Currently in the midst of its IndieGoGo crowd funding campaign (see link below), the new supernatural web series SOCIAL MEDIUM follows the exploits of Beatrix (played by series executive producer Tara Jayn), a young woman who’s gifted with an extraordinary set of psychic powers. In fact, those powers allow her to solve unusual paranormal mysteries; unexplained phenomena that takes place within the vast world of the Internet.
As an extension of its primary episodic content (distributed in the ever-popular first person “vlog” format), SOCIAL MEDIUM implements unique transmedia content that both extends the show’s storytelling universe beyond the brief videos posted on its Youtube page (see link below).
Through character-based Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook pages, plus partnerships with popular apps like Yelp and Waze – who become a remarkable part of the mysteries depicted in several of the show’s episodes – SOCIAL MEDIUM’s approach to transmedia content may be unlike any ever tried by a web series.
While interviewing her about the series itself, I talked to Jayn about exactly how she conceived and employed SOCIAL MEDIUM’s transmedia content. In this interview, she also discusses how that content will benefit both viewers and her production team, and gives her personal advice for web series creators who want to add those elements to their shows.
In what ways did you implement and develop the transmedia elements in SOCIAL MEDIUM?
When we started, we did the basics. We got Facebook accounts and Twitter accounts for each of the characters, and for the show. Beatrix, Fallon and Zola all tweet to each other and post Facebook updates to each other. As we developed the show, we started a blog for Beatrix while she was in San Francisco.
We added her to Tinder. We started playing around with Tumblr, Vine and Instagram (to name a few) to fully understand how each of those sites work, and how we could weave them into the show. Now that we are working on the first season, we have a pretty good grasp on what makes each of the social media sites so great, and how we can utilize them more.
How were you able to involve Yelp and Waze in the series itself, and how has their involvement benefitted the show?
We knew pretty early on that using actual real online entities and personas was going to be important for the show. I really didn’t want to make up a fake name for Yelp and hope you got the joke.
We also wanted to bend the rules of reality and possibly confuse a few people, maybe Beatrix is a real person. Maybe not. More importantly, you feel like she’s a friend. It’s been interesting being friends and working with Brian on the show and only having met online.
We can have these relationship with people we’ve never actually met, and yet, still feel that honest connection. By “bend reality”, we’re hoping to create that for the audience. Specifically with Yelp, Beatrix has a Yelp account, and you can read her reviews on real local businesses. So far, she’s only written one for CVT Soft Serve, but expect that to change.
The episodes that involve Yelp and Waze have those apps at the forefront. They are practically a character in the show. They’re as much a victim of the haunting or demonic possession as the character using the app. We are so grateful to have them both on board, and those episodes are fantastic.
In what ways will the transmedia aspects of SOCIAL MEDIUM benefit viewers, and your creative team?
The way I’ve been describing it to people is this: You can watch GAME OF THRONES and love it, (plus you can) totally understand what’s happening and be a big fan. But then, you can watch and read GAME OF THRONES and understand it in a much deeper way. I mean, if you have no idea who Jon Snow’s parents are yet, just read the books. It’s all there in the subtext.
Basically, you can watch SOCIAL MEDIUM’s upcoming season just on Youtube and totally understand and enjoy it. But if you connect with the show on other platforms, you’ll get inside information, (along with) a deeper understanding of what’s happening, and you’ll feel more connected with the characters.
We certainly aren’t the grand sweeping epic that George R.R. Martin has created, but there’s always more to the story. You can even tweet to them and ask them what they think, and they’ll respond. And I think that’s fun. I think it’s so exciting when your favorite characters acknowledge you in that way. I know every time BoJack Horseman tweets to me, I get a little thrill.
For the creative team it just gives us more places to play. When we cut a joke from the script for time, we can find another place to use it. It’s no longer lost to the cutting room floor. And it’s given us all this really fun challenge. Even our Director of Photography, Wey Wang, has gotten in on the act and is looking for ways to play with the medium.
From your experience working with transmedia on SOCIAL MEDIUM, what tips do you have for web series creators who seek to implement such features into their content?
First off, full disclosure; I’m a baby in the transmedia world. You want to hear the real deal? Talk to that genius, Jenni Powell. My God, what a force! I admire her so. That said, my advice is: do it. It can be a great deal of work, but if you stay organized, it’s so worth it.
I love checking the Twitter accounts and writing back to the fans, in and out of character. I even love the negative feedback we’ve gotten (the real negative feedback, not the negative ones we planted.) So far it’s been helpful to making a better show to talk directly to our audience.
I’ll also say, make it organic. Don’t just slap on a Twitter account and expect people to engage. You gotta get on there and develop the online personality, just like developing a character, and reach out to people. And if the transmedia is part of the storytelling, again: make it organic. You gotta ask yourself, why did this end up online? If it’s a secret, why is it online? If it’s embarrassing, how did it make it past the characters?
Why didn’t they just delete it from their phone or computer? Why would they tweet this? We are constantly fighting that battle, and even in the origin story episodes we struggled with making it logically as to why it made it on the Youtube channel and how the other characters interact with it (here’s a trick: we blame the editor a lot).
Are there any other companies involved in the show’s transmedia elements, or will there be?
We are currently talking to other companies, but I have nothing I can confirm at this time. Ha! If any companies are reading this and would like to contact me, we are totally open to it.
Will there be further additions to that content if the IndieGoGo campaign succeeds?
Oh, yes! We’ve got a whole team of media interns working with us now. They are so savvy, smart and big fans of the transmedia style. We’ll be looking for ways to make the show better and to achieve our goals. We could fall flat on our face trying to make this happen, but we are so excited to try something still relatively new and play with the possibilities.
Main series links for SOCIAL MEDIUM:
Links for Beatrix’s content:
Beatrix’s Blog: https://beatrixisbloging.wordpress.com
Beatrix’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.phpid=100005008547914