Spoiler Alerts and Social Sabotage
by Geoff Gillette
If there is one thing that TV shows and movies have learned it is the importance of gaining a social media following and keeping that following always wanting more. But what happens when that need to continually feed the social media machine results in social sabotage and ticks off the fan base?
That’s what AMC is finding out about right now.
AMC’s hit series “The Walking Dead” had their mid-season finale on Sunday and leading up to the evening’s broadcast showrunners and publicists had done a good job of keeping the fires of speculation well stoked, getting viewers hyped up that something big was going to happen before the show went on holiday hiatus. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE EPISODE YET.)
However, shortly after the show’s broadcast on the East Coast ended, the publicity machine shot themselves in the foot by posting this graphic on their Facebook page. So anyone on the West Coast or outside the U.S. had the major plot point of the entire episode spoiled for them.
Fans are better known for their hate than their love and this bit of social sabotage spawned a tsunami of bile towards AMC and The Walking Dead. Within a few hours of the graphic being posted (it was subsequently taken down and then reposted once the cat was completely out of the bag) there were over 70,000 comments on the thread. The majority of which were of the ‘You stink!’ variety.
Whether it was an East Coast social media wonk who jumped the gun or something as simple as scheduling a post on Hootsuite and not thinking in terms of the time change or the international audience, the gaffe put a significant crimp into the positive mojo the show had created over its five seasons.
The lesson there is that when it comes to social media, one slip-up is all it can take. Especially when you are talking about pop culture. Since it is possible, with the immediacy of the Internet, to comment/rant/spoil a new show, movie, game etc., it is more imperative than ever that the people in charge of maintaining that social media buzz do it in a way that looks at the big picture.
For AMC, that means not alienating the hundreds of thousands of viewers who don’t see the episode on East Coast time. Or worse still, who don’t get access to it for a day or so (international viewers) or those who record the show on their DVRs and watch later. Not thinking of those viewers sends the message that you don’t care about them and that is a good way to have them tapping on that “Unfollow” button. Kind of the opposite effect you were going for.
The bottom line for those responsible for social media is to not get caught up in the need for speed and instant gratification. In the “Walking Dead” example, it would have been easy to post a pic with the characters photoshopped out and the RIP banner still on there, without a name or identifying info. Would have implied there was a death coming, but would only have teased enough to get those who hadn’t seen it yet even more excited to see what was going to happen.
So, plan posts in advance, schedule them when they will have the greatest potential impact and STAY AWAY FROM SPOILERS (unless you are including spoiler tags). A little pre-planning can help keep the excitement built up around your product and result in even more followers for your page, rather than drive them away.
Do spoilers bother you? Would having a major plot point spoiled cause you to stop following a program, product or service? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
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