Sci Fi Tries Out Twitter

NEW YORK NBC Universal’s Sci Fi Channel is trying out Twitter to build buzz for its new program, Eureka.
 
NBCU shop Fallon has set up a Twitter account in the persona of S.A.R.A.H., an artificially intelligent, talking house that plays a central role in the series. For the past two weeks, S.A.R.A.H. has been behaving like other users of the service, which is a cross between instant messaging and blogging (www.twitter.com/_s_a_r_a_h_).
 
The account is a way to connect with viewers of the show to build greater attachment to the characters, said Mary Duncan, group media director at Fallon in Minneapolis.
 
“It’s a whole different type of relationship we’re building,” she said. “For a loyal viewer, this is us reaching our hand out and saying thank you and giving them a little more.”
 
Twitter use has been growing fast, although it’s audience is still small. According to Quantcast, Twitter.com attracts about 734,000 U.S. visitors. Since many use the site through other applications, the number of users is likely higher.
 
A little over 1,000 users get S.A.R.A.H.’s updates on Twitter. Sci Fi and Fallon will continue updating through the eight episodes of the season.
 
The S.A.R.A.H. Twitter updates, which range from banter with followers to teases of upcoming episodes, are to build a connection with fans of Eureka, which began its third season yesterday. The show chronicles a town of geniuses that work on top-secret government projects. Leading up to the premiere, S.A.R.A.H. dropped hints of things to come, such as mentioning how she was “helping Zoe get ready for work.” The character Zoe’s new job was a plot line in the episode.
 
Fallon suggested the use of Twitter as a way to appeal to tech-savvy early adopters who tend to make up a large portion of the audience for science-fiction programming. To attract a following, the character needed to do more than just promote the show, said Marty Wetherall, senior producer at Fallon.
 
“It just defeats the whole purpose,” he said. “There’s no dialogue and personal relationship there.”
 
Sci Fi and Fallon employees have assumed the voice of the character in posts, interacting with fans and updating from three to seven times per day. In the bio section of S.A.R.A.H.’s Twitter page, it lists “self-actuated residential automated habitat.”

 
Fallon used Twitter’s search service to find users already mentioning the series. S.A.R.A.H. then followed them after she began updating. Sci Fi is promoting the account during episodes with a graphic that periodically appears on the bottom third of the screen, inviting viewers to “follow S.A.R.A.H.” It is also promoting the account on the Eureka Web site.
 
This is not NBC’s first foray into trying Twitter to promote series. It used the service to build buzz for Chuck by setting up an account in the persona of the show’s main character, Chuck Bartowski (www.twitter.com/ChuckBartowski). In addition to using Twitter, NBC created a dating profile, YouTube channel and accounts with several social networking sites for the character.
 
While the efforts are a great way to connect with fans, they require a lot of work for a small reach, noted Christy Wise, senior director of partnership marketing at Fanscape, which worked on the Chuck social media campaign.
 
“The downside to the characters on Twitter is that it’s hard to keep up the Twittering forever,” she wrote in an e-mail. “If a show gets cancelled, the season ends, the interactive agency isn’t working on that particular show anymore [like us], etc., then the poor Twitter sits update-less.”
 
The Chuck Twitter account has been dormant for nine months. Efforts by MTV around its Video Music Awards have also ceased.
 
While the updates are slated to end after the season, Sci Fi executives said they are open to continuing the program. Charlie Craig, executive producer of Eureka, is an avid Twitter user, noted Dana Ortiz, director of marketing at Sci Fi.
 
“It’s something we consider a long-term campaign,” she said.