How SnapperHero will test fan engagement

Billy Parks, the co-creator of Snapchat's new scripted series, discusses AT&T's presence in the show and how the narrative will evolve over 4 weeks.
January 30, 2015

When former Astronauts Wanted chief content director Billy Parks launched his social media reality show @SummerBreak 2 years ago, Snapchat wasn’t even on his radar.

But the social media messaging platform skyrocketed in popularity in time for the second season of the show, and Parks said he was excited about its prospects.

“We definitely have money to do what we’re trying to do. We could definitely use more, but we also want to be responsible.”

“We used it as a fan engagement tool and were blown away with the level of engagement we got,” Parks told StreamDaily in an exclusive interview.

Now Parks, along with director Shaun McBride (Shonduras) and visual effects video team Corridor Digital, is giving Snapchat its very first scripted series, SnapperHero, partnering once again with telecommunications giant AT&T.

Starring some of YouTube’s most popular creators – Freddie Wong (Video Game High School) and Harley Morenstein (Epic Meal Time) among them – SnapperHero‘s 12-episodes over a 4-week period will largely be determined by social interaction and fan engagement.

Parks says the influencers were invited to participate in the project, and have been asking their own followers on their social media platforms to join in.

“We also obviously know that there’s a great group of young people out there that are social influencers and building amazing audiences on YouTube, Snapchat, Vine and Instagram,” says Parks. “We want to give them an opportunity to perform in the show and really involve their audience in the show by asking their audience – which they’re doing this week – ‘What would my superhero power be?’ There is a loose framework, but the powers are up to the fans.”

Once the responses are tabulated and a direction is determined, Parks says the writing team will build episodes around it, spanning 100 to 200 seconds in length.

Parks says the episodes will only be posted on Snapchat for 24 hours, and won’t be “an epic, million-dollar action movie.”

“It’ll feel of the platform: a very light, fun, tight story. The platform will allow a lot of entry points for fan engagement.”

SnapperHero will also allow opportunities for sponsor AT&T to be recognized.

“There are some places in the series that will give attribution to some of their products and services, which will be done in a very fun way,” Parks explains. “We will work with them around some of their devices and some of their network messaging that we’ll kind of embed into the body of a couple of episodes.”

While Parks did not share budget details, he says “it is not as robust as a program as @SummerBreak has been.”

“We definitely have money to do what we’re trying to do. We could definitely use more, but we also want to be responsible. It’s a new platform, it’s an experimental story, we’re just trying something now.”

The idea to create for Snapchat has been in the works for about a year. Parks said he and UTA digital media agent Kendall Ostrow initially talked about doing something for the platform when they met at SXSE in Austin, Texas in March 2014.

After securing commitment from AT&T in September, Parks found McBride in November and began to bat ideas back and forth, carving out a week last month “to see how we were going to approach this thing.”

“Shaun and I did a ‘SnapHack’ in December, had some Snappers in the room, along with the writers and directors, AT&T, and we spent the week together saying, ‘How are we going to do this?'”

Parks says it’s a mistake to think of SnapperHero in linear terms comparable to a TV or web series.

“It’s not traditional in thinking of the show as just being ‘episodes,'” he explains. “The show is everything that’s going on the handle between now and the end of March. So right now we have put stuff up there for fans to screengrab with their favorite social media star, and then send them back to us through texts and drawings, and we’ll be creating fan engagement opportunities all the way through the event.”

Parks says all input will be closely monitored to gauge fan reaction and how SnapperHero might adapt to demand.

“Every year, technology is better so we can understand how the content we’re making resonates with viewers and how we can change it,” he says. “It’s better for real-time content creation, so when it’s working, we can do more. If it’s not working, we can stop, change it or iterate on it.

“Maybe they don’t like the copy. Maybe they don’t like the art. Maybe they want it to be longer. In the case of @SummerBreak, we started off making really short episodes because we thought the mobile consumer would only want short episodes. We very quickly learned that they totally wanted longer episodes. We could only do that because we could see what they’re saying across social media. But we can actually see when they stop watching. So we can iterate with content.”

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