Rachel Berry claims to the audience as she vigorously types away at her gold star-decorated laptop, “I try to post a MySpace video every day, just to keep my talent alive and growing.” In reality, Rachel’s social networking counterpart doesn’t post everyday to her MySpace, Twitter, or Facebook pages, although when she does, the same post usually can be found across her networked world. Rachel is not alone in her social networking meta-verse for Glee; the characters Finn Hudson, Quinn Fabray, and even Sue Sylvester, among others, all regularly post to these same social networking sites. Their posts range from humorous comments in line with their characters to clips and previews for upcoming episodes of Glee.
From the beginning, social networking sites were seen as a key marketing vehicle for the program. In an April 2009 article for Television Week, Joe Earley, the executive vice president in charge of marketing for Fox, claimed that he would be “deepening engagements with characters from the show over the summer, working with social networks.” The pilot aired after the season finale of American Idol in May and discussion of the episode quickly became ubiquitous on social networking sites. The pilot was re-aired in September as a tweet-peat; that is, it featured a scrolling bar on the bottom with comments and questions submitted by fans via Twitter as well as responses from key creative personnel. Within 24 hours of the airing of Glee’s last episode before its months-long hiatus in December 2009, it logged nearly 80,000 tweets. And announced recently, the show is now promoting an open casting call through MySpace to fill roles for the show’s second season, a synergistic masterstroke since both Fox and MySpace are part of the same media conglomerate, News Corp.
Given the young demographic that the show regularly attracts, it is hardly surprising that the characters— and, by extension, the show’s marketers—have migrated into social networking sites to interact with these same viewers, viewers who typically spend hours daily online. While Rachel’s hectic schedule may not leave her any time to date, she realizes the importance of using these communication venues as a way to seek fame. Whatever it may do for her talent, her MySpace profile does allow for her fame to grow, measured by the number of fans following her across her social networking profiles (nearly 46,000 fans on Facebook and just over 40,000 followers on Twitter as of April 4, 2010).
While the tweet-peat strategy was largely criticized for making the episode difficult to watch, it is a clear indication of how marketers as well as network executives envision the future of television: trackable marketing data in the guise of additional content and interactivity. Ultimately, Glee’s omnipresence on social networking sites is a sign of the ongoing transition to social TV. Several venues all carrying the same Rachel tweet, “I’m confident that at some point, I’m going to be huge in Japan,” means she won’t be the only one having to clear her schedule for her MySpace work. As fans of the program following all of the characters’ social network profiles, we will too.