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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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

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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

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