When actor Michael Cera got his hair blown out by Jersey Shore's DJ Pauly D in a cross-promotional effort for Cera's new film, "Youth in Revolt," it was a new high for MTV's hit reality show.
The show's basic premise is similar to over 20 preceding seasons in MTV's Real World franchise, yet Snooki, Vinny and the rest of the gang have reached an unprecedented level of cultural saturation. According to Nielsen, 1.4 million viewers tuned in to the premiere on December 4. And numbers have steadily risen since then, culminating in 3.6 million viewers tuning in on January 14.
That's thanks in part to MTV's efforts to harness organic buzz and create branded content. The company has launched a Twitter integration, exclusive online videos, and is preparing new features such as a character generator and an iPhone app.
Twitter Tracker aggregates the main themes of conversation on Twitter about a certain topic -- like the show itself and each of the characters -- and provides a visual representation of the volume of activity.
MTV worked with social media monitoring firm Radian6 to develop Twitter Tracker for its Jersey Shore site (pictured). Rob Begg, director of business development for the media and entertainment industries at Radian6, said the platform extends the exposure and reach of fan created content.
"You and I may follow each other and see our Jersey Shore tweets, but there's a whole other world of people out there," Begg said. "[Twitter Tracker] gives a sense of a different dynamic -- which character is being talked about the most, what are the subject lines that are catching people's attention."
Michael Scogin, VP of wireless at MTV, said, "Instead of just reading a feed of tweets about the show, it's a way of showing it in a really visual way."
Jersey Shore isn't the first MTV show to experiment with Twitter Tracker. Radian6 has also developed the application for MTV's Video Music Awards, its European Music Awards and "It's On with Alexa Chung." Begg says that's because these are shows that have either elements of surprise or something controversial that people want to talk about.
But there's a lot more where Twitter Tracker came from. MTV recently launched a Shoutout Soundboard that contains audio clips of one-liners like, "I will cut your hair while you're sleeping!" in order to capitalize upon popular turns of phrase.
And Scogin says MTV plans to launch a Jersey Shore character creator in which viewers can choose a hairstyle, clothes and accessories to "basically build (themselves) as a character from the show." He expects it to be available online this week and as an iPhone app in about a month.
Leveraging Online Viewing
The Jersey Shore Web site also contains full episodes as well as sneak peeks, photo galleries and "Jersey Shore: After Hours," a video in which cast mates are interviewed about recent episodes.
Lori Dicker, CEO of social media marketing agency Karma Media Labs, notes that part of MTV's genius is that it has made it very easy to watch Jersey Shore online as well as to access related content. "Those who hadn't been watching the show all of a sudden are hearing about it everywhere," she said. "There is new awareness and ease of finding content, which, in turn, drives viewership."
Many online conversations have been about Jersey Shore's myriad controversies -- from allegations of racism to depictions of violence and even the promotion of tanning. This has driven offline media coverage by newspapers, magazines and late night talk shows.
What's more, Dicker says much of the coverage has taken place in venues that don't typically reach MTV's viewing audience, such as MTV Programming President Tony DiSanto's defense of Jersey Shore in a Dec. 19 post on the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog.
MTV has proven adept at leveraging its controversial reality show for online buzz. In one episode, when Snooki was punched in the face by a man at a bar, MTV teased the scene in promo spots but later chose not to broadcast it. In the Speakeasy post, DiSanto called the punch "a very disturbing image." But the uncensored video on YouTube has been viewed over two million times.
Most castmates also have their own Twitter handles, which allow them to promote both the show and themselves. MTV, in turn, can do exactly same thing with its own handle and blogs.
Dicker notes the castmates were not strong on Twitter initially, but have played catch-up since then. The Situation and DJ Pauly D, for example, have about 42,000 followers and Snooki boasts about 70,000.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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