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CW’s teen vamps take the social media crown from ‘American Idol’

Quick! What’s the most talked about television show on social media? If you answered “Downton Abbey,” then clearly you and I run in the same social network circles, but that’s not the right answer. Neither is any of the top-rated shows on the big broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX. Nope: The television show that successfully took over Twitter and other social media over the last week is the CW’s supernatural soap opera “The Vampire Diaries.”

According to Trendrr.TV, a company that tracks what it describes as “social TV” – i.e., the amount of online chatter about a particular show – the television series based on the young adult novel series managed to dominate social media between Jan 21 and 27, thanks to the CW putting particular emphasis on the interactivity of those involved in the show’s creation. In addition to traditional social media push for last Thursday’s episode, “Catch Me If You Can,” the CW ran a live Twitter commentary/question-and-answer session with the show’s cast (including stars Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, and Nina Dobrev) and the show’s showrunner, executive producer and co-creator Julie Plec during the episode itself. Followers were able to catch on by tweet with a special hashtag #TVDparty. The hashtag made it to Twitter’s Top 10 Trending Topics at multiple times that Thursday evening.

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Overall, the network boasted in a press release on Tuesday, “The Vampire Diaries generated 865,000 mentions on social media for the week, besting traditional social media favorites “American Idol,” “Glee,” “The Simpsons,” and “Family Guy,” despite only getting a small fraction of their on-air audience (In comparison, TVD got 2.71 million viewers for Thursday’s episode while the episode of “American Idol” that aired simultaneously on Fox got 15.65 million).

With networks increasingly looking to leverage social media as a way to track viewers’ engagement with shows – especially now that Nielsen announced plans to use Twitter to track show popularities – this kind of social media outreach is likely to become increasingly common. It’s even more so for”bubble” series looking to demonstrate to advertisers that, despite ratings that could be seen as low in comparison with other series, they’re making the right connections with the right viewers.

The CW is far from the first network to try and mobilize social media and Twitter to demonstrate the relevance of its shows. Fox’s on-screen graphics continually suggest hashtags people should use while tweeting about the show during each episode. However, the success of CW’s TVD push suggests that it may be the most successful; what remains to be seen is whether the show’s social success from last week is a repeatable phenomenon. And if so, will Twitter duties will become part of the regular job for a show’s cast and crew as the television industry gets used to people watching while glued to a second screen?

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