Commentary

Getting Scandalous To Reach Screenagers

Scripted dramas typically do not to gain audience over time. After the initial mystery of the first season, people tend to lose interest and eventually tune out.

“Scandal,” a show created by Shonda Rhimes, is bucking that trend. After a solid but unspectacular first season, the drama saw a dramatic increase in its social buzz and its ratings in its sophomore 2012-13 season. “Scandal” is this year’s must-tweet TV.

The ABC dramaoffers some insights on how to engage the screenagers, a new generation of multi-tasking consumers who utilize multiple screens and multiple devices at the same time. First coined in the late ’90s and originally referring to teenagers who spend a lot of time at a computer screen, this segment is made up of the youngest members of the Millennial generation—some of whom are now in their 20s.  

The multi-screen generation is both a boon and curse for marketers. You can reach people across more devices, but that doesn’t mean they’re always engaged. But as “Scandal”’s massive 18-49 ratings demonstrate, it is possible to capture the attention of this group and get them to tune in.

From “Scandal”’s successful season, here are some best practices when trying to reach the multi-screen generation: 

1. Be mobile-friendly and embrace different mediums

“Scandal” engages fans on Facebook, Twitter and its mobile-friendly website, but the show also has a solid presence on Pinterest and Instagram. They even post animated GIFS on Tumblr

If you want to reach screenagers, you need to be available where they hang out. That means having content ready on PCs, smartphones and tablets and all the social networks they happen to have in front of them.

Whether telling your stories through blog posts, getting feedback through your insight community or sharing an animated GIF, your content should work with all the available mediums. Making your web assets responsive to mobile and using mobile-friendly platforms ensure that you are not frustrating screenagers when they want to access your content.  

2. Entertain or die

While the 30-second TV spot will continue to have its place in the promotional mix, screenagers appreciate more subtle messages. Audiences expect companies to entertain or inform, not do a “hard sell.”

“Scandal” has mastered the use of bite-sized content, regularly sharing short teaser videos and intriguing images. On its Facebook page, the show posts photos that incorporate “Scandal”ous quotes with dramatic screen grabs. This type of content is much more engaging than the typical “watch our show” message.

3. Your fans are your best brand advocates

Screenagers are savvy consumers and would rather hear directly from other people than from brands. This doesn’t mean your brand shouldn’t participate in the conversation—it just means you also need to get your fans and users to join in.

The cast of Scandal” and its creator live-tweet during the broadcast and participate in #Ask“Scandal,” a weekly Twitter chat about the show. The “Scandal” social buzz isn’t just about being available across multiple platforms: the cast’s participation amplifies the engagement.

Marketers often talk about platforms when talking to screenagers, but it’s also about people. Do you have employees who are screenagers themselves? Are they keen on participating and becoming your brand ambassadors online? This group of people can help spread your message. 

4. Empower your community

Many TV shows (including “Scandal”) now display hashtags and Twitter handles during their broadcast. That’s one way to encourage your community to talk about you, but there are other ways you can empower them to engage.

Give users the tools to be evangelists for your product. Is your content easy to share? Can fans quickly share your latest blog post to different social networks regardless of whether they’re using an iPad or an Android phone?  

5. Give them something to talk about.

Great storytelling transcends mediums. One part thriller, one part soap opera, “Scandal” is both dark and humorous. The show’s outlandish storylines keep fans guessing and wanting more.  

Brands need to do the same thing. Embracing a multi-platform strategy is worthless unless your products and services are worth talking about. Your content should enhance—not distract—from what you have to offer. You need to constantly innovate to continue to get screenagers talking about your brand.

Reaching the multi-screen generation is both easy (because of the many different platforms available) and complex (because of their short attention span). You don’t have to be “Scandal”ous to get the screenagers to pay attention, but with the right tactics, you can certainly engage this group.

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