The recent season three premiere of TNT’s Falling Skies, the Steven Spielberg-produced apocalyptic alien invasion drama, had a clever social media campaign to draw the audience into the show—literally.
The sci-fi series, which stars Noah Wyle, used its Twitter feed to invite fans and followers to choose sides during broadcast of the season opener. Using the hashtags #aliens and #resistance, fans were asked to align themselves with either the extraterrestrial invaders or the ragtag human military and tweet during the two-hour premiere. The winning side would get to take over the show’s Twitter page in what the series dubbed “The Battle for the Handle.”
What was extra cool was that the most active followers during the campaign were also drawn as supporting or minor characters in a sort of comic-book-style image that appeared in a short film credit sequence created especially for the engaged audience. The images were taken from users’ Twitter profiles, or from pictures the fans sent in.
Falling Skies teamed up with PR firm R/GA, a company specializing in interactive digital media, to monitor the Twitter feed and have their artists ready to incorporate user images immediately. They also kept a running tally of the alliances, posting the current score throughout the broadcast.
Fans of science fiction and fantasy series tend to be highly loyal viewers and crave these socially interactive opportunities. The key to the success of this particular promotion was that fans had an incentive that meant something to them. Being a part of the show, however peripherally, is one of the primary goals of “social TV”. These fans are not just interacting with apps or “second screen” content, they are truly interacting with one another as the show is being broadcast.
Social TV as a concept is still pretty undefined. What is clear, however, is that the kinds of promotions showrunners use to entice viewers will need to be neat, clean, and simple. It’s not enough for networks to simply have people interact with their websites during a program—viewers are starting to expect more from their “second screens”, including exclusive content and unique interactivity.
Twitter is an easy avenue for show marketers to use because it’s readily available to just about anyone, has no monetary requirements from users, and the results can be evaluated in real time. We should expect to see more campaigns like this one from Falling Skies and other shows in the future.
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