Twitter is transforming itself into a media company.
It is now in talks with Hollywood producers, TV network executives and major brand advertisers about launching several original Web series via the social network. The commercial target for the series is to create new ad inventory, for both Promoted Tweet advertisements and product integration.
The shows could be hosted on dedicated Twitter Pages or integrated into expanded tweets that users can click on to open up a video player. Not surprisingly, the first series is likely to be a reality format along the lines of MTV’s The Hills.
Crucially, all the Twitter Web series will aim to engage Twitter users by enabling them to participate and to influence the action.
So how can Twitter be integrated with a Web series?
Here are three key principles for successfully integrating social media and Web series. They are based on our analysis of Web TV show formats and our own experience of integrating digital media with a TV soap for Microsoft and ITV, the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster.
1) Co-create the show with viewers
Online sit-com In The Motherhood, starring Leah Remini, had considerable success inviting viewers to contribute their real-life stories of parenting as the basis for the show’s storylines. Co-sponsored by Sprint and Unilever’s Suave, it ran for two seasons online and was popular with busy mothers viewing it whenever they had the time. However, it failed to make an effective transition to broadcast television when the viewer contributions were scaled back.
2) Reach out to the viewers
Twitter has already been extensively integrated into a Web game show for the NBC road-trip competition Escape Routes. Viewers were able to interact with the contestants via Twitter and the show’s contestants could ask viewers for help with specific challenges.
Reality travel show The Gap Year enabled social network members to stay in constant touch with six backpackers and even meet them as they travelled around the world.
3) Make fictional characters and content real
Futurescape consulted for ITV and Microsoft in adapting the soap London Bridge for the Microsoft TV platform. We set up one of the characters with his own blog and an online portfolio for his photographs. Another innovation was delivering fictional content from the show direct to connected TV sets via e-mail, in the form of local newspaper articles. The characters’ relationships were also visualised on TV as a social networking style diagram.
Web drama series The Secret World of Sam King revolved around the main character working at a record label and running his own, secret record label. The main character talked to social network users about the fictitious record label and they were able to help him make decisions via online polls.