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Bringing Fiction To Social Feeds: How to Create In-Character Social Media Campaigns That Work

Taylor Panconi, Associate Director of Strategy, GLOW Social & Digital Agency

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Social media was designed for people to connect with each other. While it has evolved to become a vital tool in a brand’s marketing arsenal, the principle still stands that people would rather engage with another person and not just a brand. In my experience leading creative social strategy for today’s biggest brands, the common theme I see is that people like interacting with someone who has a name and a personality. With the consumption of media on the rise due in part to the results of the pandemic coupled with the ongoing streaming wars, we are seeing a great interest from audiences to connect with their favorite movie and show characters.


By taking on-screen characters that audiences know and love, and bringing them to life through social media, audiences are able to engage in a uniquely effective way. With examples like the Instagram account @wednesdayaddams from Netflix’s Wednesday and Ted Lasso’s Instagram @TedLasso, fans are interacting with these social accounts as if those characters were real.


Whether they were live-tweeting during an award show or “toasting” internet fans, these accounts brought characters we see on screen to life and made them an even bigger part of our daily lives. Other entertainment brands have dipped their toes in the in-character social media game with activations like the @meetM3gan Fan DM campaign and the Shameless “Group Chat” Community stunt to huge results.


Creating in-world social campaigns can prove effective for brand and audience engagement, even beyond entertainment, but diving into this space requires careful planning and consideration to ensure an activation feels both entertaining and authentic, yet still serves the classic KPI of viewership. Here are three key considerations/criteria that social strategists should consider when developing in-world social campaigns.




Unique Character vs. Unique Circumstances

The value of creating in-world social accounts lies in the ability to extend the world of a series or film. It’s important to keep in mind that the world created for the character may not need further expansion, which could take away from what makes the persona so compelling. Another consideration is whether the fictional personality being brought to life via social media has an inherently unique persona that can bring something new to users’ feeds, or if that persona is somewhat ordinary but is experiencing unique circumstances. The former is a recipe for success, but the latter will get old quickly.


Let me explain - in the case of Ted Lasso, Ted’s unwavering kindness coupled with his quirky pop culture zingers make for a wholly unique voice that can breathe new life into any real-life conversation. If within the series the character of Ted had been a more “typical” sports coach interacting within atypical circumstances, his take on the real world might have been more commonplace and therefore an X account from his POV wouldn’t have felt like such an irresistible standout.


Ensemble vs. Single Led Series

Sometimes the magic of a story is in the winning combination of the characters together, so when a character is pulled out of those dynamics that it exists in with others, that character loses some of its sparkle. When considering an in-world activation, it's important to reflect on whether the voice being brought into the real world is wholly interesting on its own, or if its intrigue is dependent on the setup provided by the voices around it. Let’s think about another smash hit comedy series from the last few years, ‘Abbott Elementary’, and picture the popular character Janine with an Instagram account. While Janine’s optimistic and somewhat naive personality could make for some fun content, the true draw of that series emanates from the way all the teachers interact with each other. Janine’s passion is made all the more entertaining when it's foiled by the hardness of the show’s veteran teacher characters, Melissa and Barbara. With a social account just for Janine, fans would lose that compelling combination that makes her voice as entertaining as it is.


True In-World Character vs. Self-Aware Character

While the above two considerations are about clear criteria on whether a persona has the legs to make an engaging in world activation, this last consideration is about honing in and committing to a specific direction: in-world vs. self-aware. An in-world character brings users into a story while a self-aware character is ejected from their story into the real world.


In-world characters can be really fun for users who are looking to immerse themselves in their favorite story, however they require a huge commitment to the bit which establishes harsh limitations. Using @TedLasso’s feed again as an example, he doesn’t post any traditional tune-in for the series, classic promo spots, or even high-quality unit photography. Ted wouldn’t have these kinds of assets for his personal use, and posting them to his account would take users out of the world. Instead, he shares lots of iPhone photos, selfies, and text-only posts that feel consistent with the typical content of a real social media user.


Alternatively, if you take a look at @wednesdayaddams’s feed, you’ll see a character that understands she is a part of a TV series. Therefore, she can post classic promotional materials and tell fans to go watch her in the latest episode. Both of these approaches work really well but serve different marketing purposes, so it's important to identify goals when deciding if a character should be truly in-world or self-aware.


Looking Ahead

As entertainment productions and releases slow with the ongoing SAG and WGA strikes*, it may be some time before the right character in the right film/series emerges for another winning in-world social media activation, but the above considerations can be useful for brands outside of entertainment. Brands can apply these same learnings to create their own brand character or persona or to create brand storytelling content. We’re already seeing this take shape with brands like Duolingo and their Duo the Owl character, which has had such success as the social personality looking to help people learn a new language. Personifying brands with the considerations listed above can result in the creation of captivating content that combines authenticity and entertainment seamlessly.


*As of 9/25 the WGA has reached an agreement with major studios.


 


About Taylor Panconi

Taylor Panconi is an Associate Director of Social Media at GLOW. In her time at GLOW, she’s managed an array of digital campaigns for entertainment clients, including Shameless, From, Godfather of Harlem, Jackass Forever, and the Westminster Dog Show. With a focus on fan service, Taylor has helped activate on innovative content that captures attention across all social platforms. Prior to joining GLOW, Taylor worked at Lionsgate Entertainment on marketing campaigns for John Wick, A Simple Favor, The Spy Who Dumped Me, and more. Whether the project involves someone being shot from a cannon or dogs barking up a storm, she drives results with her triple Capricorn energy.











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