Online communities that support TV projects are growing rapidly in importance, especially when applied to youth-targetted shows. Chris Mair explains some of the basic principles.

Channel 4's Battlefront was a project that needed an integrated digital offering with an active online community to realise its full potential. If you're working on a similar multiplatform project, there isn't a ‘one size fits all' approach, but here are a few rules that will help you on your way:

  • Don't simply replicate your TV content online
    The web is a completely different medium to television and should be considered as such.

    Online viewers tend to prefer content delivered in bite-sized formats and it is important not to regurgitate content that viewers have already watched on TV.

    You should use digital to build on your TV content. Consider what the web can offer your viewers that the TV production cannot; perhaps a subplot can evolve online or users can debate subject matters covered on the show.

    Don't make digital an afterthought. Get the experts involved from day one and together you can figure out ways to make digital a truly integrated part of your production.

  • Know your audience
    To effectively reach your web audience, you need to speak to them in the places that they are already spending their time online - not try and lure them to fancy destination websites that they don't really want to visit.

    The challenge is two-fold: firstly you need to understand where your audience is spending time online and secondly you need to find appropriate ways of speaking to them. Be relevant and be genuine.

    It's a time consuming process but imperative if you're going to get cut-through online.

  • Let your content go
    If people want to take your content and shout about it to their friends, then let them - in fact, help them do to it. Use tearaways, RSS feeds, blogs and social networking applications to build a community around the digital content and your show.

    Of course there are restrictions to what you want to give away, but there's no better way of getting your message out than by using your current audience as messengers.

Chris Mair is straetgy director at Airlock