Love it or hate it, reality TV is a hugely successful phenomena. Producers have refined a formula for dirt cheap, easy-to-create content that’s less predictable than sitcoms and more addictive than soap operas. “Reality” shows require extremely little writing, acting or technical production talent… yet they’ve almost completely replaced music content on MTV & taken over prime-time on some networks.
On reality shows and Twitter, people like drama. And people like to watch.
On “reality” shows, people flaunt their egos & create drama in a staged “real life” situation with an exotic twist added to it. Watching allows us to live vicariously, unconsciously comparing ourselves to others… and providing positive affirmation that “we’re okay” compared to those dramatic nutcases.
You can also find a lot of “reality TV”-style personalities and content in social media. Look through a list of video bloggers and Twitter freaks and you’ll hit a vein pretty quick.
Some “reality” bloggers are friendly and charismatic, yet so incredibly full of themselves that other people are willing go along for the ride with them. Others thrive on negative attention and enjoy getting under people’s skin. They use the phrase “transparency” as a euphemism for their mix of shameless self-promotion and bad manners.
Voyeurism: Social Media’s Delicious, Guilty Pleasure
A very small percentage of people actively create content online. A vast majority of users just like to watch. Grandiose personalities thrive in social media, just like they do on the tube or the big screen. Why? Because there’s something incredibly hypnotic about watching a psychological trainwreck of flaring egos and emotions. It’s like porn: the content and the performers are nothing special, but people get a strong voyeuristic pleasure from watching others expose their raw, private details.
On Twitter, Blogger and Viddler you can find it all: lurid self-confessions of psychiatric disorders, prostitution and drug habits; businessmen bragging about money; attractive women spilling the juicy details about their sex lives; moms who outright specialize in “screaming and sweating the small stuff”; and cool kids keeping us updated on how well-connected they are .
While my superego maintains that “I’m an intelligent professional and therefore this type of content is beneath me” – I admit that I do get hooked into the drama. I find my self checking out the blogs and lifestreams of “people I can’t stand” – just to see what they’re gonna say or do, next. I get a boost of self-esteem by confirming: “Hey, at least I’m not that rude or self-absorbed.” I get excited and intrigued when I wonder: “How can people possibly be so blunt annoying yet still have friends and followers?”
It’s a gamble. If you come off too bold and over-the-top you’ll get shunned. But some people have the right personality and “package” to get away with it.
Social Marketing by Appealing to Voyeuristic Tendencies
Love it or hate it… manufacturing and maintaining a “reality TV”-style social media presence can be a fast and very effective way to build an large online audience. TV producers have learned to consciously orchestrate the perfect blend of “reality drama” and capitalize on it – and so have some savvy social media producers and marketers.
I want to learn from the hype and the drama I encounter online. See how I can use it in my marketing toolbox — and also observe and fine-tune my own ‘social media ego’ in the process.
What about you? What are your observations about drama and voyeurism in social media? I’m sure you’ve got one or two — please share!
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Brett Borders, the author of this article, is a professional copywriter who specializes in increasing website sales and signup rates. I'm available now to write for your website and optimize it for maximum sales and profits. Please contact me now for a free consultation.