The growth and diversification of technology has brought a plethora of new ways in which fans can engage with their favorite franchises. Beyond the obvious way in which the likes of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have redefined many people’s consumption of movies and television shows, there are other examples of how the biggest cinematic and televisual franchises can reach out to fans.
The generation of discussion is perhaps the simplest way to build engagement, but a powerful one at that. Traditionally, discussions of eagerly-awaited television episodes or upcoming movie releases would be reserved for social gatherings or for surreptitious conversations in the workplace, but now anyone can access forums and communities whether through their browser or their mobile.
The IMDb message boards were hugely popular until they closed down in 2013, although the site remains influential in providing user-generated ratings that many perceive as the definitive assessment of a film’s quality. While the IMDb Top 250 is an excellent way to keep track of new films, research from the TuringMachine in 2013 advised caution when analyzing film ratings: 75% of the movies which ranked at that time had received fewer than 118 votes, which means that consensus was not as wide as initially implied.
IMDb still stands alongside Rotten Tomatoes in providing valuable ratings that provoke debate. The closure of its message board was felt keenly by many, but other platforms like Digital Spy and Student Edge have forums that attract passionate communities to discuss the latest movies.
However, most movie discussions are now conducted on social media. Outlets like Facebook and Twitter have vastly changed the way all companies across all industries interact with their clientele. For movies, it is an effective tool for building anticipation. Uproxx reported how Anthony and Joe Russo set Twitter into a frenzy when tweeting a cryptic image that was supposed to reveal the Avengers 4 title, with many correctly guessing “Endgame”.
Franchises of this size are able to reach out to huge crowds in an instant. For example, the official Star Wars Twitter account has 3.92 million followers; comparing this with data from Worldmeters reveals that 63 of 195 countries have a smaller population than the Twitter followers of Star Wars. This heightened connectivity works both ways. Fans feel closer to their favorite franchises, while companies can monitor retweets, reactions and likes to track fan response and approval.
Polls and feedback
The ability to react to posts instantaneously on social media, as well as the real possibility that actors and directors could read those responses, has given fans an increased sense of ownership and influence towards franchises. This can also be achieved through the use of polls, in which fans can see their votes have tangible effects. One notable example came in Spain, where hit show “If I Were You” allowed viewers to vote on two possible scenarios for the following week’s episode.
Allowing viewers to shape the world of movies and television and to voice their feedback helps to develop an immersive quality. This treatment of fictional shows as malleable and spontaneous drama has extended into the world of betting, too; Betway offered markets on the plot of smash hit The Bodyguard, drawing fans into the show as if it were an unpredictable sporting event. Despite The Bodyguard’s plot already being set in stone, giving viewers the chance to predict television plots through betting markets heightens the escapism and lets fans feel like they are agents in the same universe as their favorite characters.
When fans are not immersed in their favorite media, the ability to download branded apps helps to maintain engagement even when there is nothing to watch. Every time a person unlocks their phone, there may be an icon there reminding them about a particular movie or TV show. Of course, this can be made even more overt through the release of official or unofficial wallpapers, but an app is more effective in generating longer-term affection and engagement.
Some franchises develop game-based apps like Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery and Game of Thrones Conquest that allow fans to live like characters from the series. Reality shows also find apps as an excellent way to bridge the gap to fans, allowing viewers to treat the app as a companion while watching the show and then make their all-important voting decision through the app. The America’s Got Talent app is one notable example of this.
It would be foolish to predict how shifts in technology will allow movie and television series to reach out even further to their fans, as few of the developments listed here could have been anticipated. One thing is for certain: Franchises will continue to seek for creative new ways to keep fans engaged and excited by the brand at all times.