WWE's stories don't end in the ring.
Adapting to the ever-increasing infusion of technology and society, WWE has found a way to enrich its own narratives through social media. Superstars talk trash on Twitter. Viral videos showcase elements of their personalities and characters that fans don't get to see on TV.
For WWE, social media isn't just a buzzworthy bandwagon to hop onto, but instead a vehicle to add layers to its product.
Consider the action fans see on the air as the main text and the aftermath captured on social media the epilogue. It's certainly not necessary to dig through a Twitter timeline or open videos on Tout to understand why one Superstar hates another, but it adds to the fun.
WWE has made social media its beast of burden and a venue for character development.
Getting to Know the Gladiators
Twitter has turned out to be the most apt format for this madman to drag us into his sinister world. He's used it to build the hype of his debut, introduce himself to fans and leave an impression on the audience beyond what he's done between the ropes.
Wyatt tweeted messages that echoed the rants we saw in the vignettes that aired in the weeks before his arrival.
He announced his arrival before WWE did so on the air.
Time to remove the veil..... Forget everything you thought was real. Next week it begins. #FollowTheBuzzards— Bray Wyatt (@WWEBrayWyatt) July 1, 2013
Sometimes he unnerved us just for the fun of it.
For those inferior: Underneath the Buzzards you will find death, decay, survival, absolution. A complete circle, think about it........— Bray Wyatt (@WWEBrayWyatt) July 16, 2013
Wyatt is a prime example of how deeply fans can understand a character in a short time. Though he has only been on the air briefly and though he and his "brothers" Erick Rowan and Luke Harper are new arrivals to the WWE stage, Twitter has allowed him to establish a bond with the audience and haunt us on a visceral level.
Others have created that bond as well. Fans who follow Antonio Cesaro or Zeb Colter experience those characters beyond what happens on WWE TV.
Cesaro's recent shift into a self-proclaimed "better American than you" has been reinforced by his tweets. It's with this medium that he adds to the xenophobia and self-righteousness of his character, allowing his persona to seep into the audience's mind beyond the airtime he gets each week.
He offers his thoughts on customer service in the United States.
How can you hire people in the customer service industry who don’t speak the language. More of a disservice to the customer it would seem— Antonio Cesaro (@AntonioCesaro) July 17, 2013
Interactions with fans are chances to showcase his character as well.
Tensions, insults and deprecation are of course not reserved for the fans. WWE's rivals clash verbally via Twitter on a regular basis.
Twitter Trash Talk
WWE, famous for rivals smack-talking each other armed with catchphrases, has managed to transfer that to the world of Twitter.
Superstars carry on the tradition of swagger that Gorgeous George and Muhammad Ali pioneered. Their boasts now travel by way of the Web to millions of fans.
The Rock told folks where he planned to put his boots before his comeback match at Survivor Series 2011.
Last fall, CM Punk and John Cena's feud spilled into Twitter when Punk called Cena out. Cena and Punk had fought to a draw at Night of Champions and Cena wondered for the world to see what would have happened had he not just come off elbow surgery.
@JohnCena I got the same surgery you did in 2010 and I ran 8 miles the next day. Stop whining. Did you tear your hammy too? #304— CM Punk (@CMPunk) September 18, 2012
Even dance-offs are subject to trash talk.
WWE has found a means in which to add hype to matches beyond its video packages and televised face-to-face showdowns. Twitter has turned into a battleground for rivals outside of the ring, a place where millions of followers can watch a feud continue to play out.
In addition to Twitter, WWE has turned various video sites into the stage where Superstars rant after a match or where the heat of a rivalry travels once the cameras go off.
Video Bonuses, Evolution
WWE was heavy-handed early on in its promotion of its partnership with Tout, but it has since scaled that back and allowed that video site to be a reliable place for bonus material.
Scrolling through WWE's Tout channel, one will see videos of Fandango complaining about the officiating in his match with Christian on WWE Main Event, The Funkdactlys gloating about Naomi's victory over Brie Bella and Cody Rhodes' reaction to his best friend betraying him at Money in the Bank.
This is an extra narrative layer to these stories for the insatiable fan who is hooked into the world of social media.
Tout CEO Michael Downing, per Mashable.com, was right on when he said that WWE is "masterful in keeping fans engaged and Tout is the ideal vehicle to keeping people engaged in real time." These videos are quick and easy additions to the WWE experience. They allow fans to snack on WWE in between shows.
One can hear The Usos talk trash before a big bout.
WWE let fans watch Dolph Ziggler struggle with disappointment after losing his World title match against Alberto Del Rio at Money in the Bank.
Feeding our appetite for instant gratification and tapping into a young demographic, WWE has succeeded at integrating social media into an industry that pre-dates television. This move may unsettle old-school fans, but WWE is proving unafraid to charge toward the future and is doing a fine job of manipulating social media to benefit itself.
WWE continues to evolve.
Rather than stay stuck trying only to emulate tradition, the biggest sports entertainment company in the world has embraced change. WWE has cut a path into the unknown wilds that is social media and keeps pressing on, adapting and growing mid-journey.