When it comes to social media, we are in an interesting phase: just sophisticated enough to have a sense of what works and what doesn’t but still relatively open to experimentation — even among the major networks.
Today’s case study is Syfy’s Being Human, adapted from the British series of the same name about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost sharing a house and struggling to fit into normal society. For the second season, which premiered on Jan. 16th, Syfy teamed up with Twitter to launch a dedicated account for the show, @BeingHumanSyfy, which then became the focal point of a promoted trends campaign for the show.
The concept they played with, according to Dana Ortiz, the VP of brand marketing for Syfy, was to focus the conversation online not around the show but around an idea. Thematically, the show’s second season was exploring the concept of “temptation,” the tagline from the ubiquitous billboards and bus ads being “Temptation is a beast.” So for the first 12 hours of the campaign, Twitter promoted the hashtag “#AlreadyTempted” (which also tied into post–New Year’s conversations about failing to follow through on resolutions); then, for the second 12 hours Twitter pushed the topic “#BeingHuman.”
What they discovered was that, according to Ortiz in a phone interview, “To sponsor a conversation around a theme or topic is much more meaningful.” According to data given to us by Syfy, the 24-hour campaign resulted in over a thousand new followers for @BeingHumanSyfy, with the #AlreadyTempted hashtag serving 8.7 million impressions and the #BeingHuman hashtag serving 21.1 million.
In addition, Twitter logged a 5.03 percent engagement rate for the #AlreadyTempted hashtag and an 8.75 percent engagement rate for #BeingHuman (the average engagement is between 3 and 6 percent).
Of course, Syfy’s advantage here was that the phrase “being human” also serves as a strong conversation starter; Ortiz said they would likely promote the show Warehouse 13 just with a thematic topic, not the show title.
In addition, the Syfy team launched the “tempting our influencers” campaign, for which they sent boxes to “influencers” like Perez Hilton, Bravo’s Andy Cohen and Neil Patrick Harris. The boxes contained tempting items targeted to each celebrity, with a note saying that if they resisted opening the box until Jan. 16, they would receive a larger prize, as well as a donation to the charity of their choice.
How successful the campaign might be varies. I remember seeing Harris’ initial tweets about receiving his box of temptations but had no idea that it was connected to the Being Human premiere (none of his updates mention the show by name). But it was an interesting effort to reach new audiences.
One hurdle Being Human faces in the social media realm is the fact that the original British show not only has a strong following online but also airs stateside on BBC America. Creatively, the two shows have split apart, but the fact remains that there are two shows with the same name out there. Ortiz said one way they work to keep the Syfy version separate is to focus on search, buying search terms that range from the names of the show’s characters (which are different from the British version) to topics like “Grimm” or “Snow White.” “We keep an eye on it, but we’re not looking over our shoulder,” Ortiz said.
The result of this focus on social, according to Ortiz, is a stronger performance in the ratings among the 18–34 demographic: The second season premiere was up 9 percent in that demo. “We’re constantly trying to skew a little younger than we normally do, and social is a main component of that,” Ortiz said.
Disclosure: I am currently employed by G4, which, like Syfy, is owned by NBC Universal/Comcast, but I have no interaction with other divisions of NBCU.