The ways in which organizations use social media to feed their audience is not much different than the varied ways in which zookeepers feed the animals in their care. In the petting zoo, the hens are looking for whatever food they can get. At the other end of the spectrum, feeding the lions takes a specific set of rules, to keep everyone safe and happy with the care provided.
Smaller organizations are closer to their audiences, and stricter guidelines, much like feeding a lion, need to be in place to protect the organization and the audience. Jerry’s Artarama, a national art supply chain, uses its Facebook page to interact with a relatively small audience. In contrast, the following of HBO’s Facebook page for the television show Game of Thrones is enormous, an audience of hens ready to be fed whatever they can get. Each organization approaches their social media differently, leading to the question of what companies should do with social media to effectively engage their customers.
Jerry’s Artarama is a small, nationwide art supply chain, with an informative Facebook page. While most of the chain’s 17 retail stores have their own, localized Facebook page, the corporation has an overall national Facebook page with nearly 202,000 likes. The national Facebook page offers a community to artists, featuring live and recorded technique videos, featured artists of the day, news and commentary about the art world, and upcoming national events for artists both online and in their retail stores. Many of their posts have hundreds of likes and comments, with a vibrant, engaged following.
As an art supply store, having an engaged following requires a social media technique where both expert and novice artists are present, and a commitment from the organization to interact with followers. Companies that interact regularly with followers of their social media profiles give the perception of higher quality, friendliness, and trust2. In a competitive market such as art supplies, with internet sales giants like Dick Blick Art Supply, and larger, brick and mortar art chains like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s, Jerry’s Artarama needs to have a social media profile that exudes trust and quality. Engaging with their followers, and keeping with polite and informative customer service, are strong, necessary ideals for Jerry’s Artarama to be seen in a good light.
To be seen in a good light sometimes requires working through conflicts in honest ways, with solid customer service, and Jerry’s Artarama does a good job of working through conflicts. Those conflicts are inevitable when followers range from new artists who have never held a brush, to professionals who have specific needs. Providing a consistent message is important, and Jerry’s Artarama typically posts cheerful and helpful updates overall. In one interaction after a video on March 7, the social media manager for Jerry’s Artarama had a conflict with a new artist who felt her question was skipped during a video. The conflict was answered successfully, with the representative from Artarama explaining the situation, and apologizing for the confusion. For a smaller organization like Jerry’s Artarama to succeed, calm, rational, and friendly customer service is like feeding the lion, carefully helping out while trying not to take the wrong step. A good discussion can turn a conflict into an informative conversation, keeping the follower and possibly encouraging them to shop with Jerry’s Artarama.
HBO and Game of Thrones
Smaller organizations like Jerry’s Artarama spend much of their time working from within the community, but in larger organizations like HBO it is often the message alone that gets sent. With tens of millions of followers, the techniques used on a Facebook page change due to sheer volume. In the case of a popular television network, and especially with an audience starving for up-to-the-moment information, followers are often the hens.
On March 9, 2017, the Facebook page for HBO’s immensely popular Game of Thrones held a Facebook Live video event. HBO broadcast live video of the season release date set in a massive block of ice, promising to increase the fires aimed at the melting ice, thus revealing the date, if their followers reshared the video. The cult of Game of Thrones followers complied, with 3.4 million views, over 19,000 shares, and 198,500 comments. When the date was finally revealed, Adweek1 reported that more than 162,000 people were concurrently watching the video, and HBO then released the full trailer on its Facebook page. The trailer was viewed over 37 million times, with 608,000 shares, a huge success for their Facebook page. Fans of the series have been anxious to see a trailer for a long time, and offering up the trailer and release date with some spectacle fed fully into fans excitement.
Unlike Jerry’s Artarama, HBO and the television series feed into a different customer base, one that exists in fandom and speaks to millions at a time. The approach to answer a few questions when you have a couple of hundred comments makes sense, but when your audience is leaving nearly 200,000 comments on a single Facebook update, it becomes a much different animal. Observation of the Game of Thrones Facebook page between March 7, 2017, and March 11, 2017, revealed that representatives of HBO’s social media team did not interact at a commentary level during that time, but instead released new updates each time something needed to be said. With the sheer volume of traffic, that may be the simplest way not only to pass information to a crowd, but to avoid a misstep along the way.
The Facebook Live broadcast of the Game of Thrones reveal did run into serious issues, and people on social media were quick to comment on the problems. CNN3 noted that it took nearly 70 minutes for the ice to melt, with two of the video feeds failing after only 15 minutes at a time. With such a huge following for the show, internet comments about the failures were inevitable, including “And the ice block melting video just ended with a cut to black! Very Sopranos, HBO” (Twitter, James Hibberd, @JamesHibberd, March 9, 2017). With so many still watching the reveal at the end, HBO was able to keep the broadcast from becoming a disaster by seeing it through, and making further social media updates.
HBO was relying on the cult-like popularity of Game of Thrones to keep the issues from causing a disaster, and the large following may have helped. People use television viewing and social media to try to fit in with larger communities, and social media provides a method for co-viewing shows4. Followers of a community like the Game of Thrones page connect with others who have similar needs, especially of belonging and fitting in with the correct group4. Running the HBO social media becomes less about constant interaction and more about putting the right content on at the right time, and keeping the community happy. Instead of engagement between the page and the community, the community is designed to engage with itself, even when things might not seem to be going well.
The ways in which organizations use social media can vary based on the nature of the organization, and are important to get right. Smaller organizations, closer to their audiences, need stricter guidelines to protect the organization and the audience. In contrast, the massive following of a popular television show is ready to be fed whatever they can get. Each organization approaches their social media differently, each with uniquely effective ways to engage their customers.
- Adweek. (7 Mar., 2017). HBO made fans watch ice melt for 69 minutes. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/tv-video/hbo-made-fans-watch-ice-melt-for-69-minutes-to-find-out-when-season-7-of-game-of-thrones-premieres/
- Calefato, F., Lanubile, F., & Novielli, N. (2015). The role of social media in affective trust building in customer-supplier relationships. Electronic Commerce Research, 15(4), 453-482. doi:10.1007/s10660-015-9194-3
- CNN. (9 Mar., 2017). Game of thrones. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/09/entertainment/game-of-thrones/
- Cohen, E. L., & Lancaster, A. L. (2014). Individual differences in in-person and social media television coviewing: The role of emotional contagion, need to belong, and coviewing orientation. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 17(8), 512-518. doi:10.1089/cyber.2013.0484
- Artarama Facebook. (n.d.). National facebook page. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/JerrysArtarama/
- Jerry’s Artarama. (n.d.). Jerry’s local art supply and materials retail store locations. Retrieved from http://www.jerrysartarama.com/retail/store-index
- HBO. (n.d.). Game of thrones facebook page. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/GameOfThrones/