Flashpoint, tradecraft

Flashpoint, The Hard 10K: A Case Study

Recently, the Facebook Page of “Flashpoint Team One” surpassed the 10,000th-Like milestone.  This 10K, while seemingly a small amount in the numbers game, is exceedingly valuable.

Screen shot posted by the page owners

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The Numbers Game

In Zuckerbergland, 10,000 Likes is a relative thing.  If you bake and sell cookies out of your basement, 10,000 Likes means you’re probably doing something right.  If you’re trying to be an internet celebrity then 10,000 Likes means you’ve got a long way to go.  Facebook’s own brand page is the current King of Likes with over 54 million.  That’s the present day pinnacle of page likes.  Then, you’ve got the scraps in the heap, like my brand page with a grand total of 20 Likes.

In terms of internationally-watched television shows, the numbers are usually measured in millions for highly-successful shows.  NCIS is at 15 million, The Big Bang Theory is at 21 million (comedies seem to skew higher in numbers), and even off-the-air shows like 24 still get into 7-figure territory (they are at 3 million).  Those are/were long-running hit shows on major networks.

Note that several factors go into this, including demographics and marketing.  However, even so called ratings giants may not garner enormous numbers on Facebook.  American Idol, the so-called monster of reality TV talent competitions, only has 8 million Facebook Likes.  That’s 2 million less than Top Gear, a British show.  By comparison, Fringe, a show which is perennially facing the axe come renewal time and is constantly labeled as ‘struggling in the ratings’ still manages to have almost 3.5 million Likes.  Either way, I’m still talking in the millions, so why does 10,000 Likes mean anything in the big picture?

It matters because of who those 10,000 are and because “Flashpoint Team One” is not your average television show brand page.  I’ll deal with those two points in reverse.

What is Flashpoint Team One?

Before I explain, let me point out how the average Facebook user comes to Like a show page.  The majority of the time, when they first create their account, users are prompted to Like their favourite things.  Later, they may feel compelled to Like the brand page of something which moved them.  In both these cases, users will type the name of the thing they want to Like — crazy, huh?  And, if they did that for Flashpoint, the first thing in the auto-completion routine or search results would be (gasp!) the “Flashpoint” Brand Page.  And that page, which has almost 300,000 Likes is ‘owned’ and operated by CBS.

Now, the ownership side of things is … debatable but, for all intents and purposes, that’s the ‘official’ brand page for Flashpoint because, like it is in terms of URLs (website names), they’ve planted their stake first and so they get the most traffic.  The kicker is, in the United States, Flashpoint moved from CBS to ION Television.  So, they’re not even really operating the page anyway.  For all intents and purposes, it’s just there, soaking up the attention.  Furthermore, by virtue of Facebook’s recommendation mechanics, people who didn’t search for the show but who are still fans, may see the CBS “Flashpoint” page pop up as a recommendation anyway.  And, once they Like that page, they’re really not going to feel compelled to search for additional pages because, by and large, Facebookers (and social media users in general) are one-and-done folk.

To support this, I direct you to the “Flashpoint on CTV” brand page.  The show, which for those who don’t know is Canadian, started in Canada on CTV and still airs on CTV.  It is a ratings success in Canada and CTV heavily supports and promotes it.  Its stars have appeared on a wide range of CTV shows specifically for promoting Flashpoint and, furthermore, the show has won various awards and figures prominently in the television landscape of the entire country.  Its viewership is in the millions in Canada alone.  In fact, aside from Hockey Night in Canada, it’s probably the #1 Canadian-made show in Canada.

The “Flashpoint on CTV” brand page has 7,463 Likes.

It has only that many because of, in large part, those same reasons noted above.  Many of the people who have Liked CBS’ “Flashpoint” brand page are actually Canadians who, at times, still ask scheduling questions about the show airing in Canada … on CTV.  They are completely oblivious to the fact that the “Flashpoint” page they’re on is run by CBS because when they wanted to Like the show’s page, they typed in “Flashpoint”, saw the brand page, and went there without so much as looking further down the list to see “Flashpoint on CTV” which, one would think, would be more relevant to Canadian viewers.

You may be asking, if you don’t already know, if the “Flashpoint” brand page is run by CBS, and “Flashpoint on CTV” is the originating network’s official page, then what is “Flashpoint Team One“?  “Flashpoint Team One” (abbreviated as FPTOne) is actually the brand page run by the producers of the show — y’know, the people who actually make the show in the first place.  If you’re a die-hard fan of the show then that is the place you go to get insider info and updates from the source.  Every other Flashpoint-related destination on the internet, including the aforementioned brand pages run by CBS and CTV, parses and disseminates information specific to their use of the show and how it pertains to their goals.  “Flashpoint Team One” is the only place built by the show so that they may relate directly with their fans.

If You Build It, They Will Come. Probably.

For obvious reasons, FPTOne is not advertised in any traditional media.  CTV isn’t going to advertise it over their own brand page, CBS certainly isn’t going to that now nor would they when they aired it, and all the other broadcasters (including ION) won’t do it either.  It is counterproductive to their own marketing concerns (albeit arguably).  Furthermore, the producers have more important things to do than dedicate a great deal of time and money to promote their Facebook page.  Which is not to say that they don’t  try to make room for it but there’s this whole make the show thing which is of some importance to them.  Yet, the show’s fans from all corners of the world have managed to find their way to FPTOne nonetheless, due to both their willingness to keep searching for all things related to Flashpoint and also because of the existing community’s dedication to drawing more fans to the page.

This is why those 10,000 people are of significant importance to overall success of Flashpoint as a television show: it is filled with die hard fans.

Episode promo graphic by Talita Heckert

Die-hards are also known as fanatics, superfans, and brand ambassadors.  They play an important part in any fandom because they drive the conversation.  They are the ones who fan the flames of appreciation, spread the word, and rally the troops.  They are the ones any television show must encourage because whatever message the show (or its broadcaster) is paying to be heard is multiplied by these people.  They are the ones who engineer grassroots campaigns, buy the merchandise for themselves and friends, and convince new people to become fans.  They are the ones responsible for the inception of things like the letter-writing campaign to bring Star Trek back, or pushing for a movie about Firefly, or keeping One Tree Hill on the air for nine seasons, or supporting a sports team that hasn’t won a championship in too long a time, or phoning in their votes hundreds of times for American Idol, or keeping Fringe alive in the Friday night death-slot, or LOST, or Family Guy, or Doctor Who, or Desperate Housewives, et cetera, at cetera, et cetera.

These are all television shows which either stumbled out of the gate or waned for one reason or another.  The superfans are not the decision-makers (cf. Jericho, Dollhouse, Gilmore Girls, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, All My Children, Angel) but they are influencers.  As brand ambassadors, they turn up the volume when things aren’t going well, and they steer properties towards pop culture.  Whether it’s The Prisoner, Dark Shadows, Arrested Development, Babylon 5, or Community, these are the people who can push a property into the mainstream or, at the very least, help it attain cult status — both of which have a tangible effect on success and revenue.  And the power of brand ambassadors is amplified when they have a place to gather.

Brand Ambassador. Wait, What Is That?

While there are doubtlessly such Flashpoint brand superfans who are still only aware of the “Flashpoint” brand page, the population of “Flashpoint Team One” is comprised of a high percentage of brand ambassadors.  These are the people who reach out to gather more members, who make sure to let the broadcasters know how much they love the show, and who take it upon themselves to amplify the message from the people who make the show.  They will make the time to visit other Flashpoint-centric destinations online and advertise important news (like when the next season starts or when the DVD will be available) and, in short, grow and foster the fan base.  And they’ll do it with no more compensation than simple self-satisfaction, fellowship, and the occasional pat on the back.

So, having 10,000 brand ambassadors for your television show gathered on your brand page (which is hard to find on its own due to the structure of Facebook’s recommendation and search systems) is an accomplishment.  It is something of note because it was done without mass marketing, it was done without being a blockbuster megahit, it was done with one hand tied behind the back, and it was done without any pretense.

Those 10,000 are small in relative number compared to the 300,000 on the ‘official’ show page or millions on the pages of pop culture hits like NCIS or Game of Thrones, but these are not the regular troops.  Like any army, there is great value in large numbers and that cannot be denied.  However, there is also a small percentage of your army who are elite troops and they are vital to the entire army’s success.  This is why “Flashpoint Team One” is appropriately named.

“Team One” refers to a squad in the fictional “SRU” who are the elite officers of the police force.  These 10,000 are not better people (and I could digress for hours on why elitism or entitlement in the hardcore fans is decidely destructive) but they are more dedicated to the cause, better trained, and better equipped than the average viewer.  And, while I know the vast majority of readers will be the choir to whom I’m preaching, I also cite this as a case study for success in creating a community destination for die-hard superfans of an entertainment property.

The vast majority of these enclaves are usually organic in their creation (like Whedonesque or The Babylon Podcast) but it is entirely possible for the creators of the property to carve it out for themselves and to foster community growth without cheesy, plastic “Be a VIP!” initiatives.  Because if there’s one thing a die-hard fan can smell, it’s insincerity.

"The Great Flashpoint Graphic Novelization Experiment" -- by Karla Subero -- is an exhaustive treatment of an entire episode of the show.

Can’t Buy Me Love

So, congratulations, Flashpoint Team One!  You have achieved a relative milestone in a nebulous task and have done so with tact, aplomb, grace, and — above all — sincerity.  Rather fitting, really, considering what you’ve done in making the show itself.

And, congratulations to the Flashpoint Team One denizens, themselves.  You have played no small part in this achievement.  There are those who were there at the start, like Mary “Sarge” Drury, and have built something from nothing; those who create derivative content, like Talita Heckert and AndorianIP; those who provide services, like Kate “Countdown Queen” Evans; those who champion everything Flashpoint, like MCH, John Arnold, and Jaye Cherry; and those who keep us in check when we get overzealous, like Constable Karla Subero.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other people like that.  And, I said “us” and “we” because I’m clearly one of the brand ambassadors myself (although I’m trying to write this from the standpoint of an observer) (no, not that kind of Observer, Fringe fanatics — calm down) (although I do like to shave my head).

However, being in the thick of things and having been granted access to the show’s extended family has afforded me the vantage to be more objective than if I had only seen one side of it.  Sure, this is less of a case study and more of a commentary but the point remains the same.

As a whole, these ten thousand FPTOne people are, by virtue of a strange form of natural selection, the elite corps/core of the show’s fan base and the most saturated collection of brand ambassadors the producers could have ever hoped for.  These ten thousand are qualitatively more valuable than their quantity and any brand would be lucky to have them.  In fact, it is my belief that all brands should try to emulate this community-building approach because, twenty years from now, they are the people who will be buying your retrospective books long after the last new episode was produced.

What’s more, if yours is a television property, they are the ones who will help keep it on the air for as long as it is viable.  Perhaps even allow you to stretch past your television life (Serenity, The X-Files).  They are the gatekeepers of your marketplace.  Marketers may deem them simply billboards on legs but that’s where most marketers fail.  Most originators of creative work recognize the truth: these people are your champions.  They are your admirers, they are your supporters, and they are your friends.

You can’t buy their dedication.  You can only encourage it.

– – – – –

Angelo Barovier is respected observer of pop culture trend among the Society of Jamaican-Born Canadians Named Angelo.  The SJBCNA has named him Chairman for several years running, except 2003 (which was due to an internal power struggle).  He was a latchkey kid and an early-adopter of Babylon 5 and Batman: The Animated Series.  Though troubled by small scandal when it was revealed he was guilty of watching Falcon Crest, the SJBCNA ratified a pardon due to extenuating circumstances (he watched it with his mom).

Angelo Barovier can also be found on Facebook under the pen name of “Angelo Barovier“.

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About Angelo Barovier

I was born. I'll be around for a while. Then I won't.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Flashpoint, The Hard 10K: A Case Study

  1. yup. what HE said.

    Posted by jaye Cherry | April 7, 2012, 6:16 pm
  2. Angelo, this is a very, very nice article that gives a clear analysis on how this fan group came to be. The article also gives a warm appreciation of certain hardworking fans/members of FPTO and also, to all members in general.

    I love this part of the case study, “As a whole, these ten thousand FPTOne people are, by virtue of a strange form of natural selection, the elite corps/core of the show’s fan base and the most saturated collection of brand ambassadors the producers could have ever hoped for.”

    I joined FPTOne on FB 10 months ago, and along the way, I’ve found so many great friends in this group …
    Flashpoint is more than a TV show for entertainment… It’s also like a glue or a magnet that drives people from different places to stick together … to share their talents/efforts/resources in order to fuel a common interest (i.e. Flashpoint) … and to make each day exciting and worthwhile for fellow fans. :-) I’m not from Canada, but there are so many warm, funny, intelligent, and kindhearted people in FPTO that I’ve encountered … some have grown to be my good friends … ☺ to everyone in FPTOne, thank you for everything! ♥♫☺ Congratulations for the 10K + likes.

    Angelo, congratulations for an awesome case study. ☺ thanks for sharing your talent to all of us. hope to see more in the future. ☺☺

    Posted by Marcelle Villegas | April 12, 2012, 11:31 am
    • That’s a very thoughtful comment, Marcelle. Thank you for taking the time to post it. The community is enriched by your genuine enthusiasm. Your voice, like many others, serves as a catalyst which drives the conversation. People like you are needed in order for any online to community to thrive. This has been true since the dawn of the internet and in this current age of public identity it is even more significant. Anyone trying to foster a greater sense of community would do well to remember this.

      Thanks again, Marcelle!

      Posted by Angelo Barovier | April 12, 2012, 12:33 pm

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