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

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2 Comments so far

  1. Dottie February 19, 2015 10:40 am

    I’ve written a couple of posts on Tumblr that were directed to Jason Rothenberg and put the links in some tweets. However, I have no way of knowing if he read them. They have to do with Finn’s death. So perhaps you will share these thoughts with him.

    I loved The 100 from the beginning because it was different and held my interest. I’m a romantic, and I’ve always loved the good guy. So a few episodes in, I started to get attached to Finn. Probably because Thomas McDonell is such a great looking guy, those feeling grew and I really looked forward to seeing Finn every week. Like a teenager, I recorded his scenes, and even started a scrapbook of some of my favorite screen caps. I rooted for the show to get renewed, and encouraged others to watch. I was rolling merrily along when my greatest fear came true. Finn died, and I was completely devastated. For a while I was very depressed.

    I’m an English major, so I can definitely appreciate the art of story telling here; but my heart is ruling the day. I wish it hadn’t been done. What upsets me most is not so much Jason’s commitment to good story telling. I have to respect that. It’s some of the comments he has made that sort of pour salt into the wound.

    He said that killing a major character is hard on the audience but that’s a good thing. There is nothing good about how upsetting Finn’s death was to me. There’s nothing good about the frustration I’m left with now either.

    It appears, also, that Jason wanted to imitate Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. He wanted Finn’s death to have the impact that Ned Stark’s did. He said that his show didn’t have the “problem” of the audience knowing a main character won’t die. Is this why I had to lose Finn – to prove a point? If fans like this killing main characters trend, why are they always begging Jason not to kill their favorites?

    Since losing Finn, my attitude towards the show has changed. I still enjoy it, but with much less enthusiasm. That something special it had is gone. I can’t help feeling a bitterness when I inevitably miss Finn in an episode. “Spacewalker” certainly had the intended impact; and if you weren’t particularly attached to Finn, you could declare it as a reason why The 100 is such a good show. But for me, it meant that Thomas McDonell is permanently off the show. The 3rd season I was praying for was granted. But ironically, it will not bring another season with Finn. So as long as the show airs, I’ll be regretting his loss. That was too high a price to pay for one episode.

    Let’s face it, we enjoy shows for more than just the writing. That’s why for movies, there are box office draws. For me, The 100 lost a significant part of its appeals. Surely, it was known that this would happen. They hire beautiful actors or make a character so appealing that they know fans are going to love him/her. Jason said they kept Jasper because they just loved his character so much. Yet, we don’t get to make that choice.

    I feel frustrated everyday that I can no longer look forward to what I was loving so much. I personally think that killing a main character should be avoided, not deliberately sought after for effect. There will be people who love it, of course, but there will also be those who, like me, will be shattered by it. That latter groups should count, too.

    Jason said he felt my pain. He said he was sad to say goodbye to Thomas. Well, apparently it wasn’t enough not to kill the character. Surely another story line could have been conceived that wouldn’t end with Finn’s death. It might not be the best, but just because you could doesn’t always mean you should.

    Perhaps, I’m being selfish here, but that’s the nature of love. The heart wants what it wants. At any rate, I think it’s cruel to present us with characters, played my good looking actors, leave them around long enough for us to get attached to them and define the show in part by them, and then kill them off like “We know it will hurt, but you’ll get over it.” It’s too late for me. Finn is gone for good and that doesn’t even seem real. And who knows when I’ll ever see Thomas again. He’s not the most sought after actor around. Other than Prom, he hasn’t had any significant roles.

    I just wish Jason wouldn’t be so convinced that killing a main character like Finn is “all good”, as they say. Know that people like me, and there are plenty out there, will not get over it any time soon, if at all. There have to be other ways to tell a good story. Who knows. It might be considered that the best story is the one that saves the hero.

  2. Shawna February 24, 2015 3:07 pm

    Hi, Dottie. I have seen many of your tweets to Jason. I’m sure he’s seen them too, but he’s probably hesitant to respond, because it would take far more than 140 characters to explain things. There are a couple of things you may not realize:

    Story decisions are very complex. There is always a desire to tell a story a certain way, but sometimes those desires get steered by forces beyond your control. Your idea could be too expensive. It could rain when you need sun. There could be a tornado that destroys your sets and requires you to change the story. Of course, none of these things happened in this case, but the story was steered in this direction by several factors. I can only tell you what I knew.

    On my first day of work, all of the writers came together. Jason laid out his thoughts and plans for the season. He indicated that somewhere around the middle of the season, Finn would die. We didn’t know how or why, but we knew it would happen. Over time, the story started to become clear, that Finn’s frantic search for Clarke would cloud his judgement and he would carry out acts that would condemn him to die.

    I understand how painful it can be to see a character you love die on screen (or be implied dead in the show, which happens if an actor leaves abruptly). I’ve experienced this several times in my own life. There are characters you just aren’t ready to give up yet. You feel there is more story there to tell.

    One of the times this happened to me was “News Radio,” a sitcom in the ’90s I adored. In particular, I loved Phil Hartman. I’d loved him on Saturday Night Live and in all the films he’d been in. He was just a wonderful, dynamic funny person and I enjoyed him immensely. Tragically, he was killed while News Radio was still on the air and filming episodes. Not only was Phil’s death devastating but they had to write out his character. The only way they really had was to make his character also die. On the one hand, it was a way to process the sadness of this man’s career and life cut short — both fictionally and in reality. But 20 years later, I’m still not over it.

    Now fortunately, Thomas McDonnell isn’t dead. He happens to be a very good actor with a great career ahead of him. He was enthusiastic and supportive of the story for Finn, and was 100% committed to telling this story. I know that may not be much solace, but it’s all I can give you.

    One of the things all of the writers and Jason agreed on was that Finn’s death wouldn’t be pointless. That his death would have real meaning. His death did what he couldn’t do in life, bring the Grounders and the Sky People together in an alliance. It’s sad that the character had to die to make this happen, but that also happens in real life sometimes. Finn made mistakes and committed terrible acts. He was a character who had hope and wanted peace, but when Clarke and the 47 went missing, he could only see darkness, in the Grounders and in himself. After he realized what he had done, how far he had fallen, he tried to atone for those deaths, but they weighed heavy on him, because Finn still had a conscience. Finn realized no one would ever see him the same way as before, especially Clarke. He did the only thing he felt he could do — turn himself in to the Grounders. Sacrifice himself for everyone else to live. That in itself is a noble act.

    I hope that you’ll be able to heal from the wound that is Finn’s death. You have to understand that sometimes these decisions are not made easily or lightly. Jason loves Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, but he is making his show, not those shows. Was Finn’s death shocking? Yes, it was. But it wasn’t done to shock. It was done with intent. And everyone involved agreed it was the best way for the character to leave the show.

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