TV networks are increasingly leveraging social media to increase the popularity of shows, especially over the last one year. From reviving ratings to growing audiences, the makers of TV shows are rapidly going social; some at the script stage itself. Whether it is Ashton Kutcher building up buzz prior to his recent debut on ‘Two and a Half Men’ or Showtime releasing teaser videos of the latest season of Dexter on YouTube, television networks have been successfully driving viewership through networking channels.
Dexter Goes Social
When American television drama series Dexter was first introduced in 2006, little did Showtime know that the Miami-based blood splatter analyst would send the popularity charts soaring over the next few years. Although aired only in the US for the first few series, by the time Dexter hit season 5, it had an exponential fan following internationally as well. While YouTube was one of the popular channels where fans could watch Dexter, the official Dexter Facebook page andTwitter handle soon followed. Here’s why we think Dexter is one of the hot trending topics on social media:
- According to the Mashable Global Ads Chart, the trailer of Dexter Season 6 was one among the twenty most shared videos in September 2011.
- With the acquittal of Casey Anthony earlier this year,frustrated people enraged with the ‘not guilty’ verdict took to Twitter, proclaiming the services of the serial killer were needed in this case. This soon saw ‘Dexter Morgan’ becoming a popular trending topic on the site.
- In a move to create buzz around the show, the Dexter: Slice of Life game was launched on Facebook on the very date the sixth season premiered.
- Social entertainment app Miso has gone beyond the check-in to provide viewers with an experience that’s synchronized in real-time with the show.
- The official Dexter Facebook page currently has +10,375,000; with the announcement of the renewal of Seasons 7 and 8, we expect this figure to only grow.
- The @SHO_Dexter Twitter account boasts +198,000 followers.
Tracking the Social Media Buzz
Following the enormous success of the previous seasons, Showtime’s decision to renew Dexter for an additional 24 episodes has sparked considerable online buzz among fans. Analysis by the Brand Monitor Team at Position² (for the time period between 29th October 2011 and 28th November 2011) shows that conversation volumes peaked on 27th November 2011 (27,362), with anticipation building up for Season 6, Episode 9: Get Geller, which aired the next day.
This was followed by 17,025 posts on November 28th, after the much anticipated 9th episode was aired. A significant number of conversations were centered on Colin Hanks who plays the character of Travis Marshall.
Top Media Volume and Sentiment Breakdown
- Discussion forums were abuzz with conversations and recorded the highest volume at 39%.
- This was followed by blogs, which registered 28% conversation volumes. In addition to the popular Dexterblog.com, the growing fan following for the series saw several other blogging platforms active with discussions, opinions and spoilers.
- The conversations on Twitter, which recorded 20% volumes, included excited fans talking about the renewal of the Dexter series. The popular hashtags used included #Dexter, #darkpassenger, #colinhanks, #showtime and #DDK among others.
- The tonality of conversations was largely neutral at 68%. Position²’s analysis of the posts shows that the majority of the buzz came from Dexter fans giving a detailed description of each episode.
- The positive conversations, at 26%, ranged from fans thanking Showtime for the renewal to people simply saying how much their loved the series.
- 6% of the conversations were negative.
Top Country Breakdown
- Unsurprisingly, the maximum buzz, at 73%, was registered in the USA. Dexter, being an American drama series, has its biggest fan base in America.
- This was followed by UK and Australia at 6% and 5% respectively. We attribute the gradual boost in international audience to social media, which contributed to taking the Dexter series beyond geographical boundaries.
Gender and Age Distribution
- At 55%, the Dexter series appealed slightly more to the male audience when compared to women (45%).
- The 20-35 age bracket, at 54%, comprised of the most enthusiastic Dexter fans.
- However, the rest of the demographic, especially the 31-50 and 51-65 made up for a marginal fan following at 9% each.
- The <20 age bracket accounted for 16% of the conversations. This could be because of the graphical content, that may have prompted parents to restrict the <16 audience from watching the show.
First broadcasted in October 2006, Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter, was converted into a TV series around the same time when social media was still green behind the ears. Over the years, as social media evolved from something that was a mere fad to a serious networking and marketing medium, the Dexter series simultaneously amassed a loyal fan following. With the rise of social media, it was only a matter of time before the TV viewing process went social. Reviews of popular TV shows are no longer restricted to newspapers or TV guides. Our research shows that today’s social-savvy audiences exchange updates, post reviews and discuss shows via Facebook and Twitter among other channels; all this while watching the shows. Dexter is the perfect example of how a drama series, which was gaining popularity among its offline audience, soon became one of the hottest online trending topics of today; to such an extent that people actually felt the need for a real-life Dexter following the acquittal of Casey Anthony.
As the above analysis shows, USA registered the maximum buzz. However, with the series recently being introduced in other countries, we expect to see significant boost in conversation volumes and online fan following. Although Twitter is usually the preferred medium to exchange information and updates, in this case, blogs and discussions forums were slightly more active than the microblogging channel. This could be because of fans’ enthusiasm to share episode-by-episode updates and describe in detail what they felt about each episode; something that Twitter’s 140 character limit does not allow. While the male to female ratio of Dexter fans currently has a 10% difference, we are curious to see if the introduction of Colin Hanks has any affect on this; especially with most of the female audience tweeting how good he looks on the show. What we also will be watching out for is the social media buzz surrounding the next two seasons of Dexter. Although the storyline has not been revealed yet, fans are already speculating about the next series.
The Dexter series is an example of how TV networks are incorporating social media as a vital part of the production process, rather than an after-thought. Even before shows hit the air, TV networks are designing and introducing online campaigns in a move to build-up curiosity and generate buzz. Today’s TV execs trying to bridge the gap between online and offline know that social media has become a vital part of any television program; and in our opinion, Dexter is one of the success stories that shows how it’s done.