A couple of months ago, we posted about the popular webseries The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It was an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, told in a number of different content formats over a variety of different platforms. The show may be over now, but the creators have embarked upon a new project, which explores the possibilities of content creation in a whole new way.
The new series is called Welcome to Sanditon. Based on Jane Austen’s far lesser-known novel Sanditon (which she was never finished, due to her death), the series focuses on the residents of Sanditon, Calif., as they try to rebrand and revitalize the town. Since far fewer people are familiar with this novel than knew Pride and Prejudice, getting the audience involved in the new story poses its own set of challenges.
One of the hallmarks of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was the fan-made content that sprung up around it. From original artwork to video mashups and more, viewers created their own content based on the characters and events, which the cast and creators encouraged and often shared with the rest of their fans. In order to gain interest for Welcome to Sanditon, the creators are focusing on the fan-made content aspect, and even taking it a step further—viewers of Sanditon can actually be a part of the show itself.
Since the novel was never finished, rather than telling a long story arc like LBD, Sanditon instead focuses on depicting their versions of the characters and setting established in the few chapters that Jane Austen wrote—from Mayor Tom Parker and his somewhat buffoonish assistant Edward Denham to Clara Brereton, owner of the “Sanditon Scoops” ice cream shop. And viewers can aid in completing the picture. A portal on the site allows fans to create their own persona as a Sanditon resident—complete with a job in the town and opinions about its ongoing transformation—and upload videos from the point of view of this persona. They can also create social media accounts for their persona (as the writers did with the characters in LBD) and interact with other “residents” of the town. In addition, some residents have even had their videos featured as part of the official series.
This method of making the viewers an active part of the story as it unfolds is an effective way of keeping them invested in the content and coming back for more. It can also be applied to other forms of content marketing. Encouraging users to generate their own content for a brand essentially means free publicity. The audience puts the time, effort and expense into creating and spreading content, relieving the pressure and cost on the brand itself. That content makes the users actively invested in the brand and more likely to continue coming back, as well as to share it with their social networks. In addition, anyone who uploads content to a brand’s website becomes an automatic lead. They have an active interest in the brand and its goings-on, and have provided their contact information. From there it’s just one more step to converting them to customers.
Creating content can be costly. But an effective content marketing plan isn’t about money, but about creativity. That’s why user-generated content is such a great idea. It reduces costs by spreading the creativity around. And in the end, it captures not just an audience’s interest, but their imagination, which is far more valuable.