The WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) has seen many ups and downs since its founding in 1980. It has seen growth through periods of time such as its highest point of popularity in the '90s known affectionately as the Attitude Era, and dips as new talent being brought in repeatedly failed to connect with audiences as it did in recent years.
Through all of these ups and downs, the WWE has managed to keep the doors open and attract new audiences through its evolving in-ring product and ability to adapt as technology and trends change. One area the WWE has been particularly successful in is that of social media.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the reasons the WWE has been so successful at leveraging social media to reach new audiences, and keep current fans engaged.
When Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson sent out the above tweet out of the blue on a Monday night, many of his massive 7.8+ million followers turned on their televisions and tuned in to see him make a surprise appearance on WWE's flagship live show, Monday Night Raw.
Fans of the WWE have come to expect that by following their favorite WWE personalities on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, they might get a hint of what to expect on the show.
To keep the momentum, and the boost in attention brought about by Dwayne Johnson's notoriety outside of the ring, he and WWE's Lana continued their in-ring feud on Twitter after their initial confrontation. Fans that followed both of them on Twitter received an extra dose of the storyline.
The WWE, and its cast, have an incredible social media following in large part because of this level of interaction that extends the default experience of simply watching the TV program.
Combine active social media accounts with a second screen experience that runs during the show, commentary and news on WWE.com, and the WWE Network, and the WWE can craft a story that unfolds when and where the company wants it to.
If you tune in to WWE's Monday Night Raw, you are likely to hear about Twitter hashtags multiple times throughout the show. Each match, the names of special guests, witty phrases used on the show, and more are regularly converted into a hashtag and displayed on screen during the scene. Commentators will announce, "Throughout this match use the hashtag..."
If a hashtag trends on Twitter during the show, the WWE displays a graphic on screen and makes a verbal note about it trending. This encourages viewers to hop online and join the conversation, meanwhile encouraging those fans' own followers on Twitter to tune in and see what all the fuss is about.
This type of cyclical response helped boost events like WrestleMania to new heights. WrestleMania 28, which (despite being on pay-per-view) was tweeted about over enjoyed 110 trending topics over a period of five hours. The hashtag #WrestleMania was used over 610,000 times on the day of the event.
It's a win-win for the WWE any time it can covert social conversation into viewers and viewers into social conversation.
The WWE's target audience has changed a bit since the days of the TV-MA Attitude era. It has cleaned up its act in recent years, barring strikes to the head with foreign objects, blading (bloodletting for dramatic effect), and toned down both sexual content and language to a point where it has become suitable for the important PG rating so many advertisers look for.
In order to reach a new generation of fans, it had to evolve its product from simply being a television and pay-per-view product to an interactive, digitally-distributed media that is accessible from any device, at any time.
Modern audiences expect that the show doesn't end when it goes off the air. WWE understand this, and through its talent, offers dozens of opportunities for fans to get more of the content they love and engagement they demand through platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Facebook, YouTube, and more.
Talent like John Cena, arguably the biggest draw on the roster in the past ten years, regularly shares short clips of his workouts before a big match, inspirational words for his followers, and promotional bits and pieces from his many endorsement deals.
While the on-screen product is tasked with appealing to both its younger and more mature audiences, its social media channels can cater to specific fans, often on a one-on-one basis.