Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Five Ways Film Studios Can Advance Word of Mouth on Twitter

Nothing that is mentioned hereafter is going to help a film that objectively sucks. Objective suckiosity is the kryptonite of this post. Worse: trying to use these crafty maneuvers to advance a film that objectively sucks will only backfire, filling the Twitterverse with contempt for your faulty production.

Moving on:

Twitter really is a thoroughly unique form of social media to get across positive or even negative word of mouth about a film. This is the so-called "Twitter effect," best felt on Fridays and, to a lesser degree, on Saturday mornings. Here are five ways that a social media conscious studio could conceivably accelerate the word of mouth on a film in which they feel confident:

Creative Hashtagging

Hashtags offer the studios a great opportunity to promote their films in the run up to opening night. The teleological end of creative hashtagging for a studio is to get the film's name in the trending topics getting positive buzz (getting the film's name in the trending topics and in 140 characters or less everyone says it sucks is bad). So what does a studio do when they have, in, say, JJ Abrams's Super 8, a heavily buzzed about film that is already garnering good reviews from critics? From the New York Times:
"Paramount Pictures on Thursday will stage an unusual stunt intended to create a surge of chatter on Twitter about the new movie “Super 8,” directed by J. J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg. Imax theaters and top-performing multiplexes –- some 325 locations across the country –- will host afternoon sneak-peek screenings of that movie and customers will be urged to Tweet about it afterward using #super8secret."
Really? That's it? #super8secret and hope for the best? That's the marketing velocity Paramount Pictures is going after on a film that is tailor made for social media?

How about some creative hashtaging? Expect that film goers are going to be tweeting their experience, particularly at the opening and the final credits. Expect #super8secret to be exhausted as a social media gathering spot by Saturday morning. Why not add some more momentum by hashtagging -- or placing a hashtag prominently in the closing credits -- of a particular or controversial aspect of the film that would invoke discussion.

And as far as creative hashtagging goes: Humor works. If the momentum on an official hastag is exhausting itself, why not start, like in the case of The Hangover 2: #ThingsthatcangowronginBankok

Or something like that.

Promoted Trends

This one is pretty obvious.

Are promoted trends effective? I'm not sure how one goes about measuring. But every day this blogger's eyes scan the promoted trends, so if I didn't know what it was I usually do by the end of the day. Not bad for $20,000 or so. And 20 -- or even 30 large -- is a pittance as a marketing spend for a major motion picture.

The Films Stars Promoting on Twitter

In the old days the stars of an upcoming film would do interviews on the morning and late night shows (and Oprah) targeting particular demographics that would be most responsive to the film's message. This is still done, though the influence of those shows -- particularly with late night television (Johnny's gone) -- is far more diffuse and nichified.

Plus there is the introduction of social media, which adds a rogue element into the mix: the people. Unmediated, without the middle man, the stars of a movie could ostensibly make their case as to why you need to get your ass out of the chair and see their movie. And that's a good development, a lot more interesting than going through the motions with Jay Leno (boo) in order to get to that all-important clip.

Television stars do this all the time, incidentally. They promote their shows, they plead with fans to watch those shows and they re-Tweet favorable reactions to their work for all their followers to see. Everyone's happy. Movie studios should insist that in the run-up to the big Friday a film's stars take some time -- if even while they are promoting the product via traditional media -- to interact with fans on Twitter on their smart phone.

Movie stars need to learn how to do this, and do this creatively. Jay Leno may accept pat, canned answers: the fans on social media will not.

Character Tweets

In the book publishing industry authors often create character Twitter handles for their protagonists. The awesome Paula Froelich, for example, did this with Penelope Mercury of Mercury in Retrograde and the amazing Molly Jong-Fast did this with Daisy Greenbaum in The Social Climber's Handbook.

I think this idea would work well with movie -- particularly sequels and particularly comedies. In sequels, the audience is -- presumably, at least -- invested in the characters. And comedies lend themselves to pithy 140 word jokes, charming the Twitter follower into the theater. Imagine if Zach Galifianakis' "Stu" in The Hangover had a fake Twitter account? How awesome would that be? For the relatively minor expense of hiring a comedy writer to write in "Stu's" voice leading up to the Friday of the film's release, there could be a lot of positive Twitter buzz accrued.

Invite Influencers to Advanced Screenings

I have little doubt that JJ Abrams has made a good film. That's what he does. The early reviews already tell me that. He will almost certainly get good word of mouth as well. But that doesn't mean that paramount should be lazy about it. Paramount -- and every studio, actually -- ought to have a coherent social media strategy. And part of that Twitter strategy should be devoted to Twitter.

Paramount -- and all studios, in fact -- should be inviting film and pop cultural influencers in the Twittersphere with high social clout to advanced screenings in their areas. It is almost laughable that studios are still more familiar in dealing with movie critics with a dwindling audience in newspapers, than with bloggers and, more to the point, social media influencers.

Studios should be crunching the numbers of heavily trafficked facebook pages, blogs and Twitter accounts of people that write on film and culture with high scores on social media influence-scoring platforms like Klout.


"Twitter is real time," Gordon Paddison, a marketing consultant who specializes in technological change, told The Wrap. "It’s like waves cresting on the shore. You need to be mindful of how word of mouth breaks, and as it starts to break, to be able to shape it, respond to it, or take advantage of it.”

And handle it creatively.

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