Superhero Showdown: Comic Book Adaptations Dominate Social TV

Published on Mar 14th, 2016

by Matthew Chernov

Last week, we broke down which movies adapted from comic books performed the best on social media. This week, we take a look at the influx of TV shows now appearing weekly on the small screen and streaming services.

Campy TV series like “Batman” and “The Incredible Hulk” eventually gave way to 2006’s influential saga “Heroes,” which led to present hits like “Arrow” and “The Flash.” Ten new titles joined the ranks this year, including six this past fall. Three more are planned for premieres this year. Even more are in various planning stages or merely rumored to start production .

Film critic Luke Y. Thompson, a Forbes and Nerdist contributor, and CinemaBlend contributing writer Adam Holmes joined us last week to discuss the success of comic book movies on social media. This week they’re back to talk comic book TV shows and how audiences engage with them on social.

TV Shows Generate More Engagement

Comic Book TV shows post more often on social than movies and their audiences are more engaging. Even if movies are part of franchises, they can’t match the loyalty comic book TV shows create because they return year after year, if they’re good. That helps explain why the TV shows generate more engagement than the movies.

The Top 10 shows generated 47.3 million combined actions through February. About 93% of the engagement is split evenly between Facebook and Instagram with the rest coming from Twitter.

By the widest possible margin, “The Walking Dead” earned the number one spot on the list with a whopping 30.4 million actions. The hit zombie series owns Instagram. It generated 450% more engagement than “The Flash,” the No. 2 show on the platform.

Based on an award-winning comic book series that began publishing in 2003, the AMC smash  has long been the top TV program in all of primetime. “The Walking Dead” is one of the best at posting action-generating tune-in messages (one of three key drivers of social TV content on social), often months before a season premiere. The show also keeps fans interested by splitting its seasons in half to air in the fall and spring.

Coming in second and third on the ranking are “The Flash” and “Arrow,” both of which air on the CW network. “The Flash” scored high with 4.6 million actions, while “Arrow” generated 2.5 million actions.

The two shows are set in the same fictional universe as “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” which came in seventh on the list with just 1.3 million actions. With three shows potentially crossing over, the CW has done a lot of cross-promotion on social .

All three series generated more than half of their engagement on Instagram, with “The Flash” at 57%, “Arrow” at 55% and “Legends” at 53%. That’s higher than the overall TV average of 46%.

“The main show accounts for ‘The Flash’ and ‘Arrow’ do a decent job by regularly uploading new images and videos from upcoming episodes,” said Holmes. “But the show runners are especially good on social media. The actors and writers really do engage with fans, whether it’s answering online questions or releasing title pages from upcoming scripts.”

Thompson concurs. “ Stephen Amell , who plays Arrow, is very engaged on Twitter . This is just hearsay, but I think that TV actors might almost be required to tweet now. I’ve heard rumblings that it’s partially a requirement of the job, to an extent.”

Surprisingly, the social campaign for “Arrow” has actually included viewers in the creative process. “One of the show runners on ‘Arrow’ recently gave a character a code name that he got from a fan suggestion ,” said Holmes. “So that’s an interesting way they’re using social media.”

According to Holmes, live tweeting is responsible for a substantial amount of television engagement. “One thing that’s special about TV is that fans often tweet along with the episodes as they air. So while the show’s on, they’ll share their comments using specific hashtags . That way, if you’re lucky, one of the actors might retweet you .”

Just outside of the Top 10 at No. 11 is Netflix’s “Daredevil,” which unlike the rest of the shows, is released all at once. Therefore, most of its engagement comes directly from promoting the show. A majority of that occurred on Facebook, where it generated 70% of its engagement and averaged more than 40,000 actions per post through February.

“Daredevil” aired in April 2015 and the show has been keeping fans engaged and attracting new ones with clips , memorable moments and season two teasers on all three platforms.

It’s most engaged Facebook post of the year is the first of a two-part trailer that has generated more than 165,000 actions. Season two is scheduled to premiere March 18.

Reflecting on the substantial impact that social media has had on the comic book community, Thompson sees more than just viral marketing at work. “You’re seeing many more diverse fans discovering that there are people just like them out there who share the exact same interests, and that they’re welcome to play in the comic book sandbox as well.”

Holmes agreed. “Fans just want to express their interest in the characters they love and grew up with, and social media gives them a way to share their opinions with one another and to revel in their own enthusiasm.”

Matthew Chernov is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Follow him @MatthewChernov .

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