Hollywood reveals blueprint for Twitter marketing

The effect of social media tools like Twitter is notoriously difficult to quantify but Hollywood may just have provided a compelling case study.

The tweeter

Lindsay Wailes, a cook and coffee shop assistant from Westminster, Maryland, is one of a growing number of movie buffs that are engaging in C2C marketing thanks to the micro-blogging tool. She advised her Twitter followers to steer clear of this summer’s blockbuster G.I. Joe if they wanted to watch a film with clever plotting or scientific realism, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“Almost every time after I go out [to a movie], I’ll tweet about it,” she explained. As well as offering trend-setting updates, she was also persuaded to skip the new Sacha Baron Cohen film Bruno because of a string of negative reviews from fellow tweeple.

The Twitter effect

Both films were marketed heavily using traditional methods and both experienced an unexpectedly quick drop in box office takings – Bruno recorded an unprecedented 39 per cent drop from Friday to Saturday in the US. Many industry experts are pointing the finger at Twitter and, specifically, users like Ms Wailes who tweet their displeasure to hundreds of followers within minutes of leaving the cinema.

However, Stephen Bruno, senior director of marketing at independent film studio the Weinstein Company, said companies should embrace Twitter rather than fearing its capacity to damage. “I think Twitter can’t be stopped,” he said. “Now you have to see it as an addition to the campaign of any movie. People want real-time news and suddenly a studio can give it to them in a first-person way.”

The Twitter fight back

In terms of best practice, the Weinstein Company may have shown marketers how to regain control of the conversation using Twitter. Despite a string of negative reviews from professional critics, Inglourious Basterds accrued worldwide box office takings of £39.7 million on the opening weekend – director Quentin Tarantino’s largest ever figure.

A Twitter-focused marketing campaign may have turned things around.

The Weinstein Company cleverly distributed tickets to a preview screening on Twitter, which attracted a high number of Tarantino fans who then spread positive tweets about the film. It also arranged what it dubbed the “first ever Red Carpet Twitter meet-up” during the premiere, where celebrities including Sarah Silverman and Tony Hawks were encouraged to tweet their reviews.

The opportunity for Twitter marketers

Of course, word-of-mouth marketing is nothing new. Tweets merely enhance the ability of consumers to pass on their thoughts to like-minded people in real time. However, businesses like the Weinstein Company that spend heavily on social media marketing can use Twitter to reframe the debate in new and exciting ways.

Richard Frost