If you’re going to run a reality show these days, offering up a website, Facebook fan page and even twitter account are mandatory to connect with the viewing audience. If you’re not doing it, you’re missing a vital link directly with the people who are tuning in. A good social media strategy is an important part of succeeding in the ratings.

Channel 9’s latest version of The Block is no different. They’re engaging, connecting and communicating with their audience pretty well, and appropriately sizzling what’s coming up as well as listening to what people think of the show. What also helps is at least one of the hosts, Shelley Craft, is also using Twitter and this has potential to connect even further with fans.

What’s usually a no-no however is the contestants/participants of the show “outing” themselves on social media channels, if for no other reason than the producers cannot control what they say or do. Contestants in shows like MasterChef Australia are on a media blackout while they are still in the show (and even after they’re evicted they’re limited to where they can surface – fans may remember Jimmy & others popping up on twitter before they’d been evicted “on the show”). Part of the reason for MasterChef is that they are still filming while the show goes to air – you want people to keep watching without knowing who’s gone before it happens.

So it’s both pleasantly surprising and enlightening to see the contestants in this year’s season of The Block popping up all over Facebook & Twitter. Especially since the 4 houses in question are completely finished and waiting for auction.

Facebook fan pages have been set up for ALL 8 couples that took part in the initial portion of the show, and you can like them and keep in touch with what the couples are doing – particularly the remaining contestants Polly & Waz, Josh & Jenna, Tania & Rod and sisters Aime & Katrina. While these are a place for the couples to share their journey, they’re also administered by the production team for the show, so you’ll only get “official news” here (Katrina does remind you on her page that she writes on her personal blog most days – an interesting step away from the ‘approved’ setup).

It’s these moments when the contestants step away from that which can be controlled (they are under pretty strict contracts which would have heavy penalties for revealing anything), it’s how they are engaging on Twitter that is both revealing of their characters and what we might expect from them in the coming weeks and months. Katrina Chambers tweets quite repetitively (plugging her blog posts at least 3 times a day), but is quite happy to engage with others. Even though Emily & Laura got booted week 1, they’re tweeting occasionally and basically using it as a self-promotion service. It’s early days for Josh & Jen, so we’re yet to really see if they do anything with twitter… it’s not looking good though.

For the contestants of the reality show, utilising these social networks can be key – those that adopt them and use them well could have a real influence on the outcome of the the show. Those who have built up strong networks can advertise accordingly, can spread the word and promote their house when it comes to auction time. An unfair advantage? Not given they’ve all had equal chance to do so. This will prove to be very interesting.