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Spoiler Etiquette and Social Media

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Last month, anyone who didn’t see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in the first 24 hours ran the risk of having the movie spoiled for them. Movie-goers who weren’t seeing it immediately could steer clear of entertainment sites, but a visit to Twitter or Facebook was like walking a spoiler-filled minefield

There’s always been a delicate balance when it comes to spoilers. In the early days of the internet, film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert clashed over Siskel spoiling the gender-bending twist in the 1992 film “The Crying Game.” By the late-90s, Internet users could count themselves lucky if the twists of flicks like “Fight Club” and “The Sixth Sense” hadn’t been revealed to them before seeing the films.

And that was before social media was an issue. We use it for so many elements of our daily life, and can’t avoid to stop using the various platforms just because we’re afraid someone might post that Chewbacca is Rey’s father (that’s not an accurate spoiler).

How Social Media Has Changed Spoilers

There are some ways to avoid these issues. Some Chrome extensions allow you to filter certain phrases on your Facebook feed, so you can block posts that contain “Star Wars” or “Mr. Robot” or any posts discussing shows for films you want to avoid spoilers for. Unfortunately, if someone posts “Wasn’t it awesome when Han Solo fought Darth Vader’s ghost?” (again, not a real spoiler) without using the phrase “Star Wars,” you’re still out of luck.

Similarly, Tweetdeck allows you to mute tweets with certain phrases under “Settings.” It will be tough to filter out every potential spoiler, but this gives you a good start.

If you want to go big, “Force Block” is like Starkiller base, compared to the previous Death Star-sized options. The Chrome extension will block entire websites that contain “Star Wars” spoilers. Of course, the power to block a website is insignificant compared to the power of the Force.

And “Force Block” will only work on “Star Wars” related spoilers. If you’re hoping to avoid spoilers for “Star Trek,” “Stargate,” “Star Search” or any other films or TV shows, you’ll just have to tread carefully.

Social Media Shifts Viewing Habits

In person conversations about pop culture don’t have such convenient blocking features. A common workplace lunch discussion is what shows everyone has been watching. A co-worker will mention that they’re watching something a show like “Breaking Bad,” prompting halted conversations like this:

  • Co-worker 1: “Wasn’t it great when Gus…”
  • Co-worker 2: “No! I’m only on season 2!”

And then comes the difficult balancing act for the person who has seen the entire show, trying to mentally travel back in time to remember what details they can discuss. That’s assuming someone else at the lunch table doesn’t shut the conversation down because they “have been meaning to get around to watching it.”

Then there’s the Netflix model of posting an entire season at once. This is great for binge watching, but not so great for discussing. Some viewers blow through the entire season in a weekend, while others space their watching of a show out over weeks. All your co-workers might be watching “Making a Murderer” or “Jessica Jones” at the same time, but everyone is on a different episode. By the time everyone in the office is caught up enough to discuss, many are wrapped up in some other show entirely.

Television shows used to have a much shorter shelf life. When there were only a few channels, people in the 70s and 80s could count on all their friends having watched “MASH” or “The Brady Bunch” the night before. The 1983 final episode of “MASH” was watched by almost 106 million viewers, a record not matched until the 2010 Super Bowl.

For the sake of comparison, one of the buzziest and most-watched recent shows is AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” The zombie thriller’s season six debut in October drew 20 million viewers. Additionally, the Facebook page boasts astronomical figures such as 11.5 million monthly interactions on average.

Nielsen has also taken note of the social media craze of discussing what is being watched and now aggregates a Weekly Top 10 which defines the top tweeted about shows on a weekly basis.

Today’s audience is divided thanks to a huge number of options, but it’s also very engaged. An advertiser might have better luck targeting the affluent watchers of a lower-rated show “Mad Men” than they would spending more to advertise on a highly rated show like “The Big Bang Theory.”

At Blue Compass, we understand how to reach the desired consumers in an audience of any size. Contact us today to find out how we can help your business.

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