Q&A: How SciFi Channel Twittered Its Way to 3,000 Fans

Social networking is quickly evolving as a powerful marketing tool for brand managers, though the math is still fuzzy when it comes to metrics, monetization and explaining to the chief financial officer why you have a social network like Twitter in the first place. SciFi Channel saw past some of these challenges and activated a Twitter site in July, several weeks before the third season premiere of Eureka, an original series set in a fictional town inhabited by geniuses. SciFi Channel’s ad agency, Fallon, Minneapolis, discovered that Twitter users were talking about the show, and enlisted one of Eureka’s characters, S.A.R.A.H., to talk to fans. S.A.R.A.H., which stands for Self Activated Residential Automated Habitat, is an artificially intelligent physical house that is able to communicate. As of Sept. 23, Twitteer.com/S.A.R.A.H. garnered 3,210 fans. Fallon’s planning director, Aki Spicer, recently talked with Brandweek senior reporter Mike Beirne about whether the Twitter experience has produced any marketing eureka moments.

Brandweek: What are the objectives for the Eureka/Twitter site?
Aki Spicer: There are two objectives. One is to participate in a social network that is growing and trying to find a role in that whole area. Another aspect is promote the show in a way that is engaging and gives value back to viewers. What led us to this result is these are fans of a show who want nothing more than to talk to their favorite characters on the show. So we’re trying to have a conversation with fans.

BW: Who is actually writing on the site?
AS: SciFi is very involved in it. A lot of it is queuing up content and queuing up episodes that don’t exactly fit in an hour-long episode. So SciFi writers are very involved in shaping the content, and we are involved in making sure the voice [of S.A.R.A.H.] stays true. We’re keeping track of the conversation and trying to peel out what people are giving us feedback on from product placements to depth of characters on the show. We’re trying to decipher meaning along the way. I’m not going to lie to you. This is an experiment. We’re all trying to figure it out.

BW: Why wouldn’t blogging be enough?
AS: Two things. Twitter is right for our customer in a couple ways. The show is openly ‘geek.’ We suspected that many of our viewers would be ahead with participating in this medium. So before we even jumped in, we did an extensive sweep of Twitter to harvest conversations around the show. We found there were thousands of conversations that already existed.

Another pattern we saw is with TV shows in general, there are many fake characters already out there engaged and participating