You are here
Home > Article > How a tiny app helped Beyonce retake the world with ‘Homecoming’

How a tiny app helped Beyonce retake the world with ‘Homecoming’

How a tiny app helped Beyonce retake the world with ‘Homecoming’

Covid-19 has negatively disrupted the world, leaving many in doubt about the future. For content creators, the pandemic is actually an opportunity for progress.

Ever heard of Jasymn Lawson? The young opinionated Spelman grad believes that pop culture is political, and holds a membership card to Beyonce’s elite fanbase—the Beyhive. In addition to her fandom commitments, Lawson also has editorial duties at Netflix and the company’s black-facing social media identity, StrongBlacklead.

On March 18, 2020, during a downcast post-coronavirus press conference held by President Donald Trump, Lawson had a great idea. In an effort to inject light and Hive energy to the country’s collective gloom, via her Twitter handle, she proposed a virtual watch party of Beyonce’s Netflix special, Homecoming.

First premiered in 2019, Bey’s ‘Homecoming’ is an Emmy-nominated documentary that’s part intimate diary, and part concert. It chronicles behind-the-scenes efforts by the mega star, building up her set, routines, and costumes for her show as Coachella’s first headlining Black woman. One of the music industry’s tentpole concerts, Beyonce’s 2018 Coachella performance —or Beychella, as fans renamed that edition—caused global  ripples not only for its show of #BlackGirlMagic, it was also an homage to the historically Black collegiate experience. She interlaced her set with powerful references to American and international Black culture that had audiences in awe and tears.

The strong inspirational tenor of the Homecoming film made it a perfect choice to lift spirits amidst the endless toll of the pandemic.

After Lawson shared her tweet, what happened next is either the result of brilliant cultural marketing, or good ol’ internet magic.

How a tiny app helped Beyonce retake the world with ‘Homecoming’

Queen Bey, herself, retweeted Lawson’s tweet, endorsing the watch party. She let her 15.4 million Twitter followers know where she needed them to be on that night. Instantly, culture news platforms including Harper’s BazaarBillboardRefinery29, and Essence picked up the story and a huge buzz was on.

Hours to the event, there was a sense of anticipation for an aura-cleansing experience. Hundreds of thousands of people used a Google Chrome browser extension called Netflix Party to sync their accounts, and log into a central screen. Much like a global virtual theatre,  fans huddled together online, seeking inspiration, hoping to have their worries lifted, and enjoy some escape from all that was wrong in the world.

By 6pm PST, Homecoming had skyrocketed to the #1 trending topic on Twitter in the US and other parts of the world. Reminiscent of the last time Beyonce stopped the world by releasing her self-titled Beyonce album via Instagram, ‘Homecoming’ buzzed back into collective consciousness for a global replay. The next 2 hours had fan-favorites like Kerry WashingtonKalen, and even Twitter CEO Jack, tuning in to watch Beyonce dominate in the world, again.

How a tiny app helped Beyonce retake the world with ‘Homecoming’

What I love about this moment goes beyond the melding of two iconic brands, Beyonce and Netflix. Yes, Netflix is iconic to me. This moment in history feels like a ‘before and after’ in the making. Watch parties have typically been used by television studios to drive collective consumer engagement online. Great examples include Pretty little LiarsScandal Thursdays, or the HBO giant Game of Thrones. For these watch parties, the high rate of engagement was driven by the excellence of the show.

Now, in our socially distant world where physical interactions are not an option, this version of engagement has become increasingly important. Online communication is currently the only way people can come together en masse, to discuss a range of interests. Be it pop culture, new recipes, lifestyle innovation, and the new world we are living in, this is the only way to connect.

You might be thinking: “Hasn’t Twitter always played its role as an alternative community?”

In a way, you’d be right. Before COVID-19 intruded, Twitter boasted 152 million monetizable daily active users (mDAU) by the end of Q3 in 2019, while it is less than Facebooks’s 1.2 billion daily users, Twitter has always represented an almost constant, and immediate state of conversation. The platform allows users all over the world to speak to one another digitally in the way you might text a close friend, thereby making local conversations global. With its interaction-enabling nature, the 24% increase in users to 166 million mDAU at the end of Q1 of 2020 was a big deal.That means more people were talking to each other on the platform. More conversations at the water cooler.

How a tiny app helped Beyonce retake the world with ‘Homecoming’

In a way, the rise of watch parties, and digital engagements being anchored by Twitter discussions and conversations is a blessing in disguise. It offers insights into how people’s consumption patterns are changing due to the coronavirus, and in turn, its shifting effect on multi-screen experiences. The examination of content marketing and consumption allows an early glimpse into which innovations around technology will actually make a difference. By paying attention to online trends, content creators and talent can effectively use social media events to break through the noise amid the pandemic and beyond.

Technically Speaking

Most of the conversations around technological disruption in the content space have centered around one major player–Netflix. From litigation on employment contracts, to poaching quality talent, to upending the distribution game, to their innovations in software and engineering, the company has dominated the content conversation.

For years, theatres have argued that Netflix’s entry into the film industry has rapidly collapsed the standard theatrical window. In the past, viewers would have to wait several months for a movie to go from theatre to DVD or now on demand.

In a post-Netflix world, that waiting window has shrunk, in some cases to mere weeks. Now, with the integration of Netflix Party, the possibility of a digital movie premier, where large groups come together to ‘go to the movies’ without ever leaving their beds, is possible. This is a new world of increased convenience.

With the rise of content streaming, many studios have supplemented linear distribution with digital distribution by signing deals with Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix. More recently, the major entertainment players are pairing off and creating their own platforms for digital distribution. Many new players have entered the fray like HBO Max, Peacock, and Quibi.

This model now focuses on taking the content to audiences where they are. And that is increasingly online, in digital spaces. Digital streaming demands a different marketing model. One that takes into account; who consumers are, their likes, dislikes, and the option to engage in a communal experience, should they want to. Consumers are more powerful than ever before, and the ability to convene audiences, encourage discussion and listen to what they have to say has never been more valuable.

How a tiny app helped Beyonce retake the world with ‘Homecoming’

This model now focuses on taking the content to audiences where they are. And that is increasingly online, in digital spaces. Digital streaming demands a different marketing model. One that takes into account; who consumers are, their likes, dislikes, and the option to engage in a communal experience, should they want to. Consumers are more powerful than ever before, and the ability to convene audiences, encourage discussion and listen to what they have to say has never been more valuable.

Twitter watch parties allow creators to execute an event-style experience that convenes communities around a particular project. By mimicking the linear TV experience of watching a show at a particular time, it has the added benefit of collecting valuable data on how characters, and storylines resonate with the audience in real time. Engaging writers, showrunners, and cast members creates a kind of director’s cut: A behind-the-scenes experience that gives studios and content creators a chance to deepen the consumption experience in a way that might not have been possible before.

What does this have to do with technology? Well, everything. We have witnessed significant gains in terms of technological innovations in equipment and software. These new wins have improved visual experience for audiences. Netflix revolutionized the way content is delivered and has disrupted the film industry. Now, in the face of a generation clamoring for personalized experiences, content marketing is due for disruption. With the marriage of audience data and improved platform features, newer tech can provide creators and studios the ability to merge their marketing and engagement strategy within platforms.

By combining community viewing with a personalized catalog, like-minded viewers deepen their experiences by sharing stories that resonate with them. COVID-19 is presenting a reason to experiment and alter this process.

Facebook has already gotten in on the action through Facebook Watch. While the company’s experiment is incomplete, their early success with the Red Table Talk and Sorry for Your Loss, has shown that there is significant power in a platform that allows users to watch content and interact with one another at the same time, in the same place.

This kind of environment makes the global community feel more intimate. Audiences feel like a big group of friends coming together to share in the same adventure. The difference is that audience members can chat with one another, hoot and holler, and feed off each other’s excitement at watching Beyonce sashay across the stage. Try doing that in a movie theatre without getting shushed!

Efforts to feed this communal viewing experience have seen the rise of apps like HouseParty. Platforms like Hulu are now in development for their own watch party extension. Amazon is working with their video game streaming platform, Twitch to develop a watch party experience as well.

The need for social engagement while consuming content will never stop. In fact, it is bound to grow. As more young people move frequently across cities, there is a delay in starting traditional family units and setting down roots. The need for a virtual space for far flung friends and relatives to reconnect might be the next frontier for content creation.

Let’s get Personal

A downside of having an extensive catalogue is that after the hype dies down for an album, film or tv show, it can be hard to reignite excitement about old content. Here, thanks to Lawson’s invitation, Beyonce’s Homecoming experienced a massive burst of excitement and consumption. Queen Bey wins in more ways than one from the watch party experience.

In a world where money from streaming is relatively small and incomparable to revenue from traditional record sales, digital events like this are a winning strategy artists, and content creators should explore. Whether they’re trying to revive some old intellectual property, or revive a campaign, this is a sound option. The benefit of building community into content consumption—as YouTube Premier has been testing for some time—is that audiences energize each other and bring more people to the party.

How a tiny app helped Beyonce retake the world with ‘Homecoming’

The music industry took note of the power of watch parties and developed a similar experience. The popular Verzuz experience created by music industry veterans Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, was born as a reaction to the pandemic. DJs, musicians, songwriters pair up with each other and do informative live streamed shows for audiences competing for who had the best catalog of songs. Some remember the hilariously rescheduled Babyface and Teddy Riley battle. Others bathed in the soul-enriching IG live session featuring Erykah Badu and Jill Scott. Fans of T-Pain and Lil John also got to experience a fun and rowdy showcase of 90s and early 2000s chart toppers.

The beauty of these intimate sessions lie in fans reconnecting with artists via a visual third-party medium. The traditional route of album releases, and themed concerts are no longer enough.

In these shows, musicians are sharing unfiltered versions of themselves. This deeper level of entertainment is enamoring old audiences and gaining new crowds. Sessions give fans a peek into the realities of the artists. They also encourage audiences to further interact with old content on other streaming platforms. Armed with revived nostalgia, listeners can revisit hits from a previous cultural era on Youtube, Apple Music TIDAL, Spotify and others. But this time it all hits different. IG live sessions provide fans with the opportunity to learn something new about a soundtrack, and in return, artists see an increase in streams and downloads that might never have happened.

For content creators, this is an opportunity to take your audiences along for the ride. Show them who you are, what you do, and what your content adds to the world. Everyone wants to root for someone, give your audiences a reason to root for you. Share with strategic intent.

Into the Future

We live in a time that has seen national borders disappear via the magic of the internet. In this connected world, everyone with a voice, and/or story, has the ability to change the world. Whether with an iPhone and creative editing on a free app, or a million dollar studio set and top of the line software, compelling stories can break through the noise and touch people. You just have to study the shifts and changes of digital consumption to meet your audiences where they are and personalize your engagement with them.

Now as we tumble through chaos on so many fronts, the need to be heard, seen, and validated is reaching a fever pitch. The gift of storytelling and content creation is to provide solace to the weary souls. Covid-19 has ensured an ever-ready audience.

As we all shelter and ease lockdown while waiting for the end of the pandemic, let us focus on the ways in which content, media and entertainment contribute. Be it educating and encouraging those fighting for change, or comforting those who struggle. This industry brings us together, offers respite in times of darkness, and inspires hope for a brighter future. The lessons we learn from a Twitter watch party go beyond increased numbers and engagement. These are lessons in uniting disparate people on common ground. That is a superpower few industries have.



THE CONTENT BIZ BAILOUTS

  1. OPPORTUNITY: Black Screenwriters! If you are looking to have your content read TV Producer Adrienne Erickson and Stacy Greenberg are taking unrepresented writers. If you don’t have an agent but want to pitch a project or feedback on your script they have opened their Twitter DMs. Message them for an opportunity to submit your project.
    1. Adrienne Erickson
    2. Stacy Greenberg
  1. Consumer consumption patterns are changing. For brands that are looking to engage with particular audience segments this article is worth taking a look at. In this COVID-19 world, especially in the face of ad dollars dwindling, you need to know where your audience is, and what they are watching. The prolonged lockdown has many people frustrated and angry so people are gravitating towards content that helps them cope. Create accordingly.
  1. With the recent murder of George Floyd, there has been an explosion of activity in cities across the world. Many consumers are looking to brands to take a stand. Some brands that are seasoned in social messaging that is on-brand are winning long term loyalty. The African American community contributes trillions of dollars to the global economy and loyalty is a value that matters deeply to them. Brands that appear tone deaf, or are creating content simply to show that they have done something are being shunned and their efforts dismissed. Here are a few things to consider when communicating to your audience:
    1. Understand the core concerns of the movement
    2. Identify the areas where your values overlap with the concerns of this community
    3. Tailor communications and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives that are results driven. These kinds of activities will go a long way to show you, or your brand goes beyond capitalizing on the movement.
  1. Productions around the world are slowly returning. With the increased time consumers have at home, there is an increased demand for content. Check out the production guidelines that are coming up in a variety of territories. Think about how you might incorporate them for your own projects. Also consider the how compliance may increase costs for productions and what can be done to streamline your projects to avoid impacting your insurance policies or
    1. UK
    2. US- Hollywood
    3. US- Georgia
    4. Europe
    5. Australia
    6. South Africa
    7. Nigeria (limited and unconfirmed)
    8. Malaysia
  1. While some people are looking for productions that take place outside, some creators are selling or developing projects that require more time indoors. John Krasinski licensed Some Good News to ViacomCBS in a ‘rich’ deal following a major bidding war. Some fans are upset about the show going corporate, but Krasinski defended the decision by telling fans that the show would have ended if he had to continue self-producing the show.
  1. South African project Blood and Water climbed to the top 10 streamed shows in several territories including UK, US, Kenya, Nigeria, Jamaica, Brazil Belgium, South Africa, France and has a 94% Rotten Tomatoes rating. This marks the second major project out of the continent for Netflix following Queen Sono, which has already been picked up for a second season. There are a number of projects that are either in production or post that are anticipated from Nigeria. The first of which is simply called the Akin Omotoso Project. These projects are part of Netflix’s initiative to invest into the continent to support local content creation and drive global distribution of African stories.
  1. Reports to check out:
    1. Getting Personal: Putting the ‘me’ in entertainment and media
    2. Creative Economy Outlook: Trends in international trade in creative industries

Article written by Chinwe Ohanele, Esq: tech-savvy, business-legal professional, entertainment law consultant, international speaker and IP writer.
Follow her on: Twitter and Instagram


Top