There was once a time where I barely used social media at all, or at least, not actively. I was more of a passive user, lurking on an internet forum here, creeping quietly on another blog there… perhaps social media is the wrong term for what I was doing, or for how I was using the internet. I was engaging with media, sure, but I certainly wasn’t social about it.
That changed when I discovered Marble Hornets.
Marble Hornets was a Youtube supernatural horror series that ran from June 2009-June 2014. What set this series apart from other internet sensations was that it was an Augmented Reality Game (ARG), meaning that the events of the series were supposedly happening in real life, in real time, to real people, and that any and every interaction with the series–whether it was through the characters in the videos seemingly breaking the fourth wall by talking to the audience, or even by posts on Twitter or Facebook that the characters made, were all a part of the experience of the show. For instance, if the Marble Hornets Twitter account responded to a fan tweeting at them, that wasn’t Troy Wagner (the creator, director, and main actor) replying to a fan, that was Jay (the character) replying to someone concerned about them. For all the show’s dark twists and turns, the ARG element was probably the most interesting part of it to me. Because of Marble Hornets, I ended up using social media more actively so I could follow along and be a part of the experience.
Stuff like this is probably why social media is so fascinating to me now. As a game designer, I know that immersion and interactivity are what set video games apart from other story-telling mediums. As a communicator, I’m always looking for ways I can make my social media and marketing strategies more interesting and attractive to the public. I think designing a social media strategy around the idea of an ARG combines both of these disciplines nicely.
The interactive nature of social media already means that your audience is somewhat receptive to whatever it is you’re trying to market–why not capitalize on this by designing an ARG? Leave hints and clues within your tweets, videos, and posts to tantalize your audience and leave them wanting more! Make your online presence more fun by turning the already present actively engaged nature of social media up to eleven.
I think that ARG’s have a lot of potential within the communication and marketing spheres, and as online communication starts to become more prevalent, I hope to see more ARG’s in the future.