This article was originally published in Reel West Magazine, and was republished here to archive it, after the close of the magazine.
In observing traditional broadcasters’ and producers’ approach to social media storytelling around their Films and TV Series, they often lack creativity and personality in the social media content they share. Much of this disconnect in their storytelling online is the result of them trying to control it and every single message that goes out, usually putting it into marketing speak. Unfortunately, while this may be what they are traditionally use to in marketing their projects offline, it is not received as well on social media. It comes across as inauthentic, insincere, and as marketing spam. On social media, people want to feel like they are getting more than just the controlled marketing materials that the powers that be decide that they should have. They want to engage with the story and have the story engage back with them – knowing that the storytellers are as passionate about the content as they are. They want to have fun with it and to feel a part of the story.
What does this mean to the broadcaster or the producer? Firstly, that you need to let go and stop being so precious about who is sharing the content around your Film or TV Series. Secondly, you need to be passionate about your Film or TV Series content and share that passion around the stories you tell on social media from your Film or TV Series. This second point sounds like a given, but when controlled marketing speak, rather than storytelling, drives the social media on a Film or TV Series, this passion is often lost in translation.
Enter my good buddy Ed Hatton. Ed is a keen observer and experimenter, who when he was in post production on the TV Series Dust Up realized that he missed out on a social media win by empowering his crew to help share the tales of the farmers and harrowing crop duster pilots of the Canadian Prairies. In his defence, digital media around TV Series was still relatively unchartered territory in those days, and producers and broadcasters were still feeling out what to share and when. In the case of Dust Up, that was next to nothing before the series launched, forcing Ed to build a buzz of anticipation by engaging people around pre-existing content on crop dusters, Saskatchewan, and farming on the social media platform and in digital niche communities. As it turned out this was a win, as it created a community of super fans that felt connected to the Series and invested in it. Ed took note.
So when Ed was hired as the Supervising Producer for Polar Bear Town, a new series on OLN, he remembered his experience from Dust Up and applied what he learned to help market Polar Bear Town. He encouraged his crew to share their polar bear photos and side videos from shooting the Series with their online audience with the hashtag #PolarBearTown. He didn’t tell them how or what to say, just to occasionally mention the broadcast time and channel. He reached beyond social media to digital niche communities of polar bear and Northern Canada fans, as well as to blogs, and he reached out to influencers online, whose audiences he knew would be interested. He did this above and beyond the planned marketing around the Series, as he knew that his crew would be the most enthusiastic storytellers around the Series, as they’d just gotten to spend a year shooting polar bears and a Northern Canadian community! This was their opportunity to share snippets of their experience with their community, and really who wouldn’t want to brag about hanging out with polar bears or share their polar bear selfies. Its the cool Canadian thing to do, eh!
Despite there being facebook, twitter and instagram feeds for Polar Bear Town, it is the #PolarBearTown hashtag and content coming from Ed and his crew that I watch for and wistfully taunt myself with daily, as it is these posts that share the real enthusiasm and quirky humour of the storytellers involved, rather than the marketing speak on the official channels.
While you may not be so lucky as to have the privilege of working with polar bears, the same rings true on non-fiction, scripted Series and on Movies. I was impressed when I saw Strange Empire send out a memo to their cast and crew inviting them to share their photos online with the Series’ hashtag. As there were certain things they did not want shared online – potential spoilers – they were very clear in the memo on what people could and could not share. After watching the cast and crew in the filming of a recent Movie share daily online, I’d go so far as to suggest that such a memo be shared at the beginning of production – to begin building a buzz slowly and allow the cast and crew to share snippets of the work that they are excited about, while avoiding any spoilers from being released. Then as the cast and crew are able to share more, closer to broadcast, additional memos can go out, inviting the cast and crew to be a part of the digital story – creating a win-win for both production and the cast and crew.
It is amazing how much further stories spread when you empower others to be a part of them and invite them to share.
On that note, we’d love for you to be a part of our story by connecting with us at @AhimsaMedia or via the #StoryToGo hashtag.