“It’s not a tiger shark.”
“How do you know that?”
-- An exchange in the completely ridiculous “Sharknado,” a SyFy movie and overnight cultural sensation where sharks attack not in the water, but in tornados.
While sharks may be appearing in a less dramatic and more realistic way than in “Sharknado,” Discovery’s 26th annual Shark Week returns this weekend. And in a bigger way than ever before.
Last year the week brought in 21.4 million viewers and doubled the number of tweets from 2011 with over 1.6 million. It also accounted for 35% of all cable social activity, meaning more than a third of the week’s social chatter about TV was dedicated to Shark Week. Honestly, I’m surprised it wasn’t 100% -- what else is there to talk about during Shark Week besides Shark Week?
The 2013 week long adventure shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s already creating more buzz than ever before. Discovery’s senior director of development and production, Michael Sorensen, says, “The way we consume media is changing at such a rapid pace that people are embracing ‘Shark Week’ in a bigger way.”
Sorensen, you nailed it. No one could’ve said it better. Society’s hunger for social media is changing television into social television with much more interaction between the show and the audience. TV shows are no longer simple entertainment, they are cultural phenomenons.
Shark week also holds a fear of the unknown. People are both intrigued and terrified by sharks, they don’t understand the sharp-toothed sea creatures so they turn to the entertaining yet informative week dedicated to them.
This appeal combined with our culture’s social involvement in television has morphed Shark Week from a few days of shark shows into the ultimate social brand.
It is unlike anything else on TV, and I don’t mean because people feed sharks from surf boards (although that is mind-blowing). Shark Week is an incredible combination of education, entertainment and support all at once.
As Sorensen said, the way people are using media has allowed Discovery to bring new entertainment to this year’s epic week.
Snuffy the Seal is a new addition to the Shark Week tradition. Discovery launched a campaign starring Snuffy, an adorable seal who is not quite as excited about sharks as everyone else. As testimony of his concerns, Snuffy recently tweeted, “For those of you tweeting that you’re literally dying for #SharkWeek to get here. Um, that hits a little close to home.”
With the tagline “It’s a bad week to be a seal,” you can imagine what happens to poor Snuffy in the humorous three-video series. Backed by t-shirts and tweets, some people have become #TeamSnuffy while others remain #TeamShark. But, regardless of which species you support, Snuffy has kept everyone #TeamSharkWeek.
Prompted by television’s social conversation, both a late night talk show and an underwater Google Hangout will also air this year. The talk show “Shark After Dark” will feature experts to answer audience questions and discuss what’s trending on social media. The aquatic hangout, hosted at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, is an opportunity for shark experts and fish junkies to discuss their favorite sea creatures using #SharkWeekHangout. Who’s up for a swim in a virtual shark tank?
This may all seem very entertaining -- and it is -- but it’s also educational and supports a good cause, which makes Sharks Week that much better. Discovery uses Shark Week to draw attention to the rising threats against sharks and their environment by partnering with brands who fight these threats. A new partner this year is One World One Ocean, a multi‐platform media campaign that harnesses the power of film, television and new media to generate greater global awareness of the ocean’s importance to society. A returning Shark Week partner is Oceana, the largest international non-profit solely dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Toms is even selling limited edition Shark Week shoes where 5$ from each pair goes to Oceana.
But that’s what makes Shark Week so incredibly unique (and AWESOME). Discovery knows how to draw people in, and they use that popularity as a platform to generate more research, which leads to further education and more content for Shark Week -- ultimately creating a multi-purpose, beneficial cycle. And, hello, social is an invaluable added bonus that only further propels the cycle.
Well done, Discovery.
Now, enjoy your week-long celebration of all things Jaws related brought to you by the ultimate social brand (in my opinion). Wish Snuffy luck and get your floaties ready -- Shark Week has arrived.
Author: Piper Donnelly is our Summer Editor, Word-Smith and Communications Connoisseur here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/8473489765/