“Atlanta,” FX’s occasionally surreal examination of human behavior, is acutely aware of the Internet. It’s fitting for a show whose creator, executive producer and star — the multitalented Donald Glover — released an album titled “Because the Internet” back in 2013, complete with a GIF on its cover. “The Internet is everything,” Glover told Time that year. “Atlanta,” ever intuitive, fully comprehends this.
For “Atlanta,” that means acknowledging the Web’s omnipresence in our lives and linking it to every aspect of the show.
In the first season’s finale, Glover’s Earn Marks, the show’s ineffectual main character, uses Snapchat to piece together a drunken night out during his search for a very important jacket. The second season’s premiere alludes to the infamous “Florida Man” meme and corresponding Twitter account by compiling the ridiculous headlines populating the latter’s feed into a warning about a faceless evil recounted a la Keyser Soze in “The Usual Suspects.” Season 2’s third episode opens by parodying a 2016 viral video featuring a concerned mother’s tearful rant about the explicit lyrics in “Norf Norf,” a song by rapper Vince Staples.
“Atlanta’s” frequent references to Internet lore reflect a shrewd understanding of how the show’s audience interacts with the medium. “Atlanta” grasps our experiential bond with social media, so it’s only appropriate that each of its official channels reflects this insight, allowing the audience members to immerse themselves outside the standard episodic format.
To follow “Atlanta’s” social media accounts is to follow the conversation across platforms, guided by a unified style and consciousness as fascinating as the show itself. Each digital yarn incorporates the quirky panache that has made “Atlanta” such a clear standout in the increasingly crowded television terrain.
Ibra Ake, photographer, creative director and a writer for “Atlanta,” is integral in channeling the show’s tone into its marketing efforts. He says the process began in the writers’ room when a conscious decision was made to promote the show through social outlets to establish a better connection with the audience. That meant creating accounts less concerned with traditional promotional objectives — as in, getting people to turn on FX at 10 p.m. every Thursday — than being relevant to how people truly engage with the Internet. The tone would be informal, irreverent, conversational. In other words, accounts people actually want to follow.
“We talked about that amongst ourselves and decided the accounts should just be accounts,” Ake said. “In those ways, you should just be interested in them independent of the show.”
The Los Angeles-based lifestyle marketing firm Cashmere Agency manages the accounts, unleashing a deluge of stray and semi-random observations in a conversational tone outlined by “Atlanta’s” creative circle. The voice is frequently existential, an effect reinforced by frequent use of the lowercase. “ flannel is fur for anxiety,” one tweet reads. “strip club atm charge like they givin out loans,” another muses. While the Twitter account always live-tweets episodes of the show (from the perspective of a viewer), it has also live-tweeted episodes of HGTV’s “Property Brothers.”
“Atlanta’s” Twitter presence is not entirely devoid of promotional content, but its floating stream-of-consciousness ruminations are a better match for the vibe of the show than the normal show-associated accounts.
“If I want to read a stupid thought or something funny, or just something unconnected, I’m not afraid to go to this corporate account because I know it doesn’t care about doing its job — just like me,” Ake says of the approach.
Whereas “Atlanta’s” Twitter account is more of a sentient being, the show’s Instagram posts paint a picture of the city through show clips, photos and GIFs. Despite the account’s having an array of heavily produced content, Ake says, snapshots displaying Atlanta’s beauty and essence, such as cellphone pictures of street corners, actually perform better because people are more responsive to simple, familiar imagery. “We just don’t want to waste people’s time, and that means not shoving advertising down [their] throats,” he explains.
Promoting the city of Atlanta also means showcasing the people “Atlanta’s” creators are otherwise unable to highlight through the show. The Instagram account features a number of Boomerang images and grainy photographs taken by Ake himself of people he and the rest of the writers’ room recognize for their contributions to the city’s culture. Producer Sonny Digital. The DJ Speakerfoxxx. Rappers-skateboarders Shareef “PRETTYREEF” Grady and Reese LaFlare. Soul duo St. Beauty.
Amplifying voices from an actual community helps “Atlanta” grow its online community. Part of the impact can be found in the Instagram comments, where pictures of rappers such as Scotty ATL, Hoodrich Pablo Juan and ManMan Savage elicit effusive praise from followers who see a little bit of themselves in their heroes.
Furthermore, each social media account utilizes “Atlanta’s” idiosyncratic flair to foster discussion about the show by bridging its world with the off-platform and digital worlds. This means posting Craigslist ads that the writers find amusing on Twitter. Or creating a faux call for a Rodent Cellular Communication study on Facebook — a nod to a joke about rat phones creating affordable phones for all. Or an Instagram post within an Instagram post: a selfie taken mid-drug deal during an episode made into a graphic.
It’s unsurprising, considering that a real Instagram account was created for Marcus Miles, the owner of Season 1’s infamous invisible car. Smart framing of the show outside the expected marketing content reflects “Atlanta’s” influences: the Internet, of course, but other media such as radio and video games, as well. According to Ake, the show and its social media accounts draw inspiration from the Grand Theft Auto video-game series’s fake ads and commercials. Ake cites the games’ “world building through social media” as a major influence in what the team tried to accomplish with “Atlanta.”
In terms of other current TV hits, “Game of Thrones” was the most-tweeted-about show of 2017. Discussion about HBO’s ratings behemoth has inspired two shows devoted to unpacking it. And it’s the discussions around such shows as “Game of Thrones” and “Atlanta” that can be remembered as fondly as anything caught on camera.
“ ‘Game of Thrones’ is a great show,” Ake says, “but a huge part of ‘Game of Thrones’ is talking about it, gathering by the TV every Sunday night and live-tweeting together. So nurturing that community for discussion and exploration of the world is just as important as creating the world itself. It’s more about hanging together at the dinner table than eating good food.”