Shark-Infested Social Media: How Discovery Built Anticipation for Shark Week

With the Olympics coming to a close on the 12th, you’re probably getting nervous about the void you’ll be feeling in your TV programming. Never fear, Shark Week is coming! The week kicks off on a day no other than…you guessed it, August 12th.

If you’ve been living under a rock and have no idea what that is, well, A) I feel sorry for you, but B) it’s a week-long marathon of shark documentaries and shows on Discovery Channel. And this year’s is guaranteed to be the best yet, because Discovery Channel is celebrating Shark Week’s 25th anniversary.

Forget the most social Olympics, this is going to be the most social Shark Week! This year Discovery Channel has gone above and beyond mastering the web and social media in order to get everyone chomping at the bit for the yearly tradition of a solid week of “jawsome” shark facts and attacks.

You can start out with a live countdown, down to the seconds, until Shark Week with the official countdown. Then there’s the official website. The website includes tons of shark videos, fun games like “Shark Yourself,” and even a 360 shark cam hosted from the “Ocean Voyager” exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

Now we head into those shark-infested social media waters. For months, Discovery Channel has been posting clever “share shark” photos with witty captions on the Shark Week Facebook page. These made excellent snackable, shareable content.

chompie spice girlsIn addition to share sharks, starting 25 days prior to the big week, the SW Facebook page counted down the last 25 years of history one year a day with fun photos of “Chompie” the shark through the years. Chompie was Photoshopped into various scenes, outfits, and other nostalgic tidbits as fans remember Shark Week through the ages. For example, the photo on the left features Chompie dressed up as the Spice Girls in 1996.

Discovery has also taken to twitter in order to launch their own photo meme. Known as PhotoChomping, this meme asks users to put their hands together above their head to make a fin, take a photo, and then post to Twitter with the hashtag, #PhotoChomping. The Shark Week Twitter feed also features tweets brought to fans in the voices of Chompie and his cousin, Sharkzilla.

Discovery also posts their share sharks and Chompie’s polaroid photos on the official Tumblr. That’s not all their Tumblr has to offer, either. The folks over at Discovery use Tumblr to reblog and share fan art, as well as participate in popular internet memes. They also use this platform, in addition to all of the others, to plug exclusive offers on Shark Week merchandise.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Shark Week is also active on GetGlue. In the days leading up to the exciting week, fans can check in on GetGlue to earn stickers and exclusive web offers, like a 10% off coupon for the Discovery Channel store.

As you can see, Discovery Channel has pulled out all the stops to reach as many different people on as many different social media platforms as possible. By doing so, they’ve fostered a “fintastic” relationship with their fans, and will surely be in for a more community-driven, social Shark Week than ever before. Discovery’s expansive social media coverage is proof that if done right, there’s no such thing as your brand being too social.

If you can’t wait for Shark Week, then you can also head over to the Discover Network YouTube channel for some badass morsels of what’s to come next week. For example, this teaser for “Air Jaws Apocalypse”:

Can you believe Shark Week has been around for 25 years? What do you think of Discovery’s social media efforts leading up it? Do you have any suggestions for something that could have been done differently? Will you be playing the Shark Week drinking game? Sound off in the comments below!

Photos courtesy of: david_shankbone, Hani Amir, and the Shark Week Facebook page.

Jenna Markowski

Jenna has a much easier time writing about the media and pop culture than she does writing about herself. She enjoys the simple things in life, like puns and typography. She is an avid fan of pop-punk, Halo 3, Spider-Man and origami, with a slight Taco Bell obsession. Her spirit animal is either a bulldog or a panda bear. You can also connect with Jenna on Google+.


  1. Serenity

    ER MAH GERD SHERK WERK!!!! I love shark week! I can’t believe it has been on for 25 years and there is still a lot to learn about. I wounder if you have participated in all 25 years, Discovery Channel should send you some sort of shark taxonomy certification. Seriously, you learn so much and it never gets old! I am glad they are able to do so much now with social media then they were able to 25 years ago. I think that really does catch people’s attention. Great post!

    • Jenna Markowski

      I love Shark Week, too! I can’t believe it’s been around that long, either. I’m sure there are people who have watched Shark Week all 25 years. Discovery should totally do something like that! Although, it might be kind of hard to prove. Social media has definitely helped Shark Week catch people’s attention, and I’m so excited to see what else they roll out during the actual week!

      Thanks, Sam! 🙂

  2. Kelsey

    Unfortunately, I don’t even get the Discovery channel at my house..but maybe I’ll spend some time watching Shark Week over at a friends or something. I have never watched any part of it before, but I of course hear about it every year and this post has actually made me more interested in it. I can’t believe it’s been on 25 years either. I definitely think that not just the show, but their interaction with fans through social media has really made Shark Week what it is.
    Nice Post, Jenna. 🙂

    (That picture at the top just kills me!)

    • Jenna Markowski

      You’ll have to ask one of your friends to let you catch a little bit of Shark Week. I’m sure it won’t take much convincing because…c’mon. Sharks! I was totally impressed with the extent of Shark Week’s presence on social media, and I’m sure other Shark Week fans feel the same. There’s no such thing as too many sharks!

      Thanks, Kelsey! And I’m glad you like the header image! 🙂

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    It’s crazy to think that Shark Week has been around for 25 years. But with all their word-of-mouth and social media efforts, it’s easy to see why it’s still a big deal every single year. I think it’s great that Discovery has sunk so much time and money into promoting Shark Week on just about every platform. From what I gather, people of all ages really enjoy Shark Week, so you never know where you’re going to catch them. And really, Shark Week fans don’t seem like they’d be upset to catch the same shark meme on both Facebook and Tumblr.

    Also, I love when mascots take over Twitter feeds, so two thumbs up for Chompie and Sharkzilla taking over.

    • Jenna Markowski

      I totally agree! I know for a lot of people Shark Week is one of the biggest TV events of the year, and it’s become such a staple in our pop culture. Now that I think about it, NBC makes a lot of references to Shark Week. There’s Jeff on Community, “We celebrate Shark Week. Not even sharks celebrate Shark Week!” and of course Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock. Plus all the references in movies like Step Brothers. That paired with awesome social media has created a demand for Shark Week across all different age ranges and demographics, just like you said.

      I agree! That’s my favorite!

  4. Rachel

    I had no idea Shark Week had been around for so long! Crazy. It’s cool that Discovery Channel recognizes that SW is a big deal for many of its viewers and is going all out with the social media and silly shark-related stuff. That Chompie/Spice Girls image is the best, haha.

    Thanks for the info, Jenna!

    • Jenna Markowski

      Thanks for commenting, Rachel! I think it’s great that Shark Week has recognized that a major portion of their audience are teens and young adults that are pretty active on social media, so they’ve harnessed that to promote their week of programming. All of the silly shark stuff on their Facebook page is so funny, but I agree, the Spice Girls one is my favorite!

      No problem! Anytime I get to talk about sharks is a good day for me. 🙂

  5. Eric

    SHARKS! I have to admit, “chomping,” while having nothing to do with a chomping gesture, is one of the most clever marketing strategies I’ve heard of. If “planking” (and eventually, “owling”) were used to market a brand, well, they’d have had all sorts of free advertising. Smart move, Discovery peeps. In conclusion, SHARKS!

  6. Amy Swanson

    Haha, I remember watching (and being terrified) watching Shark Week with my sister and cousin when I was like 7 or 8 years old at my grandparent’s house during the summer! Good to see Discovery Channel is sticking with this tradition.

    I love all the social media stuff they’ve been doing to drum up interest for their marathon, other brands could certainly learn a lesson. Instead of just posting a countdown clock and leaving it at that, they’re actually engaging viewers! This isn’t a crazy concept, but brands are so fearful of doing it that I’m glad Discovery Channel is swimming against the current (ahaha, see what I did there? 😉 )

    Fun post, Jenna! I wouldn’t be able to make it to work all week if I did that drinking game… could I do it with Coke instead?

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