An inside look at how Fox used Tumblr to grow ‘The Following’

By Natan Edelsburg 

The Following, Fox’s new thriller starring Kevin Bacon has taken an extremely unique approach to leveraging social TV. It has built a strong social TV following (pun intended) that plays up the name and themes of the show across one of the fastest growing social platforms, Tumblr. We interviewed  Robin Benty Fox’s senior director of current programming and digital scripted brands about the show’s social TV strategy.

The show, which was renewedfor season two has it’s season one finale tonight.

Lost Remote: Why did you launch a Tumblr for the show?
Robin Benty: Tumblr was one of the easiest places to base a multiplatform storyworld that could also include fan interaction. The content was created primarily to be visual, which worked perfectly in the Tumblr space and with that community. Since the storyline focused on the “followers” of this serial killer Joe Carroll, the way the content scrolls down the Tumblr page was a good device to lay out these deliberate, but often chaotic characters we concocted.

LR: Did you work with anyone at Tumblr to do this, if so who?
RB: We did this without them at launch. But once we were up and running, we brought it to the attention of David Hayes, who is Tumblr’s “Entertainment Evangelist” — which could not be a more fitting title. David was thrilled with how we were using their platform, both from a business standpoint and from a creative perspective. Tumblr went out of their way to provide insight on how we could improve not only design and navigation, but also how we could best reach fans and new viewers.

LR: How does it make the show more social?
RB: Animated gifs are a big part of this multiplatform storytelling, and Tumblr is the destination to showcase those animations. Yet it’s the way fans share and post our content on their own pages is what makes it worth doing. Some of their pages are even all about The Following. We then used plotlines in the show to ask questions — Who is this unnamed person we’ve been exploring for months on Tumblr? The fans were quickly able to answer because they got to learn the show characters’ backstories in the digital space. We just posted a secret URL that intimated it was how the followers would contact new recruits. The emails we received ranged from “Dear Joe, I am a friend” to “I have no idea what I’m doing but I love the Following” to “Hi Joe.” And then some emails try to flatter Joe with Edgar Allen Poe content. That’s the kind of interaction we’re always looking to develop with viewers, who want to have fun engaging with the TV show they’re watching.

Also, since the content was a great extension of the show, we included Warner Bros Television, who offered this site and content to its channels worldwide. We have the globe tune-in graphic on the Tumblr to be inclusive to fans around the globe.

LR: Were any of the actors involved?
RB: The actors weren’t involved in creating the storyline, but we were amazed to learn that they discovered it organically like other fans of the show. We saw them tweet about it on their own personal pages, which makes for a fun little marketing loop!

LR: What’s the social TV strategy behind the show?
RB: Since the show is serialized, we’ve built a strong strategy around real-time engagement with our fanbase. Using the types of content fed through the Tumblr and other platforms, we’ve been able to build a robust social storyline and conversation with fans in real-time while the show is on. This provides payoff for live viewership.

LR: Where can we find and follow you on social?
Shockcam  (Character Twitter that we hired show writers to script) 

LR: Anything else?
RB: The Tumblr — like the official site, Twitter, Facebook, character tweets, etc. — is part of a digital 360 experience. We grab the fans where they are and create content that’s geared to speak to them in the best tone suited for that platform. We’re all about leveraging the fans’ reactions in real-time and bringing that content into the overall fold of our messaging. For example, our weekly #ShockCam call-to-action has users post their shocked reactions to each episode, which we then capture in one place at It’s a two-way conversation and experience.