Watching TV alone, together: Building fandom community in a pandemic

4 min  |  Best Practice

Alice Beverton-Palmer | @alice

Faced with long evenings at home, the COVID-19 life has us all watching more TV than ever. And while we might usually invite family and friends over to watch, now it’s Twitter bringing us together to discuss the funniest moments and most shocking eliminations. In fact, watching TV is ranked the #1 lockdown activity by UK Twitter users, with March 2020 seeing 73% watching more TV and films than before the pandemic.¹

The biggest question? What to watch next. Twitter conversation around TV recommendations has risen four times over² since the start of the pandemic. As TV production remains challenging, this presents a great opportunity for networks to frame their social media content around discovery, remarketing classic shows. Time to plumb your back catalogue for binge-watch potential...

For old and new shows alike, comfort viewing is the flavor of the month. Tweeting about TV is a similarly feel-good experience, with over 58% surveyed saying that Twitter has a positive impact on their TV-viewing experience.³

While so many of us are in front of the box at once, when a new show takes flight it really soars. From “I May Destroy You” to frilly period drama “Bridgerton” — Netflix’s biggest ever launch — we are watching together, with 63% of those surveyed using Twitter to see what other TV fans have to say.

So how can you turn these insights into more eyes on your shows? Read on for practical ways to supercharge your social output.

Future nostalgia: Creating a comfort watch community

Escapism is more important than ever, and fan communities around shows from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to “Doctor Who” have organized watch parties and Tweetalongs over the past year. But perhaps none has been as elaborate or successful as Eurovision Again

One fan’s idea to watch an old Eurovision Song Contest final in sync rapidly turned into a weekly event driving millions of YouTube views and hundreds of thousands of Tweets, putting an entirely new spin on what had previously been seen as a live event TV. The Eurovision Again organizers even created an online voting portal for fans, giving old contests new winners and delighting pop stars across Europe in the process.

 

The key to running a successful watch party is management of the conversation. What time are people “meeting”? What hashtag brings everyone together? Where can they press play and watch the show? Give clear calls to action — you might even want to create graphics including the info fans need to get involved.

Fleets are a great way to live-post through a watch party without flooding the timeline or dropping spoilers for unsuspecting fans. Fleets are also an easy way to share fire fan Tweets during and after the watch party. Kick things off by publishing a Tweet signposting followers to your Fleets.

 

Got talent? How to make virtual events special

How do you get fans close to their faves in a time when meet-and-greets aren’t possible? Where you have access to VITs (Very Important Tweeters) — and while they’re stuck at home, too! — the Q&A functionality on the Twitter VIT app is the perfect way for fans to ask questions. Again, a clear call-to-action graphic will corral fans to the right place at the right time.

“RuPaul’s Drag Race UK” season two is bringing weekly Q&As with the eliminated queens exclusively to Twitter, revealing behind-the-scenes tea and giving the last word to the queen who sashayed.

 

Keep it real: Collaborating with influential fans

One of the most effective ways of reaching fans with content they’ll love is to work with influencers who are already making it. Whether it’s the fan-influencers behind Eurovision Again, or comedian Alison Spittle’s #CovideoParty, some people on Twitter manage to draw whole communities into the party. 

BBC Three teamed up with Alison for a special-edition #CovideoParty to celebrate the launch of drama “Normal People,” along with an exclusive live Twitter Q&A with the cast. It was the perfect injection of something special into a Twitter watch party format that was already cherished by TV fans.

 

Same-same but different: Navigating your audiences

Of course, there’s no such thing as the TV audience. Even the same show has multiple audiences who take different things from the show — as Netflix’s community accounts like The Most and Strong Black Lead reflect so well. Take your TV Tweeting to the next level by tapping into and responding authentically to the jokes and conversation around your shows from different communities.

Whatever’s on your network’s schedule, you’ll find a huge audience of TV fans on Twitter. Nobody knows what will happen next with COVID-19, but for now, VITs are more available, your back catalog has never looked so attractive, and Twitter is the perfect way to draw isolated audiences into one big feel-good experience.

Sources:
  1. Twitter Insiders, UK only, March 19, 2020
  2. Brandwatch, average daily Tweet volumes compared January 1-March 12 vs. March 13-24, UK Tweets only; retrieved March 25
  3. Twitter Insiders, TV & Twitter, May-June 2018

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