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Syfy's Year of Social

  |  December 19, 2011   |  Comments

How the network formerly known as the Sci Fi Channel used Facebook and Twitter to drive engagement in 2011.

Syfy, the NBC network formerly known as the Sci Fi Channel, made a concerted effort this year to reach viewers on social and mobile platforms. An app to promote the first season of a special effects reality competition netted nearly 30,000 unique visitors. Because of its traction, Syfy has revived it for season two. And the network also has plans to bring back other social campaigns using Twitter and Shazam that span multiple screens.

Face Off

The special effects show "Face Off" is a reality competition where special-effects make-up artists compete in challenges like applying full body make-up and creating horror villains. A promotional app, dubbed "Face Off Facebook Challenge," was developed by digital agency Ralph. Syfy has re-released it prior to the premiere of the show's second season on January 11.


In the Challenge, users pick a photo of themselves or a friend; receive a challenge like "Superhero" or "Human/Alien Hybrid"; add eyes, hair, nose, ears, mouth, wounds, make-up and accessories; and can post the new image to their walls or in the Face Off gallery. The target is 18-to-34-year-olds and skews slightly female.

"The beauty of this app is that it is incredibly easy and incredibly addictive," said Dana Ortiz, VP of brand marketing,

Syfy is happy with engagement during season one, when the app had 21,348 total uploads and 29,995 unique visitors. Average time spent was 8 minutes and 37 seconds. Users discovered the app within Facebook through a mix of traffic-driving media and organic pass-along. Eighty-six percent of app users were referred through Facebook, 14 percent through Syfy.com.

This season, Syfy will use a Facebook marketplace buy with "click to app" units to promote the new Face Off app. It will also enable users to manually select challenges and incorporate a timer for added suspense.


Syfy has used Twitter to engage viewers of its scripted programming. In August it created a storyline that flowed between Twitter and the show "Haven." In the story, characters Vince and Dave join Twitter. Viewers who followed their characters saw them interact with a mysterious Twitter user who knows a lot about the town they live in, Haven, as well as the two characters. @VinceHaven has 20,400 followers, @DaveHaven has 19,400, and the mystery tweeter @ColdInHaven has 5,400.

Craig Engler, SVP and GM of Syfy Digital, says the story kicked off in episode 7 and played out on Twitter between episodes 8 and 11. In episode 12, the season finale, the Twitter storyline tied directly back into the show when viewers learned who the mystery character is.

Engler says Syfy chose to tie in Twitter to create buzz and "to experiment with social story telling." The idea was to extend the fictional world of the show into the real world and let viewers interact. In the second season, the main character does not have a Twitter handle, but Engler says Syfy is talking about how to push the concept again.

"We want to again do something that pays off in the show and becomes a part of the show content itself," he says.

Being Human

And, nearly a year ago, Syfy teamed up with mobile discovery provider Shazam to enable viewers to tag its scripted series "Being Human."

Viewers held their smartphones or tablets up to the TV to Shazam specific episodes. Shazam then delivered links to videos, previews, playlists and downloads to their devices. Being Human had 1.9 million total viewers and a total of 116,000 Shazam tags in its first season. Shazam and Syfy previously partnered for TV tagging in the season finales of Warehouse 13 and Eureka.

Ortiz says Syfy used the holiday episodes as a test."Our mobile traffic spiked quite considerably and engagement was high. We wanted to test it on a full season where we could constantly change up the offering from week to week," she said.

Shazam and Syfy also connected fans to new artists and bands on Being Human. The songs were available to identify through Shazam, then downloaded and streamed or purchased through partner sites.


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Lisa Lacy

In addition to ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, Lisa's 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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