Would you want to watch the same scene repeatedly, or get a sneak peek and see behind-the-scenes footage of your favorite TV show? You probably chose the latter.
That’s the challenge—how to connect a television show’s social media team with its production crew. Without a link between them, social media managers of TV series don’t have unique content to share with fans, and the fans are less engaged. Fans’ Facebook suggestions get stuck in the comments. And ultimately, production crews lose the opportunity to hear fans’ feedback, and involve them in the creation and improvement of the show. How will the network and production company know if spin-offs will succeed or choose more effective advertising?
“The wave of digital is changing the industry, and it is our job to make the most out of it because we have grown up with social media,” says Melanie Witkower, the founder and CEO of Screen-Bridge, the social startup that creates high-quality, unique social content for TV shows. While Witkower was studying at Syracuse University, inspriration struck during a class presentation by a panel of executive producers and owners of production companies inspired her.
“When it was time for questions, I raised my hand and asked how they expected us to push digital boundaries if they were not creating new positions,” Witkower says. “There really was no answer, and I knew I wanted to be the one to find the solution.”
While working with community management for major television networks and in development for production companies, Witkower noticed the lack of communication between social media managers and the people working on set. This experience prepared her to help “bridge” shows with their online audiences. Launching in January 2014, Screen-Bridge creates a rapid line of communication between production companies and show’s social media team.
“We plan the audience's social television experience before the show is sold and package it as part of the show’s story,” Witkower says. “If the show is picked up, we arrange time throughout the production to film and photograph additional content while using the resources already paid for on set. When a show airs, we find trends in online discussion and develop insights that will lead to the show’s success. Overall, we help the production company sell their show, the network save money and time, and the fans engage with content that resonates with their online behavior.”
Screen-Bridge has had shows air on TLC and Food Network. They’ve also pitched HBO, Showtime, FX, FXX, Comedy Central, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon.
“For TLC, our objective was to understand the performance of Raising Fame’s pilot, define what resonates best with the viewer, and explore opportunities for growth,” says Witkower. “During the premiere, we released GIFs and photos that connected to the plot in real time from the production company’s account. Also, we promoted series talent who were engaging viewers through their personal social channels. The following morning, we prepared post-premiere insights for the production company that reported trends in the audience’s conversation and broke them down to better the series. The production company responded positively to the immediate feedback and also received tweets asking when the show would be on again.”
Screen-Bridge also pulled data through Topsy Pro and analyzed trends to understand character performance and what plot points generated the most buzz. Additionally, the startup examined what was not being said and let the production company know opportunities for the show to enhance their content. “For Raising Fame, we posted content in real time with the show’s airing, and saw more engagement on our GIFs and photos than any other account talking about the series,” Witkower says. “Based on what viewers shared and spoke about the most, we were able to learn what social content would resonate with the audience.
The blend of production and social media experts sets Screen-Bridge apart from the competition. “We understand how to execute an innovative social campaign as well as the means to create it amidst a fast-paced production schedule,” says Witkower. “Crafting a social strategy before a show is sold, Screen-Bridge is integrated into the production process as a key part of the show’s story. We are able to reward fans with high-quality content while simultaneously saving networks time and money.”
The startup aims to develop social strategies for at least eight shows with multiple production companies for the fall season. Additionally, Screen-Bridge wants to see those shows go into production and guide them with second-screen content. In the next year, a larger goal is to begin integrating relationships with social networks and applications into their shows.
Social Startups is a weekly Social Media Today column written by Shay Moser about the newest and most innovative social companies. Look for the next installment next Wednesday morning. Logos by Jesse Wells.