I’m sure many people reading this blog have seen, heard, or even tweeted about Scandal. The soapy political drama is now in its fifth season and, just like Grey’s Anatomy, will probably be on air for years to come.
But Scandal did not begin life with the popularity the show currently enjoys. The show premiered with a very short, seven-episode first season in April of 2012. Given the pedigree of Shonda Rhimes, the show did not debut with stellar ratings. Certainly, the ratings were not awful, but Grey’s Anatomy, it was not. At least, not at the moment.
ABC employed an aggressive social media marketing campaign, centered around Twitter. The cast of the show would interact with fans directly on Twitter through the hashtag #AskScandal. Using the hashtag, fans could ask the cast questions about the show and the cast would respond accordingly. This was a great way to bolster interest in the show, given that celebrities are not so easily reachable, usually.
That was hardly the extent of Scandal’s social media impact. ABC would create hashtags based around current events in the show every week. For example, a presidential assassination attempt brought #whoshotfitz (a clever riff on “Who Shot J.R.” from the 70s show “Dallas”). Fans of the show were dubbed #Gladiators. Thursdays became #ScandalThursdays. In essence, every Thursday became host to a slew of Scandal related trending topics on Twitter, and the show became the most-talked-about show on Twitter.
And with the increase in social media popularity came actual ratings increases too. The show rose in ratings over the course of its short debut season. And once the show returned in the fall of 2012 with Season 2, it had already become a pop culture phenomenon.
I believe the Scandal campaign is the strongest example of social media boosting a TV show’s popularity in actual ratings. As stated, Scandal started off somewhat weak given the creator’s pedigree. However, through fan support on social media, the show grew to surpass Grey’s Anatomy in ratings. There are no changes that I could think to make, because the campaign was clearly a massive success that resonated with the target audience and brought on new fans.
That said, who’s ready for #ScandalThursdays2016?