It has officially been two weeks since the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead (TWD), and withdrawal is already setting in for fans everywhere. Over the past five years, AMC's TWD has succeeded at keeping its fans coming back for more, but it isn't just the drama, gore and suspense that's drawing fans in - it's the social community that has been created around the show and its characters. Here are a few things you can learn from The Walking Dead about building social communities and audience engagement:
Publish content that encourages audience engagement.
It's safe to say that TWD is killing it (no pun intended) on social. The show has over 33,000,000 Facebook fans and almost 4 million followers on Twitter, making it one of the top shows on social media. During the premier of season five alone, fans generated more than 32.1 million Facebook interactions and 1,320,056 tweets related to the show.
Have you noticed that it's almost impossible to watch an episode of The Walking Dead in real-time without jumping online to see what official accounts, fans and showrunners are saying on Facebook and Twitter? The cast members of TWD and social media team at AMC are experts at using social media to get viewers even more engaged with what's going on during the live episode by asking questions or live tweeting/posting about what is currently happening on the screen. This gets the audience involved and more invested. TWD even has an app the audience can use to view exclusive content during the commercial breaks, such as trivia about the previous scene or behind-the-scenes information about the filming process.
This year, TWD on Twitter started using hashtag emojis each week so when viewers would type in the hashtags #TWD or #TheWalkingDead a special emoji, usually based on the theme or main character of the current episode, would populate next to each tweet. Each week, viewers were anxious to follow along with the special emoji to see if they could use it to guess the focal point or character of the next episode.
Earlier this season, when (SPOILER ALERT!) we were led to believe that
Glenn, one of the original cast members and a beloved character, was killed by a group of blood-hungry zombies, the social media buzz surrounding TWD was stronger than ever before. #RIPGlenn trended on Twitter worldwide, memorial memes were created and shared, conspiracy articles popped up and people even posted videos of their reactions to his "death" online (note: there's some NSFW language in that one).
TWD has proven that awesome social content and engagement is the best way to keep an audience intrigued. Live tweeting, memes and prompting engagement via asking for RTs aren't just for TV shows like TWD; these are best practices for marketers everywhere.
If you're struggling to find the time to share great content on social media, create a monthly content calendar and use a program like Hootsuite or Tweet Deck to schedule tweets and Facebook posts. Also, don't forget to engage! Set a goal to interact with at least a handful of your followers on social media each week. I promise, you'll see the importance of sharing great content and engaging your audience immediately!
Give your audience a chance to interact.
Not only does The Walking Dead consistently pull in impressive ratings for AMC and have a huge fan base on social media, show-runners have also expanded their reach to include a companion talk show hosted by Chris Hardwick called "The Talking Dead" which has further impacted the way audiences interact with their favorite shows using social media.
Each week, the host reads series of tweet and/or Facebook posts and answers questions sent in directly from viewers. This gives the fans at home the chance to directly interact with their favorite writers and producers from the show.
In addition to the companion show, there are also multiple blogs, fan forums and community webpages where fans can go to discuss show theories, compare notes, share fan art and interesting articles and even create fan fiction of their own.
Giving your audience a chance to interact with your brand is so important for everyone, not just TWD. Your Facebook and Twitter followers are looking for more than just a stream of constant content with no interaction. They want to know that you're listening - and they really appreciate it when you let them know via "likes" or "favorites." Try to join or host a weekly Twitter chat, or ask your audience to participate in a quiz or poll on Facebook. Maybe even start a blog where your audience can ask you questions or contribute content. Interacting with your audience and giving them a voice will do nothing but improve your image, and it's fun!
The Walking Dead has laid the foundation for how brands can better use social media to communication with their audience. You don't have to have a following on Facebook or Twitter in the millions to interact with your audience in a way that is fun and engaging.