let me remind you of this chart:

The100Writers Twitter Followers

The100Writers Twitter Followers

While it’s true that we picked up a lot of followers to the Writers’ Room account after I took over running it, the largest spike of followers happens on that line between early August and late November. Hmm, let’s parse that… oh, yes, that would be October 22nd, the day it hit Netflix and Season 2 premiere. From that moment, the fandom had fully entered the Growth Phase. The show had been picked up for another season. Fans had reason to invest time and energy into the show, since they knew there would be more of it. That can be a huge decider for a fanbase. If a show gets canceled it could enter Cult Status, the ‘canceled too soon’ syndrome of many shows, that are beloved long after they’re gone. Or, it could just vanish, almost as if it never existed. I tried to find a good example of this and came up with “Heroes,” the NBC show, but ironically, it’s coming back years after its cancellation.

In the Growth Phase a few other types of fans emerge. The Artists and The Critics.

The Artists are the fans who are so inspired by the show, they are compelled to create their own art, whether it is visual, written, even aural! These are the fanart creators and the fan fiction writers. Their love of the show feeds their creativity, and gives them license to play in the world that the show has created. Until the last few years, these artists might have feared copyright infringement issues, but studios and networks have come to understand the value of fanart and fan fiction to the success of a show. We encountered the issue surprisingly early of fans wanting to purchase merchandise. The writing staff submitted design ideas and suggestions to the studio, but as of yet, no major brands have signed on to produce anything, despite the demand from our fans. Fortunately, in the new landscape, there are plenty of sites where designs can be created and produced and sold. WBTV has very smartly partnered with Cafepress to evaluate fan designs and authorize them for sale, taking a small cut of the profit and allowing the fans to profit as they sell these items to other fans. What an amazing new world — no longer are marketers dictating what should be made and sold — fans are!

The Critics can be a force for good or ill within a fanbase, usually both. There are the professional critics, of course — TV critics who publish reviews and recaps for the masses and amateur critics, who post their own analysis and reviews of the show. Critics are incredibly valuable as well for helping to draw new fans of the show, and if you happen to have very well known and respected critics love your show, it’s a Godsend. The downside to The Critics usually comes from the amateur branch. This is where the dark underbelly of a fandom brews (and every fandom has one). These are The Dark Critics.

The Dark Critics are fans who, for reasons known only to them, watch the show, but can’t seem to find anything they like about it. It’s one step removed from hate watching, because these fans actually do like the show… but an outsider cannot for the life of them understand why. The Dark Critic picks apart the show to minute detail – looking for gaffes, errors whether they be scientific, logic, continuity. They sometimes disguise themselves as the Social Justice Fan, but it isn’t with the same goal of improving the show, but rather to tear it down. These are the people you need to be able to identify and AVOID AT ALL COSTS. They are toxic, and can draw you in to endless debates without any hope of convincing them they are wrong. They don’t care. They won’t admit defeat, they won’t change their minds, and even if you can prove them wrong, they’ll just move on to some other defect they find in the show to exploit and blow up. Almost all of my missteps in social media came at the hands of the Dark Critics, who I either didn’t identify early enough or got lured into the conflict, like a trap. They are wily, and willing to do anything to prove their point. I’m sure there’s a psychological study in here somewhere of why these fans are the way they are, and if someone ever wants to do that study, I’d love to see the results.

Let’s be clear, The Dark Critics aren’t just critics posting negative reviews. Negative reviews are fine, and completely understandable. But most critics post the negative because they love the show and they just had a problem with this episode or this character — they are generally positive and like the show, and are just showing their disappointment or disapproval of story, not wholesale condemnation of the whole enterprise.

There’s another group of fans that are there all throughout the Growth Phase, and frankly they are the majority…the silent majority. I call them The Wallflowers.

Online they are known as Lurkers — they are the fans that enjoy the show immensely, and might even tweet now and then. They might even be Evangelizers within their social circle, but they generally sit on the sidelines and just enjoy the show for what it is. They are the fans who buy merchandise, but don’t produce it. Who read fan fiction, but don’t write it. They follow the writers and or the actors but don’t tweet at them much if ever. They are the heart and soul of the fanbase. These are the ones you forget are there, because they aren’t visible, but don’t forget them — they ARE there. I probably only interacted with .5% of our total Twitter followers — The other 30,000 of them had to be there too though, just watching the show and reading our tweets. They are the ones I appreciate just as much as any Evangelizer, and they tend to reflect the fandom that is just happy to have the show to watch, and don’t get involved in any inter-fandom conflicts that might erupt. In truth, I identify with this crowd, because I’m usually a part of it. I’m the kind of fan who loves a thing but doesn’t go up on a mountain top to preach the gospel about it. These are my people, and I love them.

One of the greatest moments of working on the social media came from interacting with a fan who was very much a Wallflower. The fan sent a private message to the Tumblr account indicating that he/she was a depressed teen, who had found some comfort in watching the show and thanked us for it. I could sense from the tone of the note that this person was someone prone to self-harm, and it alarmed me. I felt an obligation to reach out to this fan and tell them that they could contact us any time they were feeling down, and we’d be there for them. They thanked me for that too. It was profound to feel I had helped someone or at least made a small impact on their life that particular day. It isn’t often we can say that, and this job gave me that opportunity. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

This is the kind of fan that represents a Wallflower. There are so many disaffected, cut off teens, and they all find each other for solace on Tumblr. Because of that Tumblr is a very tricky place to navigate, and everyone is warning about “triggers” and violent content that could disturb some less well-adjusted people. It certainly made me aware that there are a lot of teenagers out there experiencing severe depression and isolation. It worried me greatly.

I have more to say about this and other societal shifts at another time (Part 4? ) But there were things I experienced while managing social media that significantly changed my world view.

The Growth Phase can last months or years, depending on the longevity of the show. Shippers will ship one couple, then another. Fans will join and drop out, some maybe rejoining. A lot happens during the Growth Phase. Frankly, I can’t really discuss the last two phases in relation to ‘The 100′ specifically because it is still very early in its life-cycle.

But I will discuss them generally…next time. Yep, there will be a Part 4: Maturity and Decline of Fandom and the future of social media and fandom.

 

Posted under analysis

This post was written by Shawna on February 9, 2015 No Comments »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fandom in the Social Media Age – Conclusions, Part Two

Before I move on to the broader discussion of fandom of television shows and how that is impacting (and being impacted by) social media, I discovered I omitted a few more items I wanted to cover in the first post, but considering the length of it already, I tabled for this one.

I started with the question of why have a social media account for a TV Writers’ Room in the first place. The first answer was the ‘joiner’ rationale — everyone else is doing it. But virtually every show on television, scripted or non-scripted has an official Twitter account and/or official Facebook page which promotes the show, tweets out things from creators and stars, posts clips and even retweets fans on occasion (depending on the account) — so why have a Writers’ Room account at all?

Let’s face it: As creators, we want people to understand how we do our jobs. TV writing is far more transparent than the black box that is feature writing these days (Just try to find out how many people have worked on a particular feature project. All you see are the arbitrated WGA credits, not every single writer who worked on the script). With TV, you can go to IMDB and find every writer of every episode of the show, all of the directors, the cast, the crew… Showrunners have far more recognition for their creations than feature writers. There is something about the collaborative nature of TV, in regard to the writing and producing that we want to share with viewers. Coincidentally fans want to know how these shows are made, and seem to have an endless appetite for the ‘behind the scenes’ sausage making that happens. Having a Writers’ Room presence on social media gives you the ability to control the message and share what you want to share with fans — the hard work, the fun stuff, anything and everything that feels appropriate.

There are limits — there are certainly things you can’t talk about as the social media presence, the same kind of things you wouldn’t talk to press about — spoiling upcoming stories, talking about cast changes or writer changes… but I also discovered that there is a remarkable amount of freedom to running a TV Writers’ Room account. It may not be universal, but I never had a single tweet or Tumblr post that I wrote which was retracted because the studio or network objected. If I deleted something it was because I made an error in the tweet or decided that the content wasn’t appropriate ON MY OWN and with consultation with others. That was rare. I always tried to vet anything I questioned with other writers and even took it to Jason if I felt it needed his blessing.

Given the amount of PR-ness most other accounts present, that’s pretty remarkable. Zero interference.

The one time the network requested I tweet something specific was a ‘Happy Birthday’ message to one of our actors on the Mount Weather blog/twitter. It felt somewhat like a break of the 4th wall I was trying to erect, but I wasn’t about to refuse that, since it was literally the ONLY time someone from that side of the house asked me to do something specific. And really, who could question a birthday tweet??

Again, not every studio/network may be so flexible in their standards. I certainly had to take the online WBTV social media training that every single WB employee must complete as part of their employment. And if there is ever a massive scandal that leads to a firing, you can be sure that the currently invisible noose will suddenly tighten and become far more apparent. I guess the conclusion here is — DON’T BE STUPID. It’s hard not to pull the trigger fast in the social media landscape, but every tweet, every Tumblr post can wait long enough to be vetted, if it needs to be.

Did I make mistakes? Oh hell yeah. I got myself embroiled in a debate about racism and our show (as in, the argument was we were a racist show for our portrayal of various people/things) which I should have completely steered clear of. The strange thing about this mistake was that it actually reinforced how committed we were as a show to engage the fans and not just hide behind the veneer of our mysterious presence to dodge serious questions and issues fans were having with the show. They appreciated that we weren’t afraid, that we were confident enough in what we were presenting to tackle some of those questions head on. I do think I could have handled the situation far differently, and when other issues around sexuality and the lack of LGBT characters arose a month or two later, I felt that we managed that situation far more gracefully and with fewer ruffled feathers.

Over time, however, my personality seeped through the presence. I tried to keep it at bay as much as I could, but we are human beings, not robots. At times, I mirrored Jason’s playfulness on his twitter account, and other times, I did a 180 on it, particularly if he said something upsetting to fans, I felt it my job to balance it out. No, I wasn’t hired to do PR for the show, but that became part of the job — presenting our show and our writers in the best, but honest way to our audience.  Hindsight being what it is, I was the perfect person to do this part of the job (they may question my actual abilities as a Writers’ Assistant), but my long years in social media and understanding to some degree how to interact in a professional way, made it far easier for me to adapt to the role. Other rooms may find that it’s just one job too many for the writers’ assistant, and may need a savvy P.A. to run the account. If you can’t find someone with the right skillset, the best thing to do is not engage the fans, because the last thing you want is a PR nightmare that spins out of control, just because the person running the account didn’t know the proper way to answer a fan question.

People identified our account as having ‘sass,’ and part of the interaction with fans was humanizing us, the writers’. So often fans are quick to berate the creators of the show for decisions made in the course of the season. The Writers’ Room account is a way to provide some context and explanation for fans who watch the show for entertainment and haven’t really applied a critical or analytical eye. Our younger fans react very emotionally to plot and character (‘I hate him!’ ‘I love her!’ ‘How could he/she do that??’). I found very often that some fans really could not differentiate that actions taken by characters or words spoken by characters do not necessarily represent our views as writers — they represent the character’s views. Still, when a character committed a reprehensible act, we were asked constantly how we could condone that. The point was, we don’t! And further, why didn’t any of his people condemn his actions? Well, he is loved by most of them, and the way they perceive their enemy is not on equal footing. As the person interacting with these fans, I could ask them to put themselves in the character’s shoes and ask themselves the important question — ‘What would I have done?’

That’s what TV is all about, really. Presenting shows for entertainment, yes, but a lot of shows want to grab the brass ring — creating art that has MEANING, that provides us with a framework to debate our morality, our sense of justice, our personal biases and preconceived notions. If a show is able to show you all sides of an issue and present them equally so that you actually identify with every single character and understand why they feel that way, then it is doing better than 80% of what’s on TV. This desire to connect with TV isn’t limited to a U.S. audience, either.

Here’s where things get interesting, and really, it’s one of my most significant and important conclusions for EVERYONE.

We recognize that we live in a global selling environment, but few actually realize we are in a global CONSUMING climate. Yes, we sell the US shows to other countries, but what do we do to accommodate those fanbases which spring up in other countries? Suddenly, the “official” accounts feel less useful. They don’t get the CW in the UK, Australia, Brazil, France or Spain, or even Canada — the main countries which outside of the U.S. watch “The 100.” How do we accommodate those fans? The official accounts are restricted in this. Guess what? Writers’ rooms are not.

Of course I didn’t come to this realization until the show premiered in the UK in the summer. As the ratings came in, and illustrated that the show’s popularity was high (on a numbers basis, the show draws as many viewers as it does in the U.S. at 8 TIMES the rating share). I started to see more UK followers to the account. They were equally as interested in engaging with the creators of the show as any U.S. fan. Up until now, they just haven’t had the chance to do so.

Piracy is a real issue for our industry, and ‘The 100′ is not immune to the problem. A multitude of our fans were watching the show illegally — either downloading via torrent or finding a proxy to “live stream” the show and stream it from CW’s site after airing. I watched as people looking for a way to watch the show legally (or not) in any way they could skyrocket after our Season 2 premiere. The U.K. audience didn’t want to wait 3 more months until they started getting the episodes. Many hardcore fans didn’t wait, because with the amount of spoilers on Tumblr and Twitter it became impossible for them to stay ignorant of what was happening on the show and stay on social media. Leaving social media… that’s not happening, so they chose to be pirates.

While studios are pedaling as fast as they can (note: I use this metaphor while cycling on my new FitDesk at home, so it felt very appropriate for me) they are still far behind in serving up content on demand to international consumers. Regulations, laws, contracts with the distributors in those countries is a minefield for the studios — how to get the product out there, but not step on any toes?

Warner Bros made a deal with Netflix to stream the first season in Canada within a day of airing in the US, which has cut the piracy from Canada significantly. Netflix and iTunes are currently the best distribution platforms for shows internationally, if the deals can be reached. I will look forward with great interest to the coming year as this landscape continues to take shape.

Even here in the U.S. we faced the issue of new fans finding ‘The 100.’ Once the show ended its first season and it was picked up for a fall return, it caused a huge problem. My understanding of the deal WBTW appears to have with Netflix is that they hold the show for a calendar year from initial premiere before it begins to stream on Netflix. This was a huge problem for ‘The 100′ — it was a mid-season show, premiering in March that was returning in October. That would mean new fans wouldn’t be able to find the show on Netflix and then jump right in to season 2 on the CW. It was in everyone’s interest to speed up the delivery window from what had been established — the theory was, more people would discover the show on Netflix and then start watching the CW airings, which would again feed back to Netflix, with more people finding the show when Season 2 ends and start streaming/binging during the hiatus.

So far, that theory is holding an ocean of water. WBTV and Netflix got ‘The 100′ available for streaming in the U.S. the same day as the premiere of Season 2 — a significant improvement over waiting until the second season ended before the first could begin there. I made a point to favorite and retweet everyone who mentioned on Twitter that they had found our show on Netflix and were enjoying it. Typically those comments were accompanied by ‘why didn’t I know about this show before?’ By favoriting and retweeting those fans’ tweets, not only did I make them aware of our account presence which could clue them in to how to start watching Season 2, but it also generated an impression that A LOT of people were finding the show and enjoying it, bolstering the rationale for renewing ‘The 100′ in the first place. And with each new person finding the show and loving it, we had another potential Evangelizer — someone who could convert their friends to the show.

I don’t know how much of the follower count can be attributed to my aggressive marketing of the account and the show, but I feel it was a major component in interacting with the fans.

So how did I deal with the global audience issue? I didn’t ignore it. Once I realized our audience was far bigger internationally than on the CW, I did all I could to acknowledge those fans, by retweeting the distributor/network in that country who was airing the show, alerting them to show times and dates, particularly premieres, and sometimes tweeting in other languages (clumsy as I was with the aid of a less than fluent Google Translate). Exclusion of those fans would have made me feel horrible and didn’t feel right for ‘The 100,’ a show that is all about inclusion and trying to bring harmony between different sets of people. Sometimes my tweets to the UK or Australia confused U.S. fans, but I sorted some of that out by creating hashtags for livetweets for the UK and specifying in a tweet what country I was talking about, if I could.

Generally, I think even U.S. audiences recognized the global reach of our show, and its popularity overseas and embraced our efforts to service all the fans. Where most Writers’ Rooms are limited is in their narrow view of just a US audience. Often this is driven by the US network that dictates how things should run, but WBTV is in a unique position from most other studios — Time Warner only partly owns the CW, not wholly, so there is less conflict of interest in reaching beyond the CW to other fans. I can only presume you would run into issues if your show is produced be ABC Studios for ABC Network… there might be less leeway and flexibility.

I would encourage any rooms who aren’t bound by Network rules to do more for their international fans, if they can beyond tweeting their fan art or saying hi to Brazil (for some reason, Brazil ALWAYS needs people to say hi to it. Is Brazil so ignored that everyone feels it important to be acknowledged?) Not only will you garner goodwill with those fans and keep growing the fanbase, but you’ll reinforce the idea of the Global Village to everyone. If you have the ability to reach those fans too, why not use it?

My last note before moving on is this: You can make someone’s day by taking a second out of yours to interact with them. So many times, just favoriting a fan’s tweet would elicit an excited tweet back of ‘OMG!! You favorited my tweet! You saw my tweet! I’m so excited!!’ — Today’s generation doesn’t collect autographs, they collect acknowledgement. NOTICE ME. I was stunned at how often young fans were tweeting that to us and to the actors on our show… They just want to be seen. To me, it seemed a small price to pay to make their day, and some of those fans were consistently major Evangelizers, people willing to go above and beyond to promote the show on their own. Why not encourage that? Certainly there are a handful of fans who are attention-seekers and play these ‘Notice Me’ games to rack up bragging points with their friends (surprising how many people note which celebrity has favorited/retweeted/responded to them on Twitter and put it in the Twitter bio!) but the majority of these fans are just your average teenager/young adult, who is just seeking to connect with the show in a more personal way.

This went a lot longer than I expected. Sorry to put you off, but the broad fandom discussion will now be in Part Three of this series of conclusions. I hope it’ll be worth the wait!

 

 

Posted under analysis

This post was written by Shawna on February 7, 2015 No Comments »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Fandom in the Social Media Age – Conclusions, Part One

When I took over the management of the social media for ‘The 100′ Writers’ Room, I honestly didn’t know what my approach would be. I had observed dozens of other writers’ room accounts, all with different styles of interaction. I looked back at what had been done with the account thus far and found that while some of the tweets were absolutely things I would do, I felt we could do more.

After the many months of running the social media for the writers’ room and looking at the data, I have come to some conclusions. Let me remind you that these are MY observations, and are by no means comprehensive or even valid for others. I base my conclusions from my own experiences, and another person doing the exact same job as I did may have very different conclusions to draw. Still, I hope that within these conclusions there are perhaps common themes which provide clarity on how TV shows should manage their social media footprint going forward.

Every show has its own style and its own objectives with their writers’ room account. That led me to the first question — why do we have the account? Why do shows feel compelled to have a presence in this specific way?

The first and most basic argument is, “everyone else is there too.” And they’re right — in the last three years there has been a major increase in the number of TV show writers’ rooms with their own accounts on Twitter. I wish I could lay specific data against that, but it would be a challenge. I’ll shortcut to one prime example, the writers’ room account that has set the template for almost everyone else in one way or another, no matter their style or goals: “Pretty Little Liars.”

Numerous articles (The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, USA Today) and even an episode of Sundance TV’s “The Writers Room” have detailed the strategies the team behind “Pretty Little Liars” have employed to become so successful in social media. They are consistently on the cutting edge of where their audience is, recently going on SnapChat to engage the fanbase in new ways. Whether they know it or not, most shows are following the PLL model — live tweet with cast and writers, Hashtag trending topics, Instagram, Facebook and lots and lots of devotion to engaging with the fanbase. The result: great ratings. It’s genius and pretty obvious — find ways to motivate people to watch the show live while it’s airing. They made it feel like a giant party that fans did not want to miss each week. They are part of a larger whole, which includes the creative team behind the show! Since the Nielsens as a standard of TV viewing aren’t going anywhere just yet, finding a way to maximize the impact for advertisers is important.

If the account is intended as a one-way dialog, a way to just disseminate information, that could be done with a blog with the comments closed. But the nature of social media is in its name — social. It didn’t feel right to just serve as a way to tweet out factual information — when the show is on, who wrote the episode, retweets of reviews… those things are good and necessary components, but why don’t more accounts actually interact with the fanbase?

The most interaction you usually see from writers’ room accounts happens around live-tweets, either for one or both coastal airings of the show in question. Often the account serves as a way for the creator or the writer of the episode to provide running commentary while the episode airs. Sometimes they’ll retweet others, particularly actors or other creatives who work on the show, but usually those are held to a minimum.

The vibe of a writers’ room account very often takes a cue from its audience. A show like “NCIS” with an older fanbase isn’t as likely to engage on Twitter with the creators of the show (though, it’s good to point out that ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ has certainly done more with their account than the other franchise shows had done in the past). Some shows love to post photos. Other shows tweet out script snippets or teasers. Others engage at the level of soliciting and retweeting fanart. All of these felt like completely valid ways to interact with a fanbase for our show, but it still didn’t feel like enough.

The audience for “The 100″ is primarily a young, female audience. As I researched shows with similar fanbases, I started to find some interesting similarities…

  • Trending topics. Shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Teen Wolf” were very strong in this arena. I took a lot of cues from what these two shows and a few other CW shows were doing with their accounts as evidence of something that was already working. Specifically, I found that shows that were able to rally their fans to hashtags and trending topics and were able to capitalize on it.
  • Fan Art. This was a key ingredient of accounts for shows with similar fanbases to “The 100.” Sharing fan art tweeted to the account was something most of these rooms did, particularly “Once Upon a Time” (through co-creator/co-showrunner Adam Horowitz) and “Arrow.”
  • Q&As. Planned or impromptu Q&As were a great way to solicit interaction with the fans, and often was a great way to accomplish multiple goals, which I will expand on later.

I also wanted to have a home base for info that I was sharing through the account. One fan, who I will refer to as “Fan Zero” was heavily influential in convincing me to put “The 100″ Writers’ Room on Tumblr. As I’ve said before, this was a little bit of unexplored territory — other than official accounts for all the CW shows and some NBC shows, I couldn’t locate a single writers’ room that established a presence on the platform. We’d be the pioneers, and I would be the one to determine if Tumblr was a viable conduit to the fans.

“Fan Zero” was the only fan account I could find that was followed by the Writers’ Room Twitter account when I took it over. Of course, I wondered if it was in error, and I soon discovered there was a reason we were following her. She was an early adopter to the show in the first season, there from the start and fiercely committed to what the show was trying to achieve, particularly in the portrayal of our female characters. She’s thoughtful and respectful in ways that differentiated her from the other fans I saw talking about our show in the early days of my dive into the fanbase. It wasn’t long before I struck up a dialog with her about the best ways to provide outreach to fans, and she had no shortage of opinions.

She gave me one opinion I really sparked to — that Tumblr was critical. I’d had my own Tumblr account for a few years, but hadn’t really utilized it, as I’ve always had this blog and only really saw Tumblr as another distribution method for my blog posts (with an occasional reblog of some of my friends’ posts and liking them), so at first I was skeptical that this was really the right social media platform for the writers’ room. But I wanted to have a clearinghouse, a searchable place for people to find answers to past questions and any other tidbits we posted. For that, it felt ideal and because the setup and user interface were so easy and intuitive, it was a no brainer. The worst case scenario: I’d use it for a few weeks, no one would find it, care or follow it and I’d abandon it and go back to twitter. At that point I wasn’t aware of the demographics or any of the user statistics for Tumblr, so I didn’t realize I had jumped right into the heart of where our fanbase was living…

Tumblr is not for every writers’ room. I’m saying that now, because the last thing I think a show should do is think they can reach their audience through Tumblr the way I did for “The 100.” The shows that are massively represented on Tumblr with fans are “Doctor Who,” “Sherlock,” “Supernatural,” “Pretty Little Liars,” The Vampire Diaries” and “Once Upon a Time,” among a few others. Our show seemed to fit the profile — international cast (with players from UK, Australia, US, Canada, etc), a young target audience, and very pretty people.

The outlier to this was NBC’s “Hannibal” which mystified me, but once I understood why it was successful, I understood the key to Tumblr. (And I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.)

Tumblr is about two things for fans (and let’s be honest, mostly fangirls): ships and progressive social change.

If your show has a lot of potential for relationships in various combinations, it’s probably well represented on Tumblr. One of the things I realized our show was not capitalizing on was the popular “shippers” choices — and the number one ship was far and away Bellarke — Bellamy and Clarke, the yin and yang of the show.

Something had really captivated them in the first season with those two characters, and the popularity began to explode as people shipped them together and started creating gifsets of the subtlest looks and movements between them to bolster their argument that they were THE OTP of the show (fangirlspeak: OTP = “One True Pairing”). The showrunner was adamant that he was not gearing the show to that relationship; it was well known by the writers of season one who carried over to season 2 that the ship was gaining popularity, but given the edict of Jason Rothenberg, the showrunner that the show was about survival over romantic pairings, those fans who were becoming obsessed with the duo were going to be left out in the cold. My realization: ships will keep your show afloat, but they can also sink it if the shipping wars get overheated.

The other major interest of Tumblr users is progressive social change. They are all about seeing lots of representation in the media for various groups which have been and continue to be under-served — POC, WOC, LGBT (persons of color, women of color, lesbian/gay/bi-sexual/transgendered). These are girls who are personally offended if the show even tips a hand at misogyny or racial bias in any way. This was in many instances the one Achilles Heel I had in dealing with the fanbase, and this is the tip of the iceberg of a much larger discussion, so I’m tabling this for later as well.

So, back to “Hannibal” — why was it the outlier? Why was it so wildly successful on Tumblr when it has an older demographic? It had to do with the LGBT community. Bryan Fuller, the creator of “Hannibal” is himself an openly gay man, and he has had a distinctive style with all of his television shows. None of his shows have provided quite the homoerotic subtext and insinuation as “Hannibal.” That subtext was a huge driver — a majority of the “Hannibal” fandom revels in the fantastical pairing of Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham as lovers — something that is not at all true in the show, and yet is a staple of the fan art and fan fiction on Tumblr. The creator and writers don’t stifle this creative interpretation, and in fact seem to encourage it to some degree. The graphic nature of the crimes depicted in the show certainly also make for incredibly fan art and gifsets, but the spark of that fandom, its core is that relationship between Hannibal and Will — romantic or not. This squared with what I had learned about Tumblr — it is predominately progressive, inclusive to all gender, sexuality and color. While there are occasional divisions between fans within a fanbase, the “Hannibal” fans appear to be harmonious whether they enjoy the show as it is presented or for alternate interpretations.

If Tumblr is like stumbling into a book club that’s been going for 5 years for the very first time, Twitter is like zipping by the watercooler all day. Quippy one-liners and the occasional thoughtful discussion (segmented into 140 character chunks) co-exist in the Internet’s great message board. You put your thought into the ether and people respond or don’t. They favorite, or don’t. They retweet, or… you get the idea.

Tumblr was a great way to have a repository of longer posts and some of the photos I tweeted as well, but Twitter was valuable in other ways. Conducting “live” events is far simpler on Twitter. Live-tweets and Q&As generated a lot of “impressions” (which is internet-speak for how many people likely saw your tweet), more than when we would tweet out information about showtime, photos or links to Tumblr posts. Live-tweet with the episodes and Q&As, whether impromptu or scheduled provided a forum for fans to interact and engage in a more immediate way. They didn’t have to just like or reblog something on Tumblr, they could tweet back to us and interact with each other. Finding other fans of the show was as easy as searching our main hashtag (#the100), and very often fans would actively seek out people who were looking for new shows to watch on Netflix and recommend “The 100″ to those people!

So why did I branch out to Instagram and Vine? This was part of the experimentation phase. Also part of my experimentation was creating an “in-world” tumblr and twitter presence for Mount Weather. In “The 100″ it is established in the pilot that the kids sent to the ground are to make their way to Mount Weather, where the Ark survivors believe there will be food and supplies they can use to survive. Unfortunately, they landed 20 miles away and due to events of the 1st season… well, let’s just say their arrival at Mount Weather was surprising.

Inside they found a culture that had been there since the bombs fell, some 97 years earlier (and still far in our future — about 140ish years total). Since we spend time in Mount Weather, but we don’t really get a chance to experience life there, I thought it might be fun to create a fictional blog with announcements, memos, etc, as episodes air and coinciding with events in those episodes. Sadly, the best stuff never got posted (and in honesty, I never got far creating the future posts for after I was done working) — because most of the Mount Weather story happens in the back half of the season, after I finished working on the show. Had I thought through my plan further in the beginning, I’d have planned to queue up the posts on Tumblr and automate their posting with the show day and time. Automation in all things would have made my life easier, but I tend to be very old school — a shift stick in an automatic world — and I preferred managing things and posting live. I would call the in-world blog a failure, in part because we only got about 500-600 followers on Tumblr, and even fewer on Twitter.

The show wasn’t ready for transmedia, I guess.

As for Instagram and Vine, as I stated in my numbers post, I think there’s potential for each platform, provided you know what content you will posting there. While you can do a lot of content as it comes, posting on the fly, some things require forethought and planning. Impromptu photos and videos are great, and of course can feed to Twitter/Tumblr easily enough, but I was constantly challenged with what to post there.

I have no idea if there is any point in going on Pinterest. Given the more visual nature of the platform and the fact that we as writers’ are more literal, I think it’s a pass for us. Snapchat? Who the heck knows. It may be useful for transmedia endeavors, if you get into that, but I didn’t test the platform to really understand the uses or the audience.

In the next post, we’ll talk about fandom more broadly and how it is created and thrives in social media. Also, other less heady stuff. Maybe cats.

Posted under analysis

This post was written by Shawna on February 5, 2015 4 Comments »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fandom in the Social Media Age – The Numbers, Part Two

In the last post I went through the numbers associated with The100Writers Tumblr account. This time we’ll take a look at Instagram and Vine (shorter discussions) and then Twitter, for which I have charts out the wazoo.

I created an Instagram account for The100Writers on 11/18/14. As of my last day on 1/23/15 there were 514 followers of the account. I fed photos from Instagram to the Tumblr account, which in turn posts to Twitter. Unfortunately, I never really had time to take photos to feed in, so I only used this account 7 times (for 7 photos). Still, in that time a photo of the memorial wall got 176 likes in December, when we had half as many followers. It’s hard to draw many conclusions, but given that the account was only running for two months, I believe we could have gone further with the usage of the account. The official CW_The100 account routinely gets over 2,000 likes per photo. Again, I struggled to find any other writers rooms on Instagram. Not saying they aren’t there, I just couldn’t find them.

Vine was also something I dove into fairly late in the season. I had this idea that we could have fans post Vine videos of their reactions to scenes or to explain why they love the show. I also saw that Law & Order: SVU ‘s Writers’ Room was on Vine, which gave me courage to give the platform a try. This led to some surprising findings…

As of my last day of work, we had nearly 2,000 followers on Vine. We posted exactly one video on 11/5/14, the day we opened the Vine account. That 15 second video played over 19,000 ‘loops’, got 160 likes and ‘revined’ 48 times. In comparison, SVUWritersRoom Vine videos ranged from 2,000 to 33,00 loops over 64 posts for a total of 321,416 loops — most of them landing around 3500-4000 loops each. That account has 1,983 followers, virtually the exact same number of followers The100Writers account has. Further, the SVUWritersRoom appears to have created their account sometime in August (although, it could be August 2013, given that there are “November” vines preceding ‘September’ vines. They may have had a dormant account created much earlier that got most of its use in 2014).

I think it is safe to say that the SVU demographic is far different than ours. It’s impossible to draw many conclusions, because we only posted one vine video, but given that we got 19k loops out of that one, it’s possible more videos = more loops = more followers.

One bit of perspective: The top vine accounts generate MILLIONS of loops per video. So, we weren’t exactly playing with the big boys here. Same with Instagram.

Now… onto TWITTER.

The100Writers Twitter Followers

The100Writers Twitter Followers

The black box indicates the date I took over running the account. 3,201 followers prior to that date — not bad for a show that premiered on March 19, exactly two months earlier. The account really takes off with followers right around October, as the show premiered for its second season on 10/22, and just kept climbing. As you can see here there were 30,433 followers as of 1/20/15. I just check the account for today (1/29) and it’s already at 33,256 — almost a pickup of 3,000 fans in 9 days. The account has been used for retweeting the main The 100 account and livetweeting the new episode, so its still in use, though significantly less since I left on 1/23. Still, the fact that the account is picking up nearly 3,000 followers a week indicates that the existing fanbase is finding the account to follow it and/or new fans are finding the show and then following the account. Given the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen, it is a lot of the latter.

If you have a twitter account, you might have fun with the free analytics tools provided by Twitter — The drawback is that the data set tends to be limited to the last 3 months, so I couldn’t get a full picture of the entire life of the account, but here are some stats I find fascinating:

Who are our followers?

Who are our followers?

There’s a lot to look at here, but the main areas that interested me were the locations of our fans and ‘unique interests’ — Clearly those who like drama and sci-fi follow the account. I wasn’t expecting to see that the Top Interests of our fans is… Music. It makes sense though. So many young people are plugged into the musicians who really use Twitter well — Taylor Swift among them, so it follows that would be a top interest for them.

The location data is even more fascinating. Clearly the US is a big chunk of our audience, but look at the UK! The UK is almost as large as the US — anecdotally I can say this is completely true. I got more requests from UK fans to livetweet their episodes than I ever expected. Unfortunately those mid-day tweets for the US fans were sometimes confusing, but the UK fans loved it. The show is a big hit in the UK, and one thing I don’t think writers rooms do particularly well is think globally. So many shows are sold to different countries, but we are so US-centric in our outreach that we forget those international fans who may be weeks or months behind. More than once I got “yelled at” to stop spoiling things for the UK — of course, I always gave spoiler warnings, but even innocuous tweets could contain spoilers for them! It certainly made me more mindful of our foreign fanbase. I will be talking about the international outreach efforts and trends in more detail later, but believe me, there’s a lot to talk about.

twitteranalytics1This is the chart I really wish I had more data for. This was the last 28 days of tweeting. Knowing how many overall impressions our account had over a much longer timeframe would be instructive, not least of which because the last 28 day time period included a 5-week long hiatus. You can see at the beginning of the chart how low the impressions numbers are — so few tweets were sent out and very little engagement. But as we came back from hiatus, the numbers spiked. That huge spike on January 6th correlates with the day we were back in the office and production had resumed on the final episode of the season. It is also the day that Season 2 premiered in the UK. The other large spike on the chart is when our Midseason premiere aired on January 22nd. I think it’s safe to infer that the impressions spiked in relation to those events.

analytics7The good news is I was able to pull a comparison chart from September, before the show premiered on 10/22. You can see the major difference in impressions while we were between seasons, in this month leading up to the return than in December, when the show was on hiatus and then returned.

I had some more charts regarding numbers of retweets, favorites and engagements we had, but honestly, I think this is enough data, save one more graph to get to the point.

I wanted to show a comparison of hashtag tweets for The 100 vs. Arrow and The Originals.  First, let’s look at how many followers each account has, both the “official” account and the writers’ room account for each show (as of 1/29/15):

Arrow CW Account                505, 800+ followers

The Arrow Writers’ Room      83,200+ f0llowers

The Originals CW Account     731,100+ followers

The Originals Writers’ Room  33,900+ followers

The 100 CW Account               68,900+ followers

The 100 Writers’ Room            33,200+ followers

As you can see, The100Writers has a much larger percentage of the official account’s followers than either Arrow or The Originals has.

Now, let’s look at the tweets with the “official” hashtag of each show…

Whole lot of tweetin' going on.

Whole lot of tweetin’ going on.

Surprisingly, The 100 had more tweets than The Originals in the same 30 day time period, though on show nights the tweets for the day of are virtually identical. Both pale in comparison to Arrow, which is our lead-in show.

Why did I choose The Originals and Arrow for comparisons? Let’s look at Nielsen ratings…

First, Arrow’s numbers. It’s in Season 3:

arrowratings

Arrow

 

Source: TVSeriesFinale.com

Next, The Originals, which is in Season 2:

The Originals

The Originals

Source: TVSeriesFinale.com

And finally, The 100 in Season 2:

The 100 Ratings

The 100 Ratings

Source: TVSeriesFinale.com

The Originals and The 100 have similar demo numbers, though The 100 tends to have a slightly larger audience number. Arrow is The 100’s lead-in, so it seemed right to use it for comparison as it almost consistently has 2x the audience of The 100.

What’s interesting is looking at the number of tweets generated for each show in comparison to its ratings and its followers on the official and writers’ room accounts. All three writers’ rooms did livetweets on the night their shows aired, and usually for both coasts. It’s staggering to see the vast number of followers the Arrow accounts have and yet the engagement in tweeting is about twice as much as The 100. You would think with the massive follower numbers, you’d see more tweets, but the number of tweets is consistent with the difference in ratings The Originals has a massive number of followers on the official CW account (which makes sense, because it is the spinoff for The Vampire Diaries which has over 1.2 million followers on its official account) but the engagement appears to be far lower, especially when you consider the percentage of Official account followers to the Writers’ Room account followers. If we assume that all followers of the writers’ room account also follow the official account, less than 5% follow both. In comparison, 48% of the Official The 100 account followers also follow the Writers’ Room account. And given the total number of followers for The Originals compared to The 100, for them to have virtually the same tweet rates on the hashtag that The 100 has indicates that the fanbase for The Originals is less engaged than The 100 fans.

One can even argue that The Originals should have more tweets than Arrow — I mean, just looking at the Official accounts, The Originals has 55% more followers than Arrow, yet it’s clear the engagement with the Writers’ Rooms is a completely different story — Arrow tops The Originals by 41% and The 100 by 40%.

So, what’s the conclusion? Well, those are yet to come. Stay tuned…

Posted under analysis

This post was written by Shawna on January 29, 2015 No Comments »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fandom in the Social Media Age – The Numbers, Part One

I love statistics. It was, unfortunately, one of my worst subjects when I was getting my B.S. in B.A., but I still love it.

Granted I won’t be doing any 538-style stats crunching here — I don’t have nearly enough data or data points to engage in a deep dive (and if I want them, I’d have to cough up money), but what I do have are raw numbers from which we start our discussion. Remembering, of course, that correlation does not equal causation — just because two sets of numbers correlate does not mean that one causes the other. This is important to remember, because there are so many other factors that go into why the numbers are the numbers.

The first number to talk about is the easiest, because it started at zero. Tumblr followers.

When I took over the reins of the writers’ assistant position on “The 100″ there was no Tumblr account for the writers. In fact, with the exception of NBC’s Hannibal, which posts under the official show tumblr, there are NO WRITERS’ ROOMS ON TUMBLR. If there are, please tell me, because I looked. HARD. Given the demographics of the audience we are trying to reaching it’s actually shocking that more shows aren’t on Tumblr. It’s so easy to reblog fan art and gifsets and post official things like videos or reviews…even when doing the bare minimum in content, it’s a no brainer. Still, no one has ventured into this social media platform. Why?

That’s a question for another day. Today’s question is, how did it go for The 100 Writers’ Room?

From zero to 18k

From zero to 18k

I don’t have a huge basis for comparison, because on tumblr, you can’t see how many followers a blog has. It could have ten or ten thousand, and you’d never know. I’m told anecdotally that 18,000 followers is significant. This screen shot was taken on January 21, two days prior to my last day of work. The account averages anywhere from 100-1000 new followers A DAY, depending on the day. Since 1/21 when this screenshot was taken to today 1/27 it picked up another 900 followers and counting.

You can also see how many posts I contributed — 361 as of two days prior. I added a few more after that, so let’s round it out to 365. A post a day for a year, if we were averaging over a year, but we aren’t. We’re averaging over 8 months. And if we want to get really technical and take out the weekend days and only account for workdays we average over 2 posts a day, nearly 3.

Could I have done more? Most assuredly, but given that I had an actual job to do (taking notes in the writers’ room and, you know, assisting) 2-3 posts a day is pretty damn good for keeping up our presence. Many of those posts were questions I answered from the ask box and I did minimal reblogging — one thing I would change is I would seek out more fan art and quality gifsets and fan videos to reblog in the future.

18,000 accounts followed this one from the time the tumblr was created in June (it was not created on day one, but something I came to a few weeks after I started on the job) until now. Granted, it’s a tiny fraction of the fanbase, but let’s look at Tumblr’s stats on who that fanbase is:

According to an article published by Forbes on 9/27/13 Tumblr users are “a young, bright and tech-savvy group of international users who seek what might seem counterintuitive: Genuine online connection bolstered, not hindered, by anonymity.” Further:

The site has many of the social media trappings you would recognize: comment threads, up-votes, emoticons. But the nature of the language and iconography is decidedly gentler and the premise is unified around one key thing: support for people hurting.

According to Business Insider of 12/13 here are some demographic stats about Tumblr, including our first chart!

Teen Social Network Usage

Teen Social Network Usage

It’s a little blurry because I couldn’t save off the hi-res image that’s on their site (click the link above for a slightly better picture) but I’ll interpret for you:

Teens use tumblr more and for longer than they use Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

So, if you are looking to reach an audience and that is your prime demographic for your show, Twitter isn’t necessarily the best vehicle. In fact, I saw many of our twitter followers actually tweet that they only got a twitter account to follow other accounts related to their favorite shows. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there at all!

Now does that mean I’m saying you should get rid of twitter accounts… not at all! Here are a couple of stats from the article:

Tumblr is strong with teens and young adults interested in self-expression, but only 8% of U.S. Internet users with incomes above $75,000 use Tumblr.

Twitter has a surprisingly young user population for a large social network — 27% of 18 to 29-year-olds in the U.S. use Twitter, compared to only 16% of people in their thirties and forties.

Instagram is very female-oriented. Sixty-eight percent of Instagram’s users are women.

I highly recommend you check out that link to BI if you are a total data junkie because the charts and graphs they have on this… just heaven. Sadly, it’s only a two-week free trial to access the graphs, but TOTALLY WORTH IT.

We’ll get to the Instagram and Twitter stats in another post. One of the primary metrics of Tumblr is the reblogs and likes. It’s easy to like a post and super easy to reblog it. Creating content that gets reblogged is key.

Our most reblogged post was a “Script to Screen” from Episode 5 of Season 2 of the infamous “#Bellarke Hug” — it currently has 1,984 notes. Without a point of reference it seems meaningless. Look, we didn’t do Taylor Swift blog post reblog/notes numbers — And we see posts all the time with hundreds of thousands of notes, so just under 2k on one post, isn’t that great. But beyond the number is the conversation it generated in OTHER blog posts. Unfortunately, that’s not a quantifiable number, and we’ll have to save the anecdotal evidence for a later post.

If I could produce a chart for our Tumblr follower trends, it would look a little something like this:

tumblr followers

The numbers here are approximate for each month, save two milestones which were called out in posts. On December 4th, we hit 10, 775 followers. On January 21, we hit 18,000 followers and that number continues to grow without me managing it at all.

There were two huge spikes of followers, first in October/November when the season premiere aired on October 22 and also at the end of December. Over the Christmas holiday break I actually watched as our follower numbers climbed and climbed over a 72 hour period — more than 4,000 new followers gained in that time frame alone. It was insane, and I still don’t understand what spurred the huge follower count in such a short span AND when we weren’t airing or publishing much content. One hypothesis was that young people were out of school and on tumblr passing time and found our feed and started following, but that is still a stunning amount for 3 days!

Again, we’re not here to draw conclusions (yet). These are just the numbers.

And there’s more to come: Twitter, Instagram and Vine.

Posted under analysis

This post was written by Shawna on January 27, 2015 2 Comments »

Tags: , , , , ,

Fandom in the Social Media Age – Preface

The last seven months of my life have been a whirlwind — I didn’t really blog it before (but most of you already know, so why bother) but I finally got into the writers’ room of a TV show (see last post). The show in question was The CW’s “The 100″, a post-apocalyptic “teen” sci-fi show that is more than you would think it is from just viewing the pilot. The show got a second season based on the fairly strong ratings during its midseason premiere last year, and it now has an early renewal for season 3.

The fanbase for the show has gradually grown all year, and I got a front row seat to the groundswell. Every person who found the show on Netflix, once the first season hit there in October would tweet or post about how they “discovered” this show they’d never heard of, and once you got past the pilot, wow, was it great. Young girls, young guys, older women, and yes, even a few older guys have found the show and have been building a fandom brick by brick.

While that was happening, I was put in charge of the social media presence for the writers’ room of the show, which already had a twitter account with about 3000 followers when I took over on May 19, 2014. I took a snapshot on my last day in the office, the last official day of production on Season 2 which was January 23, 2014.

You might not know it, but I was a business student long ago, and so I love to do deep dives into data points and analytics when the opportunity presents itself (which, let’s face it, screenwriting doesn’t really call for, so I don’t get a lot of chances to play in that sandbox)

Over the next few posts I’ll be dissecting my lessons learned from running the social media for a TV show’s writers’ room — what worked well, what didn’t. And what the changing face of fandom means for TV writers and even more significantly what the “new normal” of interface and engagement between show creators/writers and the fans means long-term for everyone.

Consider this the preface. The warning. Now you know what’s coming. Strap in. There’s so much to discuss…

Posted under analysis, writing

This post was written by Shawna on January 25, 2015 1 Comment »

Over the Wall

It would seem this blog exists in some kind of bubble, which I only manage to pierce in January and then never again return inside until the next time January rolls around…

Hello friends, old and new… here we are again. A new year, a new blog post. It’s how we roll around here.

So, how was 2014? Some bad? Some good? A little bit of both.

I took a quick look at my ‘new year’ post last year at this time and my goal was to get “over the wall” and into a TV writers’ room. I was smart not to specify whether that would be as a staffed writer or as an assistant. Hedging my bets is always wise.

Well, I did it. I got over the wall! As an honest to God TV Writers’ Assistant.

So, on that score, 2014 was pretty good. Mission accomplished!

But of course, that wasn’t my only goal. You don’t know me very well if you thought it was. No, no… I always have far grander goals… like, get hired to write something for money! Pitch a show, maybe even sell a show! Get into the WGA!

We did get hired for one project in February, which then never materialized. That was a major bummer. Then we got more general meetings. More hobnobbing. One meeting led to us to hooking up with apitching a show at SyFy (it didn’t sell, but hey, we pitched it!) Then, on the strength of a project that still hasn’t gotten off the ground, we were asked to write a take for a tv movie. The producer liked our take and paid us to write a treatment! We don’t know if the movie is a go yet, but PAID TO WRITE….

But no WGA membership yet.

So, the 2015 goals. You know they are lofty. Ambitious. But we are determined, my sister and me. We can’t be bargained with. We can’t be reasoned with. We don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And we absolutely will not stop, ever, until… we are staffed.

Staffing. WGA. Let’s go, 2015. We’re ready.

Posted under randomness, writing

This post was written by Shawna on January 2, 2015 1 Comment »

Tags: , ,