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November 11 2009

On Mutant Enemy And Social Media. Theonetruebix had a theory.

As I wrote on b!X's blog, social media mavens, marketers and studio execs should be required to painstakingly crossstitch this bit on samplers: “Social media is more akin to customer service than it is to marketing, and must be treated as a conversation not as a broadcast.”

Painful and indelible tattoos might also be in order.

Mostly someone needs a job title of 'Social Media Coordinator'. And also a general idea of what social media is.
Very interesting. I've got a friend who works for a PR firm that does a fair amount of stuff via Twitter and blogs, I'll have to forward this along and see what he thinks about it- I suspect he'd agree with a fair bit of it.
Fox failed to embrace the social media of Dollhouse, absolutely - and it wasn't like somebody wasn't trying to make it happen. I was like a terrier dog with them when it came to the marketing, and it has been a soul crushing experience.

"Soul crushing experience"? That sounds a bit dramatic, Kevin.

Well, it really has been. I believe in the power of art. I also believe in the power of business. Business stupidity bothers my core - if you're going to spend a million dollars an episode on a show, you damn well have a good stab at the marketing and scheduling or you're failing that biz.

We had adverts with the wrong timeslots, dates, awful promos, a failure of social media, poor business choices behind the scenes I haven't told people about (and won't).

I just sat there for the last few months, opening my email each day, and then turned into Chandler. 'Oh my god. Why?!'. Almost every day.

The thing I learned from the experience is to take Hollywood, and try to take emotion out of the equation. Feel the happy, but be warned the sad is also gonna be there. I ended up opening each email with a feeling of 'of course that has happened. Next!'.

[ edited by gossi on 2009-11-12 08:55 ]
I've always questioned the role of marketers and execs in promoting film and television.

It strikes me that the generic solution has always been to state "from the makers of" or "here's someone pretty that you recognise". And that unless the program itself has an obvious gimmick, such as 24, then these so called experts are at a loss.

Certainly, I think we are living in quite a rich era for variety of television programming, but advertising seems to be applying the same old tried and tested methods. There is a dearth of creativity within the field.

I suspect it's not always a lack of passion, paychecks generally have a way of prompting some action as well, but a lack of imagination and pioneering spirit. With so many media routes these days, and so much product out there, it is hard to get your voice heard but still it seems too many companies willingly are assigning the blame to the product rather than questioning their own actions.

As an example, look at insurance companies, offering 25% off or 3 months free. The same deal all over. No imagination.

Kudos to all those involved with this site who have sought to shake things up for us.

[ edited by viewingfigures on 2009-11-12 14:52 ]
I'm a marketing student, and so maybe my opinion of a lot of this is colored, but I can't honestly yet say that it seems like social media is THE way to approach marketing to the entire country.

Now, that being said, in the case of Dollhouse, it was clear that Fox didn't realize that a majority of the fanbase was directly involved in the various social media outlets. That is a failing, but you can't place blame on the system, as it still works more often than it fails.

Embrace social media, but it's not the panacea a lot of people seem to think it is for problems like this.
It takes around 5000 people tweeting to get a topic trending on Twitter. That figure kinda put social media into context for me.
As someone who does social media PR for a living let me say it's a toss up. I love social media, I think it's vital to a lot of bigger brands to keep a certain percentage of people happy and engaged. Social Media, in it's small way, helped the Obama campaign. That certain percent of people though is still relatively small compared to the numbers needed for a TV show.

Social Media is still widely inaccessible to the general populace in America as a whole. Especially minorities have no computer at home and aren't likely to get one in the near future. Even kids (up to college) who use computers at school are usually only using social media to communicate with their friends not engage with brands. And being accessible to the fan base doesn't mean you're going to get more folks watching. We've sadly proved with Serenity and now with Dollhouse that our rabid fanbase can't ensure that a movie or TV series will survive in the larger world.

The way social media helps is it gets folks thinking about something in the immediacy instead of in the future. Since blogs, Facebook, Twitter and etc are so immediate and Radio, TV and newspapers take awhile to run a story.

It always bugs me when folks start analyzing a business they've never been in. I've never run a TV channel, so I have no clue of the ins and outs of making something work. I've done some TV PR work (and a tiny bit of movie PR work) and to say it's a mixed bag is to be nice. In reality, the idea behind the best social media marketing out there is not actually marketing - it's customer service. It's the brand being present to answer questions and the audience feeling like they have a touch point with the brand. And, in that way, Mutant Enemy has that with Joss jumping on here to talk with us and Jed and Maurissa's Twitter accounts.
I liked the differentiation between using social media as advertising and PR. Spot on.
Social media is important because the people (those 5000 who create a 'trending topic on twitter) who interact online are interacting and influencing each other a lot. It cannot make or break a show (yet, give it just a few more years) but it does create buzz and excitement which ends up getting other mediums involved.

But frankly Fox never gave Dollhouse one tenth the attention they gave Fringe, and not one hundredth the attention ABC gave to V (and that clearly paid off BIG time!). I think Dollhouse was too complicated to ever gain top ratings, but most people have never even heard of the show.
It seems like (with the 'DNA-altered' comment in the linked cancellation announcement) that most media outlets still have no idea what Dollhouse was about. Someone failed miserably in even making public an accurate summary of the show.

I agree that V got so much more attention than Dollhouse, and Dollhouse deserved as much. I DVR Castle, and even THEN I started to get sick of the V commercials playing once or even twice during every commercial break (don't tell me they weren't pandering to the Firefly fans out there by doing that).

I think that Dollhouse's premiere would have been much more akin to V's if there would have been as much targeted advertisement, and if it would have premiered on a Tuesday. Of course, V has a simple 'alien invasion' premise that makes it easier to collect people from a wider audience.

BrownCoat_Tabz, I don't know if you were referencing the article or not, but theonetruebix makes the comment that social media is customer service over and over, and while admits there are peoples' own twitter accounts, believes that there needs to be a specific ME presence on twitter in order to more easily coordinate official announcments, etc.
coulda, woulda, shoulda

That about sums it up.

Loved the theory on social media, bix. Well done.
@ BrownCoat_Tabz.

I'm not certain why it's important to have worked in a profession in order to make a comment, as following that logic would mean, having never been a Politician, that my vote is meaningless.

However, I do take your point that we are a relatively small fanbase, and struggle to create enough noise. That's why I believe the use of social media is even more important. Yes, it's great that Joss patronises us here on Whedonesque, and Jed and Maurissa, and the cast, twitter, but that's for the converted already. As a fan base we need to spread this message out beyond the faithful.

But I think the point Gossi and Theonetruebix were both making was that Fox gave nothing for us to play with in that respect, it's hard to create a buzz at the last minute and with incorrect data, and that their regular advertising was also muddled and badly handled. Which all points to poor customer service.

I myself have often been amazed at the disparity between advert and product. Who hasn't? So to suggest Mutant Enemy takes responsibilty for its' own social media via Fox makes perfect sense to me.

Businesses know that customers are often the best ambassadors, or salesmen, so repaying that allegiance is what makes sense. The best sites I have discovered since Dollhouse began have all been fan sites. The corporate site has been a disppointment. (Love my Activate Echo Dolls though.) But it will be the corporate site that "tourists" discover not necessarily the fan sites.

I realise the limitations to using social media as a promotional tool but even magazines and newspapers these days have top ten lists of twitter trends and a lot of PR has always been about identifying trends.

It's just sad to think that Dollhouse created such a huge buzz yesterday, via social media , and that that buzz was announcing its' own cancellation.

[ edited by viewingfigures on 2009-11-12 19:55 ]
Also, keep in mind, the piece doesn't argue that "social media is all we need", or "social media is a silver bullet", or "proper social media would have saved Dollhouse". All it argues is "social media is important, will only get more so, and M.E. shouldn't leave it to others".
BrownCoat_Tabz: "In reality, the idea behind the best social media marketing out there is not actually marketing - it's customer service."

Yes, I think that b!X might've expressed that best when he wrote in his blog ( and which is quoted in the post above) “Social media is more akin to customer service than it is to marketing, and must be treated as a conversation not as a broadcast.”

BrownCoat_Tabz: "It always bugs me when folks start analyzing a business they've never been in."

As evidenced by my comparison just above, sometimes having a good brain, some vision and the ability to recognize patterns serves just as well as experience- sometimes better, as sometimes being in a profession can make one myopic or territorial about that profession.

Sometimes the best criticism I get about a graphic design isn't from another designer, but from someone outside the business with a fresh eye.

Personally - I think someone should hire theonetruebix as a Social Media Coordinator now.
It's the brand being present to answer questions and the audience feeling like they have a touch point with the brand.

I have to say that I agree with that statement.

Edited to add-ME did that with Buffy and Angel at the Bronze and the Bronze: Beta.

The Leverage people are doing it now. It works, when it's done right.

[ edited by menomegirl on 2009-11-12 21:02 ]
My comment was more at folks criticizing TV Execs (not the whole PR angle).

And there's a difference between "voting" about politics and telling politicians exactly how Washington should work. It also bugs me when people discuss politics as if they know how it works (no matter who the party in power is, I always get annoyed with news personalities saying, "well if the president would have done x.. y.. z... life would be better"). There's so many factors, plots and plans in the works behind the scenes no matter what the job is. And I really don't envy any politician because of that.

Voting is a different matter, and (as consumers) we do it all the time. We don't watch a TV show, we don't vote for that candidate, etc. And even criticism is different than this specific type of behavior -- I can say "the health care system is whack and should be fixed", but I can't say "if the Dems would have waited a month and rewritten the bill the world would have been better."

That's all I'm saying there, my comments about being in PR was more addressed at the comments in this thread.
If an executive tries one approach and it's unsuccessful then it seems fairly reasonable to suggest another approach and criticise what we see as the failings of the original attempt. The key thing with any alternate suggestion is that it's an opinion i.e. The One True B!x isn't saying "This would categorically work, that's a fact" (or I assume he isn't since he previously hasn't come across as either insane or capable of seeing the future ;). Likewise neither (presumably, usually + other caveats) are people who criticise politics etc.

If we needed complete knowledge of an area in order to suggest improvements then no-one could ever suggest improvements since no-one has complete knowledge of any area.

As to social media, I agree it's something creators/studios would do well to get to grips with now, before it's actually important. It isn't at the moment or at least not as important as other channels (which are still basically social media, we just call them "water-coolers" ;) but it soon will be (not necessarily whatever the darling du jour is BTW - Twitter may not last, nor Facemyspacebook etc. but something like it, some way of people communicating multi-dimensional information to each other will). As phones get smarter and the net becomes less sat in the corner and more front and centre of people's living rooms it seems inevitable.

Again I take your general point. And I may have given a somewhat broad analogy by using voting as an example. Thanks for clarifying though, who'd've guesssed that was the difference, between an informed and uninformed opinion. But I still can't agree with your specific irritation.

To whit, in making your point you criticise news personalities, stating they have little right to comment on political machinations - again something, with it's feedback groups and lobbying, which is not dissimilar to PR - however, these presenters that anger you will likely have been briefed by political correspondants. Who for the sake of litigation will know exactly what they are saying.

And you reiterate, that as a member of the public, I cannot possibly have the wherewithal to make comments on specific points. Yes I can. I can choose to be informed. And I can guarantee you that I will be better briefed on some subjects than some politicians.

I am not saying the job of a PR or Exec is easy, or that of a politician, but I can say that some are good at it and some are shockingly bad. If my opinion was not valid to these interested parties whence the focus groups?

For the record I have worked with a number of production companies so my comments WERE from the insiders point of view. If there were a magic formula then most shows would be hits. In fact, if anything, the greatest moment of promotion has always been IMO the scheduling of the show itself. More often than not, it is WHEN a show ends up being shown that determines it's success rather more than many other factors, and no amount of clever PR work will make the difference.

I appreciate what you are saying, people talking about stuff they don't know anything about is annoying, but I see no evidence of that in the above posts.

The only person who actively criticised PR and Execs (B!x and Gossi merely gave a litany of events and proffered suggestions) was me, and according to your definition and my resume, I have the absolute right to do that. Although I suspect knowing myself, that even if I didn't, I wouldn't keep my mouth shut. :-)

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