Six seconds to the future: Continuum uses Vine to engage users

Playback talks to Chris Harris and James Milward about the ongoing online social media campaign for Showcase's Continuum.
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Who knew a six-second video could influence a tale of time travel spanning 55 years? As it turns out, Vine, the social media site that allows  users to create and share six-second videos, has proven to be an inventive strategy to promote Continuum‘s second season and compel fans to influence its outcome.

In April, Shaw Media unveiled Continuum Interactive, a social media campaign for Showcase’s Continuum, which premiered April 21st. The campaign, produced by Secret Location, aimed to leverage the digital space using the video application Vine in convergence with other social media.

The multi-layered initiative lets fans of the show to decide the outcome of the season two finale through sharing and creating original social content.

Six-second web exclusive videos are released onto Vine and showcase.ca/continuum after each new episode of the series, the focus of the videos being to expand the series’ mythology and the pro- and anti-Liber8 conflict within Continuum.

The choice to use Vine as the dominant platform came through creative conversation and happenstance, explain Chris Harris, head of social media at Shaw Media and James Milward, founder and executive producer at interactive agency Secret Location.

Vine launched just as Continuum season 2 started development. With Vine, the new platform fit with aspects of Continuum‘s storyline. The various social media tools were used to expand and enhance the show, versus the creators trying to fit the product to the platform.

“It was quite timely as we were talking about the idea of using micro-video to tell a story and to continue the story-world of Continuum. It really fit what we were trying to do from a campaign execution standpoint,” Harris tells Playback.

But the campaign has not been limited to Vine. Fans have been able to voice their opinions on the videos by sharing them and tweeting @Liber8Now or @1FutureOurWay, posting them on Facebook or creating their own Vine videos in response.

Milward calls Vine, which is owned by Twitter, “the perfect format technically” because it easily allowed crossover and cross-communication with the other social platforms.

Harris continues, “even though Vine is the mechanism from which the videos are released each week, a lot of the engagement and sharing and conversation have really happened on Facebook and Twitter, as well as on Showcase.ca.”

Currently, the show’s Facebook page has over 53,000 likes, while its official Twitter account has over 12,000 followers.

Fan response seems to come overwhelmingly from those two mediums, with 49% of the votes for Liber8Now coming from Twitter and 48% coming from Facebook, while 81% of 1FutureOurWay’s votes come from Twitter and 16% from Facebook. Other methods of discussion and engagement, such as Vine responses, Twitpic and Video responses, comprise 1% each.

Fans are also engaging with the narrative by tweeting @ContinuumSeries with the hashtags. Each hashtag symbolizes a side in the debate, and fans will ultimately influence the outcome of the season 2 finale through that.

A major goal of the campaign was to allow fans to feel like a larger part of the television production progress, which is more difficult for scripted series than it is for reality and unscripted shows.

“Obviously, there’s an element of production that you can’t have control over the narrative because the show is pre-shot,” Harris says, adding that “they have quite a lot of control compared to other programs.”

By limiting the choice that fans could make to two concrete options with definable outcomes, Continuum was able to give fans the appearance of complete control, by simply choosing between two pre-planned, pre-filmed endings depending on which way the voting goes, giving tangible benefits and effects. The production team was able to create two distinct scenarios for the final episode to provide two ends of the spectrum, which Harris and Milward credit to the support of producers.

The producers at Reunion Pictures, including Continuum creator Simon Barry, were “incredibly inventive and generous in terms of how much they were willing to give,” says Harris. “We had amazing support from the production team in Vancouver.”

Harris adds that since the choice is meaningful for the audience, the high-stakes interactive campaign provides a real reason to engage with it.

The strategy made sense for Continuum because of a built-in fan following already online. It was only a matter of “looking at how we use that and leverage that fan base,” says Harris.

The nature of the show’s narrative also was a factor in choosing the campaign. “When you have a romantic comedy it probably doesn’t mean a lot but when you have such a pivotal story twist, it makes for some rich territory to engage in,” says Milward.

Harris notes a “definite growth” in the last few weeks, credited to the storyline becoming less thematic and more character driven with the two opposing sides cleanly defined. “As soon as it was evident that it was a direct tie to character and the choice to be made, we’ve seen more engagement.”

Milward notes that if they were to do it again “we’d also consider other platforms in addition like Instagram” which were unavailable to them at the development stages, but only, as Harris clarifies, “if it fit what we were trying to accomplish from a story and campaign execution.”

Currently, Liber8Now has 120,986 influence points, while 1FutureOutWay has 90,755 influence points. Voting closes at the end of July.

Continuum‘s finale airs Sunday Aug. 4 at 9 p.m. ET.

Image via Secret Location