Last April I noticed Fox displaying hashtags on the screen of some its shows to promote tweeting.  Since then, this practice has continued, and I have noticed similar instances on other networks and shows.

Up until now, from what I’ve seen, Fox has mainly displayed the show’s name as the hashtag (#Glee or #Fringe, for instance), but starting last week, Fox started displaying episode-specific Fringe hashtags – noted by influential showbiz publication Variety.  #WhereYouBelong  was displayed for last week’s episode “A Short Story About Love” while #ChangeYourWorld  will be displayed for tonight’s episode,  “Nothing As It Seems.”

While some people suspect that this is a hat tip to the show’s fan base, I surmise that it is also a social media experiment for the network.  If it is not, it should be, and Fringe is a great show to experiment with for several reasons:

  • As a cult sci-fi TV show, its rabid fan base is comprised of people who are likely to use the Internet to express their loyalty to the show.  This includes: fan blogs, a Wikipedia-like site (as noted by Wired), shipping web videos (videos comprised of scenes from the show set to music – many of which are about actual and fan desired romantic relationships between characters), and participation in other online forums.
  • The fan base has responded well to efforts by an internal Fox Fringe fan boy and champion, Ari Margolis, who has reached out to fans with great response.
  • Fan sites like Fringenuity spark, promote, and track social media activity.
    • Here’s an interesting tidbit about the #WhereYouBelong campaign for last week’s episode: “We’ve increased the number of contributing tweeters by nearly 10K since our #LoveIsTheAnswer campaign [conducted on February 24, 2012]. The tweets contribution overwhelmingly came from the collective fandom as opposed to a few core contributors.”
  • There are previous successful fan-driven Twitter trending events.
  • The show’s future on the network is in a precarious state as the ratings are not great.  Thus, the fans feel a need to give the show as much love as possible to increase the chances of the show’s renewal – even if the boys over at TV by the Numbers feel that such efforts do little to sway network decisions.

Twitter is not new, and members of the mass American TV watching populace have had awareness of it for a couple of years.  However, like any form of media, harnessing social media is (or are since “media” are plural) a continuing process.  Regardless if Fox started using episode-specific hashtags as a premeditated experiment or not, the network folks should see if this increases fan involvement and connection to the network as this would increase loyalty and could boost ratings. My questions from last April are still valid:

Further, what is Fox expecting from more Twitter activity?  Does Fox hope that greater buzz will attract more viewers to its shows?  Is it planning to sell “sponsored” tweets from one of its official Twitter accounts during the conversation of an episode that is currently airing?

Disclaimer: I’m a Fringe fan and have participated in some of these social media campaigns.  I also appreciate Fox for giving us such a great TV show and hope that the show can continue.