By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
If Hollywood learned anything from the two Sharknado films on SyFy, it’s that when used properly, social media can be leveraged to create a media event that takes on a life of itself. Even when the movie is a campy gore-fest that would make Roger Corman blush, the second screen experience allows fans to comment together in real time, and to create a community that drives the property to a success.
Will there be a Sharknado 3? You can bet there will be. But not every television or movie social media campaign works with such success. But there is a way to tweak your campaign to make your film perform better, and United Talent Agency is at the forefront of making it happen.
“Does social media affect box office? The simple answer is yes.” – David Herrin, head of research for UTA
Believing that social media has a direct link to how well a film or TV show performs at the box office or in the ratings, UTA has been working on a kind of social media ranking system that tracks fan conversations through sites like Facebook and Twitter, about a project, for up to a year before they premiere, and then ranks them on a scale of 1-100. The higher the ranking, the more successful the film or show will be.
Speaking at a panel at CES last week, UTA head of research David Herrin provided data from a handful of tilms from last summer to show how well they ranked according to their system, and then compared that to how well they performed at the box office. The films he ranked included Universal’s Neighbors and A Million Ways to Die in the West, Sony Pictures’ 22 Jump Street and Sex Tape; and Warner Brothers’ Blended starring Adam Sandler. According to the UTA ranking system, both Neighbors (which starred Seth Rogan, as a family man who moves in next door to a frat house run by Zac Efron) and 22 Jump Street (starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) both scored well above 80 on the 100 scale, and that translated into successful opening weekends of over $50 million.
On the other side of the equation, however, the other three films – A Million Ways to Die in the West, Blended, and Sex Tape, hovered woefully in the 30s and ended up being box office bombs that studios could see coming six months out. Though Herrin admits that social media conversations may not be an effect of the release, he does believe that they can have an impact on generating buzz for a film’s release. “It’s about building long leads, six months or even a year ahead of release,” Herring told Variety, “and keeping that momentum going all the way through release,” he said.
To that end, UTA has begin marketing their social media ranking system as a new service called PreAct, which they hope will help studios to measure how well their PR campaigns on working in Cyberspace with audiences. One such studio, Legendary Entertainment, has used social media to gauge how well their marketing campaigns are working. The new hacker thriller Blackhat, starring Chris Hemsworth, had a PR campaign that needed to be changed after the Sony hacking scandal.
According to Matt Morolda, a technology guru at Legendary, the campaign was adjusted by watching social media’s reaction to the Sony hack. Originally the Blackhat campaign was a edgier and emphasized a personal impact on characters. But in the wake of the cyber-attack on Sony Morlda says “We were watching and having to tweak it every day. It’s almost like day-trading: We are constantly reallocating (marketing spending) based on what we are learning.”
“We’re seeing a shift: You have to be an expert in (social) to be a superstar.” – Brent Weinstein, UTA
It’s also causing talent agencies to push stars into a heavier social media presence, to engage with their fans. As social media continues to dominate the fan experience, stars are spending more time and effort engaging on Twitter (with mixed results) to the point where it’s replacing their websites for fan information. But that has a two-edged sword as fans react to things that stars say, especially if it’s about controversial subjects. But isn’t that always the case?