I want to share with you a project I’ve been working on, and why I think it illustrates how engagement and interaction are tops in video production.
Since earlier this year I have been helping best-selling thriller author Joseph Finder with his social media strategy for his new book Vanished and the book’s main character, Nick Heller. Heller is on Twitter and Facebook (Facebook is an experiment that we just launched this week, while we have been using Twitter for months). But he’s not just tweeting lines from the book or providing a Twitter novelization, but rather Heller’s Twitter account is a complimentary experience to the book that is centered around engagement.
I believe that within a generation it will be expected that characters like Heller will interact with users. The days of one-way experiences are coming to an end. Think of the generation after mine that has grown up with both the Internet and social networks. Do you really think they content with the same products that my grand parents loved? Doubtful.
— Flawless Transcripts (@FSTranscription) August 16, 2016
We really wanted to create an experience for people:
We interact on social media — If you tweet something worthwhile at Heller, he’ll tweet back at you, in character. Want to know some back story about him? Just ask. Want to ask questions about the case he is working on right now? Just ask. Heller responds to DMs and @replies. He also retweets interesting tweets. There was no point in putting Heller on Twitter if we were going to treat Twitter like it was a book. Also, if you transcribe all of your video content, you are able to generate additional content that can be shared on social media. Transcription services are pretty inexpensive and it can add a lot of content to your blog. We recommend Flawless Transcription for video, audio, and closed captioning work.
Blurring the lines between reality and fiction — We wanted to create a social media experience that made people believe that Heller was a real person, even if they already knew he was a character (and that the stories of corruption that he discusses could be real). First, Heller is always in character, but he acts like a character in the real world, not a character in a distant novel. Heller might be tweeting about a current investigation that he is working on about an AIG-style firm that involves some misplaced funds and possible corruption.
Heller will then tweet links to real news stories about companies that did the same thing. Or if Heller is talking about looking over CCTV footage to find out what happened to someone, he’ll then tweet about how many CCTVs there are in DC, American, the world, etc.
Additional content – Heller has additional fictional narratives that aren’t in the book that he tweets and talks about. We decided early on that we had to offer additional fictional content on Twitter. We always try to tie these side narratives to either current events or events in the past. This way we can link to news stories and provide facts and figures that help us blur the lines between reality and fiction.
Creating a great experience even if you’re not a fan — You don’t have to be a fan of Joseph Finder, Nick Heller or Vanished to get value out of Heller’s Twitter feed (or know of any of those). We link to and discuss interesting stories involving politics, political corruption, espionage, corporate espionage, information technology and general stupidity. If you just want awesome links and witty takes on the news and world, Heller is an account worth following.
Photos, why not? – We have a treasure trove of research photos for this book that we’ll be incorporating into the Twitter feed. Vanished takes place mostly in DC and the surrounding suburbs. All the events in the book either take place at real DC locations or are modeled after real locations. In addition, we’ve used smartphone pics and TwitPic for side narratives too. It’s all about creating an immersive experience.
It’s an experiment – We would be the first to admit that sticking a fictional character on Twitter is an experiment, and it may not be a success (although it is low risk). The book isn’t out yet, so it’s hard to determine the success (Nick Heller will be appearing in a four book series over the next four years). Our goal is to provide a complimentary product that serves fans of the book, while also keeping interest up in between books.
Social media is here to stay — I don’t know if Twitter and Facebook or any of the other current social networks will be around in 10 years, but I do know that the idea that media should be social is here to stay. People like interactivity and smart journalists, musicians, movie stars, book authors, characters in books and movies, etc will grok that.
If Heller can do it, so can journalists — Journalism and social media go together so well. If people on Twitter are enjoying Heller on Twitter, I certainly think people will enjoy journalists on Twitter. Our research at BeatBlogging.Org indicates that journalists can get a lot of value out of social media. The best advice is to go where your audience is, and people are flocking to social media.