Reliable Witness was a trans-media project, commissioned by the Birmingham Book Festival, during September/October 2012.
Managed by Red Lantern’s Lauren Davies, the project saw a live performance and social media begin a story that the audience would be invited to finish, during an interactive installation.
As Social Media Manager I was responsible for running the Facebook and Twitter accounts for the project, which included:
- the project accounts
- the character accounts
- Set up the accounts
- Set up a method for posting and responding to messages
- Giving the characters “character”
- Introducing plot points and storylines
Phase 1 – setting up the accounts
When I was brought into the project the writers were still in the early stages of developing the story – but the key characters had been defined.
- Darren – the boyfriend
- Amy – the girlfriend
- Ross – Darren’s best friend
- Clare – Amy’s friend
- Fiona – Ross’s girlfriend
- Nadine – Darren’s ex girlfriend
Page or Profile?
Should the characters have Facebook Pages or Profiles?
Profiles are traditionally kept for individuals, not businesses, brands or products – these are encouraged to use the page facility.
Initially I had intended for the characters to have profiles – however Facebook have certain sign-up requirements (such as the need for a mobile phone number) to prove legitimacy and reduce spam accounts.
Whilst there are websites that can generate mobile phone numbers for this purpose, I was reluctant to venture into this territory.
- You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
- You will not post unauthorized commercial communications (such as spam) on Facebook.
Although highly unlikely, I was concerned that the Facebook accounts were at risk of being closed down, and so I opted for the more legitimate pages option.
Why Facebook Pages Worked
Experience has shown me that people tend to use Twitter for business/less personal interactions, whilst Facebook is for real life friends and family.
Hence, people are far less likely to befriend someone they don’t know on Facebook, thus reducing the activity and impact of the characters.
Introducing the characters as pages was essentially admitting that they were not real, but users are more likely to follow pages than connect as friends, with someone or something they don’t know.
Setting Up the Pages
I decided not to choose “fictional character” (so as not to make it blatantly obvious that these were made-up) but instead use the range of professional occupations allowed within pages – ie business person, teacher, doctor etc.
In retrospect I realize some of these were a little far-fetched but within the limits of the Pages set up there were little alternatives.
I knew the rough ages of some of the characters, and invented the rest based on friendships etc, and set each character up with a birthday (which continued onto Google when I set them up with Gmail accounts – to be explained in a future post)
Photographs – Some of the characters had already been cast for the live performance/installation, so we asked them to provide us with a natural head shot and any other shots they wanted. I used these to create a profile picture for the character and add some photographs.
I also scanned and used some of my own holiday snaps (landscapes only) to create some back story for the characters.
- ie. The actress playing Amy sent me a picture of her in a hotel room, and another of her ice skating. I combined these pictures with some shots of Reykjavik from one of my own holidays.
- I also used personal photographs of Paris on Nadine’s account – the character has been living in France for several years.
In addition to setting up accounts for Darren, Amy, Ross, Clare, Nadine and Fiona – I also wanted to create a series of supporting characters to generate conversation and tease out story points via Facebook.
I decided to create several characters who were friends of both Darren and Amy, others who were friends with Darren and Nadine (a previous relationship), a few friends of Nadine’s, plus Darren’s mum (pic right) and sister.
There was also the character of Big Frank. who videoed the live-performance aspect of the project and ill-advisedly posted it online, thus provoking reaction from the main characters.
These characters were given simple profiles, and were not active in any other discussions other than those related to the plot.
Whilst the technicalities of Facebook made it harder for the characters appear real, the same issues did not apply to Twitter.
Each character was given their own Twitter account, using their unique email address. Profile pictures were matched to the images used on Facebook, and descriptions hinted at their occupation, interests and location.
In order to explain the fact all the main characters joined Twitter at the same time – and to I generated some early conversations between them, which alluded to Darren encouraging them all to join when he did.
Nadine, not part of that circle of friends, joined Twitter some weeks later and was less active on the network.