Pope’s Gladiators Stand Together in the Sun… or Twitter

On Thursday, September 25 is when my season-long misery that is being a Shonda Rhimes fan begins. Between Greys Anatomy, Scandal, and now How to Get Away With Murder (which let’s face it, hasn’t even aired and I’m already addicted), this blog post should quite honestly be titled, ‘Three Reasons I’ll Be Crying Under My Desk for the Next Eighteen Weeks.’ While I prepare for the agony that is trying to figure out if Olivia and the President will ever be together, I began to wonder – how does social media, specifically Twitter, play into the success of a show, and how should networks approach their social strategies moving forward?


The days of viewers rushing home for their favorite programs so they don’t have to dodge coworkers and loved ones in an attempt to avoid spoilers are disappearing. In the emergence of, what I call, luxury streaming, networks have become a ‘hit it and quit it’ medium. Network shows currently gaining significant amounts of social traction are themed reality shows that capture their audiences through inspirational or love storylines. Out of the top ten most tweeted about shows, only four were basic network shows (The Bachelor, Scandal, The Voice, and Dancing with the Stars – in that order).

Three of the four shows earned viewers because the purpose of their programing demands real-time interaction through voting by the viewers, or the viewers’ need to champion a particular person or relationship. Making the only scripted show, Scandal, stand out. Although Scandals predecessor, Greys Anatomy, resigned it’s principle cast for another two seasons with no sign of stopping, Scandal gains the most social chatter simply because requires the actors to life-tweet during each show.


This interaction between the cast of characters and their fans accelerates relevancy, retention, and overall excitement. We are once again dodging friends and loved ones because not only did Olivia Pope not make it back from Wonderland (if you get it, we can be friends), but Kerry Washington (@kerrywashington) is interacting with relevant show tweets. Even Twitter has jumped on the Scandal bandwagon admiring the show’s use of Washington’s interaction with the show’s Twitter handle (@ScandalABC) to inspire viewers’ excitement and propel viewership week over week.


The show’s main twitter handle creates content through custom imagery tailored for fans of the show and teasing behind the scenes content centered on a few hand-picked hashtags (#ScandalRecruitment, #HandleIt, and #Scandal for season three). Each hashtag is tailored to fit the specific knowledge of the viewers, with certain season three teaser campaign tweets garnering more than 10,000 tweets in one day. The network teasers for the show work from the outside in, pushing out commercials during each episode advertising the Twitter party.

All of these efforts combined, the show has generated more than 2,200 tweets a minute and five worldwide trending topics. As for ratings, the show holds strong with a current audience size of about 8.9 million with potential to grow in its upcoming fourth season through the online, at home ability to catchup using easy streaming video distribution platform like the ABC.com or Netflix. To further highlight the momentum of the casts’ importance for the show, Washington gained 16,000 followers in one hour after live-tweeting season three’s premiere.

Scandal has proven that Twitter equals relevancy, and more importantly, continued viewership. In a world where there is a shortage of people who actually know their favorite shows’ air dates, Scandal and ABC has successfully utilized social media in order to reclaim engaged viewers on Thursday nights through Shonda Rhimes’ and her writers brilliant plot twist in 140 characters or less.


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