Spoiler Alert: How Soon is Too Soon?
Major cultural events happen live.
Yes, we live in a PVR/Netflix world, but when it’s important enough, and we just have to see what happens next, we are collectively glued to the live-feed, prioritizing our need to know right now over anything else that might be on our calendars.
That’s true of sports, elections, reality TV, and blockbuster series finales.
Jon Snowboard lives to shred. @GameOfThrones @lordsnow #GameofThroneshttps://t.co/SXuf65Ulhk
— Red Bull (@redbull) April 21, 2016
Not on our watch #JonSnow… PIZZA IS COMING. #GoT #GREATNESS 🍕💀🙏https://t.co/BgyqpvZiBW
— Domino's Pizza UK (@Dominos_UK) April 22, 2016
These become collective experiences; moments that we all share together, and that’s when social media is at its best. NFL Sunday Twitter is a flurry of reactions, memes, and analyses that are up sometimes before the announcers can break the news. On Bachelor/ette nights, IG Stories are filled with reactions, analyses, and “news” about the characters.
We have more touchdowns every second than this game has in a whole half. Come on guys get it together! @Patriots @RamsNFL#TurkishAirlines #SBLIII #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/87NzP5txC5
— Turkish Airlines (@TurkishAirlines) February 4, 2019
But what about the series finales? While there’s no event quite as social as the culmination of years of plot lines and anticipation, the court of public opinion is very much out on whether it’s cool to be posting commentary (read: spoilers) in the moment, because we run the risk of ruining it for people who plan to watch later. And people are passionate about this topic.
Me trying to avoid #GameofThrones spoilers on Twitter today pic.twitter.com/FG8o5ZTDpN
— Dan Abramov (@dan_abramov) May 20, 2019
Whenever there’s a concentration of attention like there is during a finale, brands are inevitably going to see the opportunity to jump in. They do with the Super Bowl, the Oscars, even the passing of breakthrough laws, so why wouldn’t they look to engage in finale-banter? It seems that series endings hold a particularly precious place in people’s hearts, so we set out to help brands to decipher just how soon is too soon to be posting content with spoiler-potential.
We’re here to help brands navigate the digital landscape, and that typically means collecting data to back up our recommendations, so we figured we’d answer the question once and for all: How soon is too soon to be jumping into the conversation with episode-specific content? We enlisted the help of our Twitter followers to come up with the answers. Here’s what we got back:
Help to settle an important social media debate: Spoilers.
After the big show/finale/live event (there's a big one this weekend) what's the statute of limitations for posting about what just happened?
— Junction (@HeyJunction) May 17, 2019
Not quite the resounding consensus that we had hoped for.
To validate the data, we ran a couple more polls and the outcome was about the same.
First, as with every opportunity for real-time content, ask yourself: Is this really a good fit for our brand? For every viral brand sensation, there’s pile of cringe-worthy pieces of content that somehow made it through the approval process and out into the world to nobody’s benefit:
Mother of Donuts. #GoT pic.twitter.com/YpjTX5wLC9
— Tim Hortons (@TimHortons) April 7, 2014
Colour consultancies now available in our King's Landing showroom 😉 👑❄️🗡🛡 #GameofThrones #got #GoTAtlantic pic.twitter.com/vyRtdnUjk0
— Farrow & Ball (@FarrowandBall) April 25, 2016
Next, if you’ve decided that yes – this is a conversation that we can add value to, ask yourself: Can we take it as well as we can dish it out?
The internet is undefeated and, no matter how clever, on point, or culturally-relevant the content that gets put out there is, there will always be that one clap-back that stings because it’s just a bit too true. Those can come from individuals, or they can even come from other brands.
Lol ok https://t.co/lobyuNOkee
— MoonPie (@MoonPie) August 21, 2017
Now, you need to figure out what to talk about. Do you side with the 47% of people who feel like once all of the time zones have aired the show the gloves are off? Or, do you protect the eyes of the 53% of people who need at least a day of grace period before spoilers can be forgiven? You get to choose which side of the debate your stance falls on, but know this: a simple *Spoiler Alert* in front of any content that may tarnish someone’s viewing experience can save you from a world of public shaming.
Game of Thrones ***SPOILER ALERT*** pic.twitter.com/fRKaG5RIMT
— The Jeff O'Neil Show (@jeffoneilshow) May 21, 2019
Finally, if you’ve decided that this is your moment, and you’re going to take your shot no matter what the trolls have to say about it, then remember one thing: The only thing worse than realtime content that falls flat is when it contains an obvious and irrelevant product tie-in.
@Clorox Delete this.
— Mike (@vidae01) April 13, 2015
Have fun out there and remember: Social media is made for conversation, not brand pitches. If your brand can show up in a way that contributes to that conversation, leaving it better off for your contribution, then go for it.