Jan Böhmermann made international headlines when he taunted the president of Turkey with a ‘poem’ on his show last month, which forced Angela Merkel to react, which caused more international attention.
I don’t watch German TV so I missed out on about 35 of his shows, but I became aware of Jan during his last big scandal #varoufake. Which was very much about Germans, and the German media, and therefore didn’t get as much international attention.
Jan’s show Neo Magazin Royale is shown on ZDF, which is one of the two publicly owned TV stations in Germany. ZDF and ARD used to be known for being dusty, uptight and irrelevant, but all that is changing.
I have to admit that I unabashedly like Jan. He is the kind of person who can hold a mirror up to an entire population and change how it perceives itself. His satire is art which is sometimes more obvious and sometimes only a very subtle part of what seems to be a regular TV show. He is entirely too emotionally switched on for a German man but I expect he has spent time abroad (I notice very tiny grammar slip-ups common to people who have a history of thinking in English rather than German.)
Relevant for the emotional maturity bit: He had a weekly radio programme, Sanft&Sorgfältig (softly and attentively), which was just cancelled. Instead the two creators have started a podcast on Spotify, ‘Fest und Flauschig‘. I think he is interesting, and I’m really only writing this blog post because I like him and I want to find out more about how he works.
On social media, Jan is on Twitter as himself, and his show has a separate Twitter account. Similarly for Facebook, where they post pictures of the studio audience, because until very recently it was a very niche show. So far, so standard.
He loves to play to the differences of the facebook and twitter audiences. Here is a facebook video where he makes fun of the ‘aloof’ types on Twitter. And here is the tweet from just before.
So. Und jetzt noch schön mainstreamig rüber zu Facebook.
— Jan Böhmermann (@janboehm) May 4, 2016
Once a week, Jan broadcasts part of the production conference on Periscope – the hashtag conference. People online have suggested hashtags relevant to current news, and continue to do so during the periscope broadcast. At the weekly conference, the hashtag for the current week is decided on. Well, it used to be, until the government got involved, so this time Jan joked about having to clear it with the Speaker and the chief of staff of the German chancellery first. And THEN on the show he came out with a completely different theme, which nobody could predict.
The current show, the current hashtag #verafake, and my reaction to seeing it appear in my stream, made me want to analyse Jan’s use of social media. I immediately thought: This tag is connected to the show, so I will attempt to find out what it is about. Which then made me watch the show, which then caused me to learn something about German reality TV which I never wanted to know. (It exploits vulnerable people. Well done to Jan for revealing this and, probably, changing that entire landscape with his contribution?)
The difference to any other mainstream media use of hashtags couldn’t be greater. In this case, online clearly hasn’t become part of what ‘marketing’ does, but is completely involved with everything Jan does.
The main two ingredients, in this and every other successful use of social media, are Personality and Expertise. Jan lives online, so online becomes part of everything he does.
I think in order for an organisation or individual to be successful online, it won’t do to hand the content creation over to marketing, or ‘digital’ over to the people dealing with everything else tech. Everyone in the leadership team who makes any decisions about how an organisation behaves online needs to be an expert, ideally needs to have their own experience of living online and really connecting with people and events here.
I aim to help individuals have this experience.
On a final note, here is a video of Jan announcing that they were all leaving Twitter when he didn’t get cake from Twitter Deutschland. Sadly without subtitles.