Social media has become an increasingly important – if not the most important – part of marketing for film and television. Sites like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr allow fans to engage directly with creators. Nielsen has started accounting for tweets and word-of-tweet recommendations can literally make or break a television show. These days a strong online presence is not so much a luxury as a necessity.
Official social media is tolerated and even embraced by fandom to a certain extent, but there is usually a degree of distance. Sometimes an official account tries and usually fails to use fandom terms or reference in-jokes. But every so often a social media team shines above the rest. They manage to skirt the line between trying too hard and not caring enough. Somehow, against all odds, they become one of us.
The Teen Wolf social media team appeared to have made this transition. They hung out on Tumblr, talked about their poor feels, actively discussed fanon ships like Sterek and just generally had a lot of fun with loving Teen Wolf. That’s the key that a lot of social media teams don’t seem to understand. If they don’t genuinely love the thing, it shows. Say what you want about Teen Wolf social media – there’s no doubt that they really do love Teen Wolf.
Their love paid off. Teen Wolf gained an astonishing amount of fans via social engagement. Whatever they were doing, it worked. Or it was working until recently anyway.
Teen Wolf was able to ride the high of a growing audience during the hiatus between Season 2 and 3, but when new episodes began to air it became clear that the show might not be able to live up to the hype. Season 3 received mixed reviews – while there were moments of awesome, overall the season suffered from serious issues with continuity and consistency. And ultimately the social media team is only as good as the source material. Where the show suffered, the social networking suffered too.
Since the Season 3 finale, Teen Wolf social media has had to contend with growing disappointment within the fandom. But instead of compensating for this discontent, they are continuing along as though nothing has changed. Unfortunately for Teen Wolf, the fandom has changed.
TWSM once seemed to have its finger on the pulse of fandom, but this hiatus they have made a series of unfortunate mistakes.
The first was the release of a spoof awards show “In Memorium” vid, featuring the many characters that have died on Teen Wolf. It was created to tie in with the latest Walk-On-Role contest – which offered one lucky viewer the chance to Die On Teen Wolf.
This video should have worked. Everyone loves a good spoof, it was relevant to the contest themes and it had just enough sarcasm and cynicism to appeal to the Tumblr audience. But it failed to take into account two of the biggest complaints from Season 3A: the death of several beloved POC and female characters and the confusing timeline. This video essentially plastered a neon sign above these issues saying “hey fandom, remember all that stuff you were yelling about? Well we totally ignored your complaints and then made a joke out of it.”
Not only did this video show a series of images of all the POC and women that have been unceremoniously killed on Teen Wolf, but it also got its own dates wrong. The pilot took place in January 2011 and as of the end of Season 3 only 8 months had passed – putting the date at around October 2011. The “In Memorium” video stated that characters killed in Season 3 died in 2012, which doesn’t make any sense no matter how you put it.
While this isn’t necessarily the social media team’s fault – they can only work with the information they are given – a quick Google search could have told them this video might not be well received.
But hey, everyone makes mistakes. They were probably just having an off week. Except it’s not a one off.
Since Season 3 finished airing, the Teen Wolf social media team has been noticeably quiet. It’s no longer actively trying to engage the fandom, which is particularly apparent because a slew of new official social media teams (like Hannibal and Sleepy Hollow) are blowing them out of the water. The few times they have attempted to engage, like the “In Memorium” video and their efforts to get votes for the TVGuide Fan Favorites Cover Contest, have either fallen flat or been actively criticized (baiting the Sterek fandom and threatening to kill a queer character).
Here’s the thing – these promotions probably would have been well received this time last year. But fandom – like any other subculture – is not stagnant. It shifts and evolves. It grows up. If the social media team doesn’t evolve with fandom then it risks becoming irrelevant. If they keep talking to us like we are the same fandom we were a year ago, then they are going to lose their insider status. But it’s worse; because they won’t just be outsiders looking in – they will be has-beens, and that’s really not good for business.
Is it worth being on the inside if you are rejected and end up worse off than when you began?
Promotion for Teen Wolf Season 3B hasn’t really begun yet, so there is still time for them to regain their status as social media darlings. I’m definitely interested to see how they interact with fandom as we head towards January and I can’t deny that I’m rooting for them to succeed. But I can’t help but wonder if it is possible for official social media in general to make the transition from the honeymoon period to the grown up fandom.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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