“Sing me a song of a lass that is gone. Say, could that lass be I?”
That lass from the Outlander Main Title Theme is I. I’m gone. Aye, I’ve turned into a total fangirl of the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon and the TV show on Starz as well. I started a fan Tumblr. I follow the drivers of the cast on Twitter. I’m listening to my “Outlander Inspired” playlist on Spotify as I write this.
How did this happen?! It all started with a Facebook ad featuring a braw highlander that showed a few friends liked the page. I decided to read the first book and was hooked. Part of what has kept me hooked on the book series and TV show is social media. It feeds the addiction.
Let’s have a wee bit o’ fun and take a look at what the Outlander franchise is doing well, where they could use some help and how ye can apply it to your business.
Editor’s Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the world of Outlander, our heroine Claire Randall is on a second honeymoon in Inverness, Scotland in 1946. While visiting a circle of standing stones, Claire is whisked back to 1743. Some general mayhem ensues, but that allows Claire to meet both the bad guy, Black Jack Randall, and the hero of our story, Jamie Fraser. In the spirit of the setting and time period, words like, “ye,” “laird,” and “stramash” will be tossed around a bit, ye ken (that means you know)?
Castle Leoch: Fortifying Your Social Media Home
There’s nothing more important in your social media plan than having a strong home on the web—your website. On social media, you are a tenant farmer paying rent to the Laird, but on your website you are the Laird. Ye own the land, can build your castle and gather yer clan in the Great Hall.
Outlander’s website is a microsite that is part of the Starz.com domain. They offer a wide variety of quality content to engage with their fans. You can watch videos, listen to Podcasts, learn about the cast and crew and download images. And then there’s the Outlander Community section. This is where they do a verra fine job of offering engaging content that is constantly changing and refreshing, giving fans a reason to go back. It’s where I took quizzes to find out that yes, I do belong in 1740s Scotland, and yes, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser is my ideal man. Was there really any doubt?
Business Lesson: Be the Laird. Own your space on the web and give people a reason to return to your site through the use of engaging content.
Both Sides Now: The “Official” & Individual Social Accounts
Having polished business accounts alone for your social media often doesn’t cut it. People like to do business with people, not brands and want to engage with the people who make up the business. Or, as Kevan Lee of Buffer said, “A business feels personal not when it speaks like a person but when it reflects the persons that make up the business.”
Outlander has brand accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I enjoy following the “official” brand accounts, but as a fan, what I enjoy even more are the individual accounts of the producers, writers, costume designer, actors and even the aforementioned drivers. I canna help but get excited when I see pictures from behind the scenes. Even if it’s something as simple as a picture of Diana Gabaldon’s boots in the mud, a selfie from @DavieHollywood in his car waiting on the actors or Matt Roberts’ picture of the day on Twitter.
— Matthew B. Roberts (@TheMattBRoberts) February 2, 2016
Ninety-nine percent of the time, they don’t actually show the set or give any sneak peek of what the next season is going to look like, but they give me a connection to the people that make up the brand.
Companies often try to force their employees to become brand advocates on social media with lackluster results. The consumer can see through the forced and polished nature of the posts. You can tell that Outlander isn’t forcing the cast, crew, etc., to be active on social media, nor are they going the other way and dissuading these people from posting.
Business Lesson: Find the employees with a passion and interest in social media to represent you online, even if they’re not part of the marketing department.
Whether you’re looking for someone to manage your business profiles, or you want employees to become brand advocates, look for the people who enjoy using social media and are passionate about the topic. It will show in your results. Some people just don’t enjoy social media, and others may do better with one network over another, depending on their personality. If you force the employee to become active on a network where they’re not comfortable, they will resent it, and that will show in their posts.
I found this quote from an interview with Herself (Diana Gabaldon) that I think illustrates this point:
“I was on Compuserve’s literary forum in 1985, so the social media has just more or less grown up around me, as new bits and technologies came along, I’ve just picked out the bits that were useful to me. Tumblr, Pinterest, they don’t really offer me anything so to speak, so I don’t do them. I do Twitter because it’s good for getting out quick messages to people, and collecting the fans if you need to rally them for something. Facebook, I love to stay in touch with people, I have a website which is sadly neglected, but I need to move my stuff from Facebook to there as well so that the website is more of a repository or an archive of information.”
If she was forced to use Pinterest or Tumblr, even though they would fit her demographic, the results would most likely resemble those of the failed Jacobite Cause at the Battle of Culloden. The most successful social media accounts are those where you can feel the passion, enjoyment and personality of the person running the account. It’s difficult to show passion for something you don’t like to do.
The Gathering: Fans & User-Generated Content
The first Outlander book was published in 1991, with seven more in the series published before the TV show hit the airwaves. Diana Gabaldon already had a strong and verra devoted fan base that was ready and waiting for the show. As the show gained popularity, the fan base exploded, and so did the content they were creating. There are countless fan-based Facebook groups, blogs, Tumblrs, Twitter accounts, etc.
When people talk about a business on social media, too often the business either doesn’t know what to do with what people are saying, doesn’t realize that people are talking about them or they are terrified that it’s going to turn into some PR nightmare (like a flogging in the courtyard of Wentworth Prison).
Business Lesson: Conversations are happening regarding your business online, and it’s best to embrace them.
A quick search on Tumblr for Outlander will show ye a plethora of content created by fans.
The conversations are happening and there’s no way you can control them, so it’s best to embrace them. Outlander has embraced the passionate fan community, and that fan community comes out in full force to support the show when voting for awards, helping the causes the actors support and spreading show news. Again, just like the cast and crew’s social accounts engage fans more with the brand, so does the fan community. (So much so that one day a certain fan finds herself contemplating the purchase of an Outlander kilt for her husband and a trip to Scotland. Wonder who that could be?)
One way Starz has embraced the fan community is through the Outlander Community section of the show’s website that I touched on previously. It integrates a social feed that includes fan posts from Twitter, Instagram, select fan blogs and Facebook pages. They know that the more fans talk about their show, the more viewers they will gain, and the more merchandise they will sell.
Your vocal supporters are some of your best allies, not the enemy.
The Reckoning: It’s Not All Smoldering Eyes & Kilts
But let’s have a little smolder and kilt first.
OK, that’s better. Sigh.
As much as I adore the books, the show and its social media, there are a few spots where I think they miss the mark. Also, vocal fans aren’t always posting smoldering eyes and kilts; they can also be the most critical.
Outlander’s official Facebook account leaves me a little disappointed. I enjoy the highly-polished photos, videos and content they share, but I want to see more. More behind the scenes shots, more real-time content, more live streams with the cast. I don’t care if everything they share is always super-polished, it feels like everything they’re sharing is staged.
Business Lesson: What you share on social media doesn’t always need to be polished. Your audience will love real-time, on-the-fly content.
Tumblr. Many of the show’s fans are active on Tumblr, but Outlander doesn’t have an official Tumblr account. I’m a big proponent of not spreading yourself too thin with accounts on every network. However, I’m also a big proponent of knowing where your audience is active and joining them there. The vast amount of content being created and shared on Tumblr should be a signal to Outlander‘s marketing team that they need to be engaging there as well. Not to mention the fact that they are already creating media-rich content for other networks that could be repurposed for use on Tumblr.
Business Lesson: Don’t spread yourself thin on social media, but make sure you’re engaging where your audience is engaged.
A vocal audience can be a great asset when they’re positive; think smoldering-eyes-and-kilt posts. But what about when that audience channels Captain Randall and flogs your business in the courtyard? This is something your business has to be prepared for.
Most of the negative feedback I’ve seen for Outlander comes when they announce a new cast member or a scene in the show isn’t exactly like the book. Book adaptations are no easy feat, and it can be difficult to please devoted book fans. The long-anticipated casting of Brianna, the daughter of Outlander‘s two main characters Jamie and Claire, was recently announced putting an end to #BreeWatch. Brianna, according to the books, has blue eyes, red hair and verra strongly resembles her father.
— Outlander (@Outlander_Starz) January 28, 2016
Sophie Skelton has naturally brown hair, brown eyes, and doesna bear a strong resemblance to Sam Heughan, who plays her father. This news did not sit well with some members of the Outlander clan.
There are many times like this when the brand doesna need to get involved in the stramash; the other members of the clan will come to your defense and put the person in their place. It’s time to sit back and let the followers police each other. However, if someone has a specific and legitimate product complaint that needs servicing, it’s best to take the message offline or handle it through private messages. And other times, when a comment is so blatantly absurd, it’s best not to fan the flames at all and ignore it.
While watching some of these negative comments fly regarding the casting of Brianna’s character, it’s been interesting to see how Diana Gabaldon has responded to these on her Facebook page.
Diana is very blunt in her responses and doesn’t hold back. Hmm, I wonder where Claire gets it from? While I personally love her responses, and they amuse me, not everyone does. I’ve read other blog posts and forums by people who initially loved the books but have been turned off by Diana’s comments on social media and online forums.
While I respect the fact that in this PC world she doesn’t hold back in her comments, Diana has sold millions of copies of her books and doesn’t need to worry as much about the possible PR ramifications. Not everyone can get away with that. If the people behind your brand are representing you on social media, you need to have a plan in place on how to handle negative comments. Depending on the brand, you may be able to get away with blunt comments like Diana; however, most businesses can’t.
Business Lesson: Have a plan in place on how to handle negative comments on social media including when to respond and how to respond.
The Watch: Creatively Applying Big Brand Tactics
Sure, you can say it’s easier for an entertainment brand on social media. And in many ways that’s absolutely true. Some industries just naturally fit with social media, but there are many things we can learn from big brands and, with a little creativity, apply to the industries we work in. Engaging website content for an industrial manufacturer may not be a 1700’s survival quiz, but what kind of interactive quiz could a manufacturer make? Maybe it’s a test of knowledge on lean manufacturing principles?
Take a look at your favorite TV shows, entertainers, sports teams, businesses. What are they doing that engages you? How can you creatively apply that to your business and audience?
Mo charaids, leave us a comment with the big brands you love to follow and engage with on social media.
*The featured image for this post was inspired by one of my favorite Outlander fan accounts, Poplander.