How Social Media is Changing Movie Marketing

The movie industry has been using social media to build awareness, connect with fans and promote its productions. All kinds of movies, low budget to high budget, have a lot to gain by leveraging social media to promote their movies. All the buzz on social sites play a very important role in deciding the fate of a movie since word of mouth messages are believed the most by people. Hence it becomes very important for movies to create positive social media hype before release. This can lead to having a very good opening weekend at the box office. 

But then of course the movie has to be good for it to be truly successful. Otherwise, even though it may have a good opening weekend, eventually after its release when the reviews start coming in, the same social media would be spreading negative reviews of the movie and then the ticket sales decline. Social media works with the same speed for good movies as well as bad movies.  It is often seen that low budget movies gain lot of traction for good through social media even though they had small opening week. Social media plays a bog role in spreading both positive and negative reviews. 

Below we discuss some interesting ways in which production houses have used social media to generate curiosity and market their movies. While it is easy to just post content on social media but it takes thinking and innovation to have a great campaign. We would also discuss a case study on how social media was used in some cool ways for marketing recent blockbuster – The Dark Knight Rises.

Crowd sourced Screening

Social media can be used to find out in which places there is more interest for a movie and then the movie released only in those specific places. This is called crowd sourced screening. This strategy creates awareness and helps in connecting better with fans. Some of the successful examples of this strategy are:

  • Paranormal Activity: Paramount in partnership with Eventful used facebook to promote the movie and they asked interested fans to request for screening in their area. The film was released widely only after reaching the goal of 1 million fan requests and went on to make more than $150 million at the box office, much higher than the $15,000 that it was made for.
  • Hot Tub Time Machine: In this case too, MGM partnered with Eventful to make fans request for a screening of the movie.

Viral Movie Campaigns on Social Media

With social media, messages spread at lightning speed and this gives a good opportunity for movie makers to use viral marketing strategy for their films’ promotion. Examples of viral campaigns are:

  • Inception: Warner Brothers partnered with location-based service SCVNGR for viral marketing the promotions of the movie.
  • Toy Story 3: Disney and Pixar created vintage toy commercials for a new character in the film called ‘Lots-o’-Huggin’ BEAR’. Everything about the ad was in 80s style. The ad’s aim was to grab the attention of people in their twenties. The ad became social media for moviesvery popular and was widely shared on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.
  • TRON Legacy: This movie had the most prolonged viral campaign which started in July 2009 and went on till its release in December 2010. Clues with some information were sent to film bloggers around the web for them to solve the jigsaw puzzle to get an idea of the storyline. Twitter was the main social site used for their viral campaigns. In the Comic-Con 2009 held in San Diego, they released TRON Arcade video game which turned out to be a huge hit.  
  • The Hunger Games: Nook sponsored an Advanced Screening Program for viral marketing. This made use of twitter and specific hashtags to unlock cities to see the movie before its release. If you tweeted about a city that was already unlocked, you would be put in a draw to win movie tickets. Yahoo! sponsored giving tickets to the red carpet premiere for those who shared more on social sites and those participants who didn’t win could see the live streaming of the premiere on facebook.  

Trailers and video clips are distributed over Social Media

More and more movie trailers are being released first on facebook and twitter owing to their outreach. Examples of movies which have used social sites to release exclusive content are:

  • Alice in Wonderland: Disney released the posters of the characters from this movie first on facebook. Later they even posted video clips of trailers on facebook. They launched a viral campaign on twitter and facebook – the fans could choose to be loyal subjects of the red or white queen or disloyal subjects of mad hatter. The largest group of followers would get to see an exclusive trailer of the movie. This led to the social media campaign being a viral hit and the facebook page today has well over 14 million fans.  
  • The Social Network: Sony used twitter and MySpace for promotions of the movie. They even had a website for the movie with photos, videos, cast information and a lot of other movie related content.
  • The Twilight Saga: They used twitter to share press releases, blogs, pictures, video clips and a lot of other interesting content regarding the movies. It got over 1 million followers on twitter, the first time ever any movie achieved such a huge fan base on twitter.

Facebook App

For movie studios facebook is a great platform to interact directly with fans through a facebook page, engage them with apps and games and even sell tickets for their movies. Examples of movie studios making use of facebook apps are:

  • TRON Legacy: Disney created an app called TRONiVerse which forms an interactive grid of photos, videos and posts from different social sites.
  • Avatar: Fox had an extensive facebook campaign to promote the movie including many apps. 
  • Toy Story 3: Disney went on to offer tickets for the movie through its facebook page and you could invite friends to the movie too. 
  • Monsters vs. Aliens: Facebook was the main platform used by Dreamworks to promote this movie. Through a facebook app, fans could win or buy tickets.

Case Study: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises had a well-planned, extensive social media campaign that turned out to be a huge success.

  • Social media buttons on the official website: Every page of the official website has the buttons of all major social sites – Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious, Digg, Google+ and GetGlue.  
  • Official Facebook page: The facebook page of The Dark Knight Rises was very popular among fans and the marketing team did a good job of posting engaging content many times a day. The content shared included photos, reviews, apps and games. The page is active even now although the posts are not as regular as they were around the time of the movie’s release. The page has a whopping 36,34,956 likes! 
  • The Dark Knight Rises FX App: This app was offered on the official website using which fans could design their own tumbler (Batman’s vehicle) and put themselves in that Tumbler in a photo application of the app. There was also a video application by which they could insert the Tumbler in their own videos. And of course they could share their creations with friends on social sites. 
  • YouTube videos: Warner Brothers released a thirteen minute video clip on YouTube containing fragmented footage of the film. This in addition to teasers and trailers increased curiosity of fans. 
  • The Dark Knight Rises Z+: This was an app offered on iOS devices, i.e. iPhone and iPad, by which users get an ‘augmented soundtrack experience’. It contained over 2 hours of exclusive music, and sound effects that give the feeling of being in Gotham city. 
  • Twitter: The Dark Knight Rises made good use of twitter and hashtags for their viral campaigns. One of the viral campaigns involved the early release of a picture of the villain ‘Bane’ in the movie. However, the image was obscured. To reveal the high-resolution picture, each peeled away pixel had to be removed one by one. A pixel is removed every time there is a tweet with the hashtag #thefirerises.  Another one of their campaigns was a Gotham city police investigation. They had Batman graffiti planted in many cities in the world like Rome, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, New York City and Melbourne. Fans had to find these graffiti, take a picture of it with GPS of their phones turned on and share the picture on twitter with hashtag #tdkr07202012 or mail it to [email protected] The number 07202012 indicates the movie release date of 20th July, 2012. Finding these graffiti would unlock frames from the third trailer of the movie even before its premier. 
  • DEWGothamCity.com: This website was launched in partnership with Mountain Dew and contained additional insight and information about the movie and its characters. The interactive features of the website included The Applied Sciences Lab, The Gotham City Convenience Store and the Gotham city police department. There was even a ‘Bat Cave’ which could be unlocked before 8th July, 2012 only if the fans managed to redeem 5 million DEW product codes. The bat cave had exclusive video from the movie. To increase participation from fans, Mountain Dew had even announced prizes and rewards to be won.  

In the end.. 

There are many examples that show that movies that were a box office hit had a huge social media campaign in the lead up to the release of the movie. Hence, in future too we will get to see more and more movie studios embracing the social media to promote their films.