It’s old news that Twitter is an outlet through which television viewers can connect with actors and other “real” people attached to their favorite shows. But what if those same Twitter followers could connect with the “unreal” people as well? Until the marketing team for USA Network’s crime drama Covert Affairs unveiled its inaugural “tweetcast” in June, no television series had yet merged those imaginary people into a comprehensive Twitter world for fans to interact with.
Ostensibly an ongoing exchange of direct messages and @replies between such popular Covert Affairs characters as Christopher Gorham’s blind special-ops agent Auggie Anderson and CIA trainee Annie Walker, the tweetcast’s goal was to “create a secondary storyline in a digital storytelling atmosphere,” said Jesse Redniss, VP of digital strategy and development for USA Network.
The six-week campaign was partly inspired by lead actor Gorham, whose compulsive tweeting has earned him more than 50,000 Twitter followers. Occurring on a timeline built into the Covert Affairs website, it revolutionized what a tweet can do, posting images, videos and various “classified documents” culled from the show’s rich, imaginary world. A “Fan Feed” in the corner enabled followers to post their own tweets, ask questions and even suggest plot developments that were considered by the Covert Affairs writing team.
Using a combination of extensive on-air and online promotion via the USA home page, Covert Affairs website and weekly newsletters, fan sites and of course outreach to Gorham’s 50,000-person Twitter army, the tweetcast drew in 30,000 active followers who tuned in for up to 110 new updates per week. Redniss says there is no method yet available for measuring the campaign’s impact on ratings, but taking into account followers’ retweeting and reposting material and their friends and followers entering the storyline, about 2.3 million people experienced the tweetcast in some form.