Online fandoms are now the popular media equivalent of the tech world’s early adopters. If you can get people to start blogging and tweeting about your TV show or movie, half the work is already done.
The good news is, your social media campaign doesn’t even need to be all that subtle. If you say that you’ll release the new Divergent trailer after a thousand retweets, a thousand fans will retweet you, cheerfully aware that they’re own Twitter feeds are being used for advertising purposes. Even fast food joints are trying to build their own fandoms, with Denny’s currently in the lead thanks to their inexplicably cool Tumblr presence.
Inevitably, there’s now a lucrative market for social media consultants who can engineer online fandoms from scratch, with the fans as willing participants in the deal. It’s an “if you build it, they will come,” kind of situation. Fans want to show support for their favorite TV show or movie, even if they’re completely aware that it’s a cynical marketing ploy. In the era of Facebook communication, you are what you Like.
In a recent episode of PBS documentary series Frontline, Douglas Rushkoff took a look at various social media fandoms from the ground up. With YouTube star Tyler Oakley at the most organic end of the popularity scale and the Hunger Games movies as the most professionally cultivated example, all of those fandoms had one thing in common: a desire to feel closer to your idols, even if the most tangible sign of that relationship is a retweet.