Last Sunday (14/04/2013) was the season finale (s3) of the Canadian show “Lost Girl”, which I have been watching for a while. The show also has a very dedicated fan base – they create websites, forums, art, tumblr, facebook and twitter posts, fiction, and much more.
In this blog post I wanted to focus on two different uses of social media in regards to Lost Girl by the fans of the show this year.
Social Media as organizational tool for creating buzz about the show by fans
During March Madness 2013, fans of the romantic pairing of Bo&Lauren (a.k.a Doccubus) were able to secure a place in the brackets for the couple in the E!Online1 – 2013’s TV’s Top Couples Tournament! And by itself this was a great achievement, considering how many couples from bigger shows did not make it to the 64 competing couples. But this is just where the story starts. Once the voting for favorite couple was underway, fans of the Doccubus fandom organized themselves through social media to battle against other fandoms, round after round in order to bring the crown of favorite couple to their favorite pairing.
Doccubus shippers were able to cruise through the rounds, sometimes with more difficulty depending on the opponent. Until it was time for the final round where they faced one the most powerful fandoms – Brittana (from Glee). The Britanna fandom is incredibly powerful and probably bigger than Doccubus – after all Glee is a global phenomena. The final phase was David vs Golliath in terms of fandoms. And it turns out that the last 24 hours of the competition were crucial. This is where the Doccubus power lies in using social media in the most fascinating way imaginable.
1. Twitter – Using Hashtags
Throughout the tournament fans were using hashtags to communicate with each other about the poll and how it progresses. #DoctheVote, #DoccubusArmy, #Doccubus, were only few of the major ones used. #DoctheVote almost turned into a mission code word to inspire the fandom, give them timely information when to vote or who will cover for them.
2. Tumblr – Images/Text/Tags
But Twitter was not the only channel used. Tumblr was also utilized to share information, inspiration and to recruit new voters:
Guides were created on how exactly to vote – for those users that were more technically challenged but wanted to participate.
“Then my friends, you came to the right place, this is a complete guide on how to “Doc the Vote” during your daily life (assuming some of us do something other than watch doccubus videos all day).
There are several methods and we will try to give you tips on how to successfully use each one of them. But before we start just go over there and vote at least once” (source)
Furthermore, manifestos about why the vote is important circulated through social media in effort to generate bigger wave of fans to engage. And I believe this worked. By reading why it is important to take action, people felt the power (regardless how small) to change something, to show their love and appreciation, to DO something.
On various Forums and Sites (which I am not going to source here for many reasons) about Doccubus and Lost Girls there were many calls to action for voting. Strategies were discussed, people motivated each other with words, pictures and various references to favorite moments of the show and their favorite couple.
And then, the Lost Girl showrunner, as well as the cast, used their social media presence to encourage the fans during the final step of the voting, show their support and gratitude:
When my 65 year-old Mother says she voted for 'Doccugirls' all evening and emails me the percentage spread, I know we've already won. #Moms
— Emily Andras (@emtothea) February 13, 2013
5. Boundaries are useless
Because of technology and social media, Lost Girl was able to generate real international following, who were instrumental for the voting. It did not matter where in the world people live, the only important thing was they were all united for Doccubus to win. Fans quickly formed teams depending on the time zones to secure voting on a 24/7 basis. There were Team Europe/Team China/Team America, etc.
But boundaries were crossed not only when it comes to geography. Fans employed every channel, often embedding messages from one social media to another in order to achieve their ultimate goal: crown their couple as champions.
At the end, the difference between Britanna and Doccubus ship was only 8000 votes (with total of over 100 000). The win brought a lot of recognition not only to the fans, Bo and Lauren as a couple from the show, but to the show, the creators and the TV network itself. This led to additional social media sharing and spreading information about the show through word-of-mouth marketing. That in turn generated more leads, included Bo and Lauren as favorite TV couple according to CNN, and even concluded in an article in Curve magazine with the two actresses playing the characters on the Lost Girl.
It is worth noting that after the E!Online poll, there was the Zimbio Poll2 where Doccubus reached the semi-finals, but were unable to move forward because of cheating during the vote from the other side. Fans were not disappointed because their activity, art, Youtube videos and tweets generated incredible amount of recognition for Lost Girl and even several new fans of the series. Fan art was published on the voting site on Zimbio, which was showcased as well on their front page. One of the Youtube videos about Doccubus was watched 26 million times – something that is usually achieved only for music videos.
Social Media as a diffusion tool for leaked information about the last episode of the season
Social Media can be a powerful tool to engage with fans, for them to organize for certain goal they believe in and to create a buzz around a cause. But it can also play an instrumental role when it comes to information leaking. And while the post so far gave examples about the power of fandom and use of social media, now we need to talk about what happens when the same fandom has access to information about their favorite show.
During the filming of the third season and up until Sunday, producers of Lost Girl managed to keep almost everything under wraps with the occasional spoiler published just a tad too soon. Nothing major though. From all this secrecy and the way the show was written there were a lot speculations on forums, sites, tumbr, twitter, facebook – pretty much everywhere. Not a single fan had a clear idea from previous episodes, spoilers, twitter chats, interviews and videos, where the story is going and how it might end up. One little “mistake” blew that. Everything began on Sunday (April 14, 2013) when around midday in Europe (7AM in Canada), Showcase accidentally published the season finale of Lost Girls on their website.
The first information about the finale being online on Showcase popped up on several forums with links to the show. I went there and because I am in Europe now, my access was Geo-Blocked. Of course, this is not a particular hurdle if you know how to get around it.
Anyway, people were able to reach the episode and watch it or download it (usually it is done by using additional software because the episode is in flash) and I would bet some of the fans saw it but decided against commenting on it online. But there were others who watched it and shared the information their networks online. There were several users coming to a forum, claiming they know what happened in the episode. Because it is anon forum, and they posted information that could have been guessed from the promos, not a lot of people paid attention and believed them. The posters were quickly announced trolls and the discussion moved on with speculation for the upcoming finale.
Shortly after that, several Twitter users started tweeting they’ve seen the episode and gave some information about what will happen, without disclosing too much because they did not want to spoil it for the rest. What they shared is that a kiss that was a tradition between the Doccubus couple for every season finale was not going to come to fruition this year. And this started the conversation going. People searched for information on blogs, forums, Tumblr and Twitter.
With that fans discovered a girl from Spain that tweeted while watching the finale online. Even though her tweets were in Spanish, many used Google Translate and soon was proven that her tweets are too specific and contain screen-caps of the episode and thus she was a legit source.
But she also had posted screenshots and information on her Tumblr blog (the post was shared about 50 times in less then an hour), which once discovered, she was floored with questions in her Tumblr blog about the episode. The information spread through Tumblr, Twitter (especially several influential Twitter Doccubus fans) and on several major forums (the image above is from Showcase official Lost Girl blog). About an hour later after the most active fans already knew what is happening in the episode, someone claiming to be LG showrunner Emily Andras wrote on the Tumblr blog requesting the spoilers to cease.
During the time, I was actively participating in the discussion and was following her blog. I can admit, she was very respectful not to ruin the episode for every fan and people could ask her questions in her box and she would answer them.
As much use social media is for creating buzz around the show and word-of-mouth marketing for the creators, the other side of the coin is that once important information is out of the bag, it spreads like wildfire. In no way I could guess how many people found out from the spoilers about what is happening in the finale. What I know is that once the information got out, there were at least 3 times more forum, blog and twitter activity in regards to the spoilers. By this point containing the information was impossible.
There is no way of knowing whether this harmed the viewing statistics for the finale. But for sure it was a mood changer for specific groups in the fan base. Not only were fans knowing the major plot points, but parts of the Doccubus fandom were disappointed. So far I was unable to find any indication from Showcase or LG’s producers about the leak – whether commentary, confirmation, etc.
Additional Uses of social media
Actors, as well as the show runner has been pretty good at talking with fans online about the show – either on twitter, fb or doing interviews with online media sites. Emily Andras recently even did a real-time chat during the 3.08 episode with Doccubus fans on their own site. Thus not only she acknowledges them, but managed to excite them enough and turn them in one of the most loyal fanbases and vocal supporters of her and the show. You can read her chat here.
During the airing of the first episode of Lost Girl in Season 3, #lostgirl was number one trending worldwide, confirming Nielsen’s assumption that “Among people aged 18-34, the most active social networkers, social media buzz is most closely aligned with TV ratings for the premiere of a show.” 3 . Meanwhile, on the finale #lostgirl was the third worldwide trending topic. It is important to acknowledge that #LostGirl trending on 14 April was indeed great achievement, considering the MTV Movie awards and Game of Thrones were the same night.
It was also on Twitter, where showrunner Emily Andras published a call to action for fans to ask the TV network for 22 episodes in season 4, instead of the regular 13. Fans started tweeting the network, publishing online and on Facebook. Many of them signed online petitions.
Many fans were also not satisfied with certain aspects of the show or some plot lines and not only tweeted/wrote online (see #lostgirl), but some of them found a creative ways to express their feelings.
Such a way was the creation of the @KarenLBeattie Twitter account. It was a response to an information about secret identity of one of the most beloved characters – Lauren Lewis. This account is followed by Emily Andras herself.
Nobody knows, who is behind the Karen Beattie account, but the person sure knows the show, what has been said on conventions and has a great sense of humor. She tweets in relation to show story lines, characters and various tidbits that are well known from the most dedicated fans.
After the finale, many fans decided to make a game of the sudden disappearance of Lauren Lewis in the middle of the finale (it was a cliffhanger for the next season) – “Where is Lauren”, which involved the development of various pictures and gifs, showing Lauren in many settings. There is a Tumblr account dedicated on the search for Lauren and also people called for someone to make a game/scavenger hunt for it.
Why Social Media matters
A study by TVGuide concluded that 17% of respondends in their survey have started to watch a show because of a social impression. According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR) and Penn Schoen Berland survey results from March 2012, 56% of social media users say that social networks are important for making entertainment-related decisions. Andrew Somosi, CEO of SocialGuide also said that “…Twitter’s presence as a top three influencer tells us that Tweeting about live TV is likely a significant indicator of program engagement.”
Yes, so far there is no proved causation between social media hype and TV ratings, but even Nielsen started measuring Twitter buzz when it comes to series and ratings. More and more agencies are paying attention not only about TV ratings, but digital viewings, online sharing and fan engagement.
Now that the show is on hiatus and in preparation for shooting season 4, the activity of fans will decrease. But I think the examples in this post could serve as a reminder how powerful social media could be to organize people around something they believe in. It could be used as marketing tool, as gossip/information diffusion tool, to further an agenda (expand seasons). Ultimately, executives will start to pay attention to the fans and their interactions online and how valuable they are in promoting in this case TV series.
Paying for advertising has it limits, but this kind of marketing is pure gold for executives, especially in a time when people spent most of their time online and rely on recommendations from their social networks.
- I should mention that E!Online has app. 8 million unique visitors every month ↩
- Zimbio has monthly unique visitors of about 15 million ↩
- http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/newswire/2011/the-relationship-between-social-media-buzz-and-tv-ratings.html ↩