As I’ve discussed extensively in past articles, social media can be the most amazing marketing tool available when it’s used efficiently. When done well, online buzz can make a movie. If people are talking extensively about a movie online, odds are more and more people are going to go see it, if only to be included in the conversation. But bad marketing can also break a movie. If potential viewers feel harassed by a film’s marketing campaign, they’re probably going to avoid the film altogether.
Finding a balance with online film promotion isn’t easy, but it’s possible. On a site such as Twitter, going viral and creating buzz is definitely feasible, but avoiding posting spam tweets and annoying potential viewers also needs to be constantly considered.
One thing is for sure, if I were in charge of Twitter as a marketing tool for upcoming movies, there are some things that I would do differently.
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Traditional Marketing Techniques Aren’t Enough
For the last six weeks, I’ve been studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. Every day during my walk to class, I would come face to face with a huge, larger than life poster for Tom Cruise’s new film, “Edge of Tomorrow.” The poster was plastered on the side of a building right in the middle of the city. It was also on the sides of buses and posted anywhere on the streets that there was room for it. This marketing campaign didn’t work. “Edge of Tomorrow” was a terrible bust. Despite getting rave reviews from critics, people just didn’t go to see this movie. Who knows what the problem really was?
I’ve heard some people complain that the promotion in the United States wasn’t strong enough, but I know for a fact that promotion was strong in Dublin. However, I never — not even one time — saw “Edge of Tomorrow” anywhere on Twitter. I saw film critics and potential viewers talking about it, sure, but I never saw an official account. After a bit of searching, I found that there is, in fact, a verified account for the film, but if someone who’s on Twitter as much as I am and loves movies as much as I do never sees one tweet from the film’s account, there’s probably an issue there. Am I suggesting that “Edge of Tomorrow” flopped because the online marketing strategy wasn’t very good? No. Not completely anyway. But I am suggesting that tailoring marketing strategies to the increasingly online world that we live in could likely do wonders to help films get buzz.
“Edge of Tomorrow” teaches at least one powerful lesson. Traditional marketing techniques simply aren’t enough for most films anymore. Maybe if the movie had created more buzz critically — although it did create quite a lot — or maybe if Tom Cruise were a more relevant film star — although he really is quite relevant — but clearly giant posters on the sides of buildings don’t always work. And that shouldn’t be such a bad thing. After all, those promotion techniques are extremely expensive. You know what’s not? Social media. Creating a buzz online doesn’t cost a thing, and it’s a great way to get people talking.
Avoid More of the Same
Every film that comes out now does have an “official Twitter page.” The problem isn’t that these accounts don’t exist. The problem is that they don’t serve any purpose from a marketing standpoint. Typically films have a verified account that tweets trailers and “exclusives” from the film, but we all know the tricks of the trade. I know I’ve seen more promotion campaigns on social media sites than I can count, and most of the time, they’re all the same.
These accounts can sometimes be successful, but usually even popular films don’t have incredibly popular Twitter accounts. The problem is that these accounts are boring. Because they all do the exact same thing and they don’t offer anything new to potential viewers, there’s no reason to follow them. I review movies regularly and even I don’t follow any verified film accounts. There’s just no reason to. So they need to give us reasons to. Whether it’s by tweeting exclusive pictures and information about the film, or something even more creative, without a reason to follow, people won’t even talk about the film online.
One idea is to branch out from the idea that a film can only have one official Twitter account. Imagine if characters from films had “official” accounts. The tweets would be entertaining and in character and if the account interacted with fans, it would be easy to get people talking. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a current upcoming film that could make amazing use of this. With all those vastly different, always interesting main characters, the Twitter possibilities are endless. Fans would have fun interacting with their favorite characters’ accounts, and all the while more people would become exposed to the upcoming film.
Use What You’ve Got
The official Twitter for a film about Alan Turing that stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley has just 4,781 followers. The movie doesn’t come out for a while, and the marketing campaign seems to just be gearing up to start, but a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch should have way more followers than that. The Internet is completely obsessed with Cumberbatch. There’s no excuse for anything that stars Benedict Cumberbatch to have less than 10,000 followers.
All it takes are a few behind the scenes photos of Benedict. Or maybe let him “take over the account” for the day. Granted, there’s a good chance “The Imitation Game” will do these things closer to the film’s release date, but there are still steps the person who’s running the Twitter account can be taking now to increase the follower count and gain a wider reach. Post pictures, post short interesting stories from the set, post quotes from Benedict about the film and post facts about Alan Turing… There are so many ways to start to build a following online. It isn’t easy for every movie to become massively popular online, but when Benedict Cumberbatch is involved, it really should be.
Verified film accounts need to use whatever they have going for them. For “The Imitation Game,” it’s Benedict Cumberbatch. For “Gone Girl,” it’s a massively popular book and the casting choices. For other films, it might be a relevant issue. HBO’s “The Normal Heart” was about the outbreak of AIDS. Because of the ongoing fight for marriage equality, this is still an issue that could get a lot of buzz. Maybe it’s an interesting CGI technique. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” basically featured an ape as the main character. I don’t care who you are; that’s interesting. Whatever the film has that makes it stand out from the others, the marketing campaign needs to grab hold of it and let loose.
The “Frozen” Effect
Remember “Frozen”? Of course you do. Everyone loves “Frozen.” Everyone’s seen it. “Frozen’s” official promotion on the streets was lackluster at best. Apart from the usual trailers on TV, this film didn’t have much else out there. But it became a hugely popular hit. The Internet is largely to thank for that. “Frozen” went viral, as much as a film can go viral. Suddenly every post online was about “Frozen.” It was a “Let It Go” remix, or a post expressing love for Olaf, or a fanfiction story written about Anna and Kristoff. The point is, “Frozen” absolutely took over the Internet.
I’ll be honest here and tell you that I truly had no intentions of seeing “Frozen” before the online buzz about it hit. I thought Olaf looked annoying, and I’ve never been a big fan of animated features to begin with. But of course, because everyone was talking about “Frozen,” I tuned in. (Obviously I loved it. Olaf is adorable and decidedly not annoying at all, and animated films still have their charms. See, I can admit when I’m wrong!) Though I think “Frozen’s” online success is thanks to enthusiastic fans more than the film’s marketing team, it should stand as an important lesson to other upcoming movies. Promoting online, going viral and pushing your film to become popular on the Internet really can inspire more people to see it.
Don’t Be Boring
Isn’t this always what it comes down to on social media? Being interesting is half the battle. Mix it up. Keep people engaged. That’s my main advice to anyone running an official film Twitter account.
If you want to ask me any questions or just talk about movies, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SkyyTweet. (Hey, I’m also open to taking jobs running Twitter accounts for movies. I’m just saying.) Thanks, as always, for reading!
More articles related to Twitter and the promotion of entertainment
- How Twitter Helps Movie and TV Fans Find the Newest Hits
- How Social Media Changed TV and Movie Consumption
- How the Movie Going Experience Has Changed with Social Media