As more and more people move away from traditional television screens, instead getting their entertainment fix from on demand services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube on their phones, tablets and laptops, reaching the new generation of TV viewers is a struggle that entertainment providers are currently fighting against. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen television programmes and channels take the leap towards social media and increasing viewer engagement including encouraging fans to take their views online with hashtags and exclusive offerings to those who visit their website.

But on Tuesday evening, BBC One showed us how to appeal to the online generation and successfully integrate a popular TV series with an online fandom via social media with #SherlockLive.

At the end of Sunday evening’s programme of Series 4 of Sherlock, viewers were teased with a message to be online at 8pm on Tuesday for #SherlockLive. So instead of sitting down in front of the TV on Tuesday, a whole generation took to their phones and computers, opened up Twitter and participated in an online murder mystery alongside Sherlock Holmes who had hijacked BBC One’s Twitter account.

Why was it so successful?

The Fandom

Sherlock already has a huge online “fandom”, with the latest incarnation of Mr. Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, at the forefront. BBC One acknowledged the power of the online community around the show and harnessed it via a hashtag and a challenge.

The tease

In the run up to the event, BBC One sent out multiple tweets throughout the day, the first mentioning that they had received a text from Sherlock who would be taking over their Twitter account that evening:

We have received a text from someone claiming to be Sherlock Holmes. We won’t let this happen. #SherlockLive #NotGonnaHappen

— BBC One (@BBCOne) January 10, 2017

Then several more insisting that nothing would be happening, even up to 5 minutes before the chat was to begin:

Again, we’d like to assure everyone that #SherlockLive is not a thing and will not be happening at 8pm.

— BBC One (@BBCOne) January 10, 2017

The moment at which the takeover began saw BBC One’s profile picture, which is normally their logo, change to BBC 22OneB – a play on 221B Baker Street – with the now iconic wallpaper background from inside the flat:

Too late. I’m already here. I’m bored and angry and I need a distraction. So this is me, Sherlock, taking over the BBC. #SherlockLive

— BBC One (@BBCOne) January 10, 2017

Instant interaction

Throughout the solving of the mystery, Sherlock was interacting with those taking part, including retweets where people had made suggestions and typically Sherlockian sarcastic remarks and insults to others:

Hm. Interesting… #SherlockLive

— BBC One (@BBCOne) January 10, 2017

There's a lot of mental activity going on. Shame it's all mine. #SherlockLive

— BBC One (@BBCOne) January 10, 2017

The opportunity for fans to be recognised by the man himself made sure that people weren’t just sitting back and watching all the action happen, but were furiously tweeting BBC One trying to solve the murder and get noticed by Sherlock, thus increasing the reach of their Twitter account alongside additional hype around the series in general.

Use of multimedia

BBC One didn’t just stick to simple tweets for their giant murder mystery; they used a range of multimedia to get fans involved. This included using the standard Twitter features, polls, video, imagery and gifs which any marketer has at their disposal:

Mrs Hudson asked me to tweet ANOTHER clue as she’s confused by everything. Ridiculous. Click on this if you REALLY need to. #SherlockLive

— BBC One (@BBCOne) January 10, 2017

The CCTV shows the masked man dragging the body in the direction of the fridge, but I visited the restaurant myself… #SherlockLive

— BBC One (@BBCOne) January 10, 2017

So, come on, amuse me, who do you think did it? #SherlockLive


— BBC One (@BBCOne) January 10, 2017

Twitter Moments

And even when all the action was over, BBC One decided finish the game off with one final push: using the recently launched Twitter Moments: #SherlockLive: Your Reactions. This gave fans a roundup of the activity as well as giving people that one last chance at being featured on BBC One’s Twitter account.

So is this BBC One throwing down the gauntlet and recognised that social media for the younger generation TV viewers shouldn’t be ignored? Is this the beginning of a new era of connecting what we see on screen and off screen by linking into social media? Only time will tell!

Did you participate in #SherlockLive? And more importantly, did you solve the murder?

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