How to Air a Reality TV Show Exclusively on Social Media


Summer Break” is the first reality TV show ever to be released exclusively on social channels. All production, marketing and distribution were managed in real time as the show was being tweeted, shared and viewed. Alec McNayr, co-founder and Principal at McBeard Media, chatted with us about “Summer Break.” His team was hired by The Chernin Group to create original content to support the video experience and amplify the cast’s social messages. This is their story.

Young people live on social media. Whether it’s updating their status, uploading Instagram pics or watching videos on YouTube, these young viewers are a key demographic, so The Chernin Group decided to target this group where they’re most active. “Summer Break” aired entirely on social media. The story, told over 10 weeks across Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and YouTube, followed the lives of eight Los Angeles teens in their last summer together before college.

While fans are used to following the daily lives of their favorite celebrities, releasing entire storylines and thickening plots exclusively on social media is a completely unique viewing experience and turns the idea of what a reality show can be on its head.

Crafting Content Based on Audience Behaviour

From an audience’s perspective, an online show is ideal. It’s non-committal, but there’s always something new when fans refresh their streams. From a production standpoint, this innovative format removes the traditional multi-month lag in most production and distribution cycles. The series can also be readjusted and calibrated in real time based on analytics of which characters and events resonate the most with the audience.

On the other hand, compressing months of production and marketing into 10 weeks of live streaming is a major undertaking. From managing eight potentially rogue teens with mobile access to publishing videos, images and tweets on-the-fly to millions of followers, to monitoring a fully engaged real time audience across multiple social networks – you get the gist. Not to mention publishing up-to-date, engaging social content without spoiler-alerts to capture and hold the audience’s diverting attention. Without a robust social relationships platform to manage the production, the show could’ve been a logistical disaster.

How did The Chernin Group successfully launch a reality TV show entirely across social media?

“The show itself was experimental; it had literally never been done before in this way,” said Alec McNayr of McBeard Media. “It was a constant testing ground to see what worked and what needed to be cut. From tweets to graphics to length of video episodes — all were tested in order to build the largest fan base and audience for the show — all while the show was actually running.”

Using Social Media to Produce, Distribute and Market a Reality TV Show

“Social media — or pass-along WOM marketing — was the primary driver of awareness and audience growth for the show. Social media was the marketing and the show itself — the two were inseparable.”

The show’s social media strategy was to create a constant stream of curated and original content that flowed through all of their major social channels to build a content experience so rich that it seemed “as if created by a real person” in the young demographic. This social content was partnered with daily premium videos to help build out the characters and storyline.

With an eight-person staff monitoring the content flow and eight young cast members sharing rich media via mobile, team coordination and communication was essential for smooth production. “All of the cast members used their HootSuite Mobile Apps to share live updates. HootSuite gave our team the dashboard tools to monitor and moderate their updates 20/7 — not for content, as the cast was free to post in their own voice — but for profanity and brand-appropriateness. We also tracked mentions of the show handles in real time and used them to engage with our audience and amplify their RTs,” said Alec.

“Aside from heavy daily engagement with our audience, there was a consistent publicity push and a sequence of coordinated, targeted media buys on Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube.”

Measuring Results and Adapting On-The-Fly

Running a successful social campaign as comprehensive as a reality TV show requires extensive analytic reporting. Their social team was able to track outcomes and report results in real time and manipulate their content accordingly.

“We constantly pulled data from a variety of sources — including HootSuite to get a good grasp on our fan sentiment and manage the volume of feedback. In particular, we poured over the results of tweets — why some received more RTs or more Favorites than others and how far tweets traveled.”

Thank you McBeard Media for chatting with us!

Airing a reality TV show entirely on social media requires a robust social relationships platform. That’s why “Summer Break” turned to HootSuite. Using HootSuite Mobile App for their cast on-the-go and our powerful dashboard features such as analytics, scheduler, keyword searches and Team permissions, their team on the ground was able to execute a unique experience for their young audience.

Try HootSuite Pro for 30 days and put the power of social media to work for you.