Since WWE Raw 1000, audiences have been treated with torrents of references to Tout and Twitter. Superstars like John Cena and CM Punk have utilised Twitter and Tout for storyline purposes. Almost every WWE Superstar now uses Twitter.
The two-edged nature of the new strategy amply demonstrated itself during JTG and Abraham Washington's episodes.
WWE’s focus on social media marketing has become a subject of huge debate in recent times.
In the IWC, the response to social media is almost universally negative. It was natural since Raw 1000 was overkill, and the heavy use of social media outlets hampered the show profoundly.
Gradually, WWE is getting a grip on this matter. The focus on these outlets has declined, and it has become selective.
It is, therefore, an apt moment to analyse a necessary evil that social media is. There is sound logic behind WWE’s use of these ways. The strategy is well-received by the marketing experts, as well.
It is important that fans have a glimpse at this business, too.
This article aims to do just that, as we discuss multiple dimensions of the relationship between WWE and social media.
Before we move on to analyse the strategy of WWE, we have to understand what exactly it is doing. WWE's social media strategy aims to enhance the second screen experience of the audience. Following is the Wikipedia definition of this phenomenon:
Second Screen is a term that refers to an additional electronic device (e.g. tablet, smartphone) that allows a television audience to interact with the content they are consuming, such as TV shows, movies, music, or video games, extra data is displayed on a portable device synchronized with the content being viewed on television
To put it simply, in second screen experience, the viewer becomes a part of the process. The viewer has a voice that would be heard. This is something immensely significant. In an act of utter lameness, I am going to quote myself from an older article to further accentuate this point.
It is the fans and their reactions that make up for the third dimension of this art (pro wrestling). Along with medium of the art (wrestling) and an artiste (wrestlers), it is the audience that creates the experience of art. Few pro wrestlers in the ring can create one great spectacle, but it only becomes an experience when people watch it and feel it.
Therefore, given such a nature of pro wrestling, the use of social media marketing becomes a natural step forward. This innovation remains true to the core value of the business, which is listening to what the fans are saying. And innovation, as they say, is a necessary evil.
WWE is not just a wrestling promotion. It is a billion-dollar conglomerate, which employs hundreds of people. It is a huge brand.
Therefore, unlike other promotions, it has to keep innovating to keep the brand image afresh, and it is something Vince McMahon excels at. McMahon has built this empire by remaining in touch with society.
In the 21st century, the biggest development in the society is technological. The advent of social media and the emergence of tablets and smartphones have changed the equations drastically. It has erased geographical boundaries and the limitations that come with them.
WWE, by going all interactive, is expanding horizons beyond our imaginations. The following statistics put a lot into perspective (via technewsdaily.com, August 27, 2012)
In USA, currently there are 99 million smartphone users and 51 million tablets users (USA Today, July 31, 2012).
The global number of smartphone users is 640 million.
Thanks to social media and applications, WWE is able to reach out to a major portion of its audience. It also allows the company to communicate with the fans across the globe, which ultimately creates a global marketplace for the company.
This strategy serves three essential purposes.
CM Punk, during Chicago Comic Con, noted that Twitter and social media in general has brought WWE Superstars a lot closer to their fans.
A fan today has a unique opportunity of talking to his or her favorite wrestler. Fans get a sneak peek into the lives of wrestlers and their relationships with each other.
Such a scope for the interaction has several benefits. It enables Superstars to keep track of reactions they are getting. There are cases like Zack Ryder, where a Superstar created his own identity through it. Wrestlers can test waters for character development, something that CM Punk recently did.
The company itself gets a massive communication outlet. It is way easier to create a buzz through this media. One cryptic tweet or a Tout video can send millions in frenzy, and the production value of this move is next to nothing.
This factor is taken to the next level at times, when the company has used social media to create and further stories.
When the reality era began, it was accompanied by the arrival of social media in WWE programming. Its scope and extent were little vague at that time. Now it is much clearer.
In the last 16 months, we have seen one entire feud being played out on Twitter. The limitations that were imposed by the part-time schedule of The Rock were eliminated thanks to Twitter. It allowed John Cena and Rock to keep their verbal duel going on.
However, the bigger impact of social media has been on the blend of reality and kayfabe. Over the course of last year, WWE has added reality to the storylines on incremental basis.
Superstars and their usage of social media have added another dimension to it. We have seen how Chris Jericho trolled fans, and how then claimed to be a true heel. We have seen how CM Punk foreshadowed his heel turn with a few tweets. It has reached to a point now where fans find it hard to distinguish between reality and kayfabe.
The third utility of the social media allows WWE to assay this extent. Social media essentially is…
Market intelligence is at the heart of company growth strategies. Worldwide, organisations spend billions on carrying out surveys to gauge the customer interest and to gain customer insight.
In case of the WWE, social media brings it stupendous amount of precious information at paltry cost. WWE is able to assess the popularity of Superstars, shows and storylines. It allows WWE to identify potential sources of controversies and to curb them down before it gets out of hands.
Secondly, a sustained success of any venture depends upon the continuous knowledge management, which in a nutshell is monitoring, evaluating and channelizing the information. Social media carries out all these three functions for the company.
However, on the other side of this coin, there are cases like AW’s or JTG’s outbursts. These incidences show the challenges that social media presents. It is, in the end, a double-edged sword. It will create information, but it will give out some, too. WWE has to find a way to manage this particular front.
What we are witnessing right now is the initial stage of this evolution. WWE is yet to realise the full potential and scope of the strategy.
However, one has to admit that WWE is a pioneer in this field when it comes to either sports or the entertainment industry. It is light years ahead of the other companies. When other brands like NFL are still struggling to cope with social media marketing, WWE is performing a blitzkrieg out there.
This strategy is an extension of the historical strength of the company, which is its proximity with fans. It is a logical step for the company that has perhaps fully tapped its domestic market and needs to know the global consumer better.
The only issue is that WWE ought to discover a proper way to utilise the resource it has. Instead of thumping it on the fans, it has to find a way to integrate the fan into the programming more effectively. It has to make this intelligence the core strength of its programming.
This is where the real opportunity lies.
Pro wrestling is an interactive experience, where every clap, every gasp and every chant of “this is awesome” has a power to dictate the action in the ring. Its very nature is deeply rooted in the psychology of fans. WWE has an opportunity to explore this dimension to the fullest.
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Social media is a necessary evil, and if anything is certain, then it is that we still have not seen its full prowess.
It is going to be an interesting period as we march ahead. We will see some blunders, some gaffes and some absolute magnificent moves. No one can predict the turn of this tide at this point, although its general direction is known.
This article was a humble attempt to explore what exactly WWE is doing with social media, and the whys behind it. What this article has managed to do is only to scratch a surface. Therefore, if you, as a reader, have anything to add, then please feel free to do so.
Thank you very much for your read and your time.