Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson made a surprise appearance on World Wrestling Entertainment's flagship broadcast Monday Night Raw this week – sparking a social media frenzy in the process.
The 38-year-old's announcement that he will be the guest host of WWE's main yearly show Wrestlemania, made live on the programme, prompted Twitter to go over-capacity on Monday, something Mobile Marketing Watch credited to the way in which Johnson and WWE used social media promotion during the actual broadcast.
"Johnson himself was largely responsible for whipping up the social media frenzy. For the first time in WWE programming history, a superstar’s personal Facebook page was promoted live during the broadcast. For Johnson, the social media plug brought his WWE return full circle," the website said.
Follow The Rock
Launched to coincide with his return to WWE programming, Johnson's Twitter account has subsequently generated over 100,000 followers since its inception. And, as of 09:00 on Wednesday February 16th 2011, 'Dwayne Johnson' is on page two of Twitter's @trendingtopics account, having spent a healthy 24 hours on page one.
The successful launch of Dwayne Johnson's social media accounts can be attributed to two main factors: WWE and television in general. Since his return, both Johnson's Twitter and Facebook accounts have been heavily advertised on the WWE website. Secondly, the vast majority of tweets on Johnson on Monday night were made while Monday Night Raw was still on-the-air, suggesting that real-time social might just have replaced the telephone when it comes to telling friends - and strangers - to change the channel to something they just have to see.
(And for those wondering: as of right now, The Rock follows no-one.)
Wrestling with Social Media
The return of The Rock isn't the first time WWE has jumped into the ring with social media. A recent report from Mashable examined the company's online strategy, and interviewed WWE executive vice president of digital media Brian Kalinowski, who revealed they intended to target popular websites where its fans are "nesting" rather than draw them to the WWE.com homepage.
He said: "People are spending somewhere between 60-70 per cent of their time on no more than three or four sites. The rest of the time, they’re going off, finding and discovering, but then they’re going back to those sites."
It was on Facebook, one of WWE's targeted "nests", that word of The Rock's return on Monday night spread. The message, posted on Johnson's fan page just hours before Monday Night Raw, was simply: "...FINALLY...Get ready... DJ". When he did finally appear to close the programme, viewership had increased by almost one million in anticipation.
With WWE being, in a sense, fantasy storytelling, social media offers distinct advantages as a promotional tool to keep people involved when the cameras stop rolling. Mr Kalinowski comments that the company uses social streams to "augment our storylines...we can continue the story that ended on Monday night and carry it through to the next Monday night".
It makes perfect sense. Wrestlers' accounts aren't the same as a spoof account for, say, Don Draper from Mad Men. WWE doesn't operate under the same dynamics as television drama and cannot be afforded the same narrative luxuries. But it is scripted entertainment, just in real time, and it is completely understandable that the moment the television is turned off on a Monday night fans wonder what these characters are up to at that moment. After all, if wrestling and its larger-than-life characters are to be presented as 'real', surely its stars should be accessible 24 hours a day just like the rest of us?
Twitter and Facebook give WWE a way of plugging storytelling gaps and maintaining interest during its 'off-time'. This is why wrestling promotion has so much potential teaming up with social media.