Who would have thought it would take a Silverfish Hand Catch to tear down the walls between traditional media and social media?
I promise I’ll get back to the fish but obviously a statement like that requires a little bit of a back-story. A few months ago I began “tweeting” from the news desk during live newscasts. At first one or two people would “tweet” back, usually just curious whether it was really the “guy on the TV” tweeting. They wondered a) how I had the time and b)why I had the interest.
That got me thinking.
As I’ve reported in this blog before I have had a very long one-sided relationship with the people who watch my newscasts. I talk, they listen. If they had something to say to me they yelled it at the TV screen like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Twitter changed all that. I can now hear you and I can now answer you.
So a few weeks ago I created the “backchannel”… while the news rolled forward on the front channel… Channel 7… I tweeted on the backchannel. I invited viewers to watch the news, tweet comments and questions to me and to ‘discuss among themselves’ when I was actually busy reading the stories. I really only had a vague idea of where the ‘backchannel’ might take us all, but I hoped it was a first step to tearing down the glass screen that divides us.
I can’t speak for the dozens of people who check in regularly every night…sometimes at 6 or 7:00.. but mostly 11:00. I don’t know exactly what they get out of it except a kind of cool experience of actually conversing in real time with the guy on TV. But I can tell you what I get out of it. For the first time in years I actually feel like I’m talking to someone rather than at them. Frankly it’s energizing!
But I promised to talk about the fish. Specifically the Silverfish Hand Catch. You may have heard about the “Old Spice” guerrilla marketing campaign. The ridiculously handsome guy standing in a towel in his bathroom with his six pack abs and mellifluous baritone voice answering tweets from average people. In his final video posted on YouTube, the actor ended with a spectacular “Silverfish Hand Catch”. What did it mean? Who knows, who cares; it became an Internet buzzword that landed with all the grace of a flying Asian Carp in my ‘backchannel’ Monday night.
For that you can either blame or credit Charlie Wollborg, a brilliant marketing man who knows a few things about getting people engaged in social media. Early in the newscast @CharlieCurve posted the following Tweet– and everything changed:
First of all, to be clear, I probably wouldn’t have said “Silverfish Hand Catch” even if a thousand people had re-tweeted the post. I like to think of the backchannel as a kind of Las Vegas…what happens there, stays there. If I start excluding people on the front channel I risk losing them (not to mention my job!). So I needed to keep the whole “Silverfish” affair a “backchannel” thing, which wasn’t easy. Over the next half hour my Tweet stream exploded with re-tweets and suggestions of how to work the phrase “Silverfish Hand Catch” into the newscast. @CharlieCurve suggested I introduce the weather segment by saying, “It’s 74° in Detroit right now. A perfect night for a Silverfish Hand Catch.” @danielmrose suggested an addition to the Tigers highlights: “A fan in the stands just made a Silverfish Hand Catch.” And on and on. It was all a bit silly sure, but I realized something else was going on. The audience of our 11:00 newscast wasn’t just talking to me…they were talking to each other! I felt like Alexander Graham Bell when he made his first call to Watson. The backchannel worked!
I hope it continues to work…and not just as a novel way to include the TV guy in on-line hijinx. I hope people watch my newscast, ask questions, make comments and most of all talk to each other about what’s going on in our community.
In the meantime. No, I did not say “Silverfish Hand Catch” on the newscast. Technically we came a few short of 100 re-tweets so I was “off the hook” so to speak. But I did do something in the final seconds of the newscast that let my Twitter friends know I heard them loud and clear.
You’ll have to watch the clip to see what it was. And you’ll have to join us some night on the backchannel.
Bring your own fish.