Social Media Marketing seems to be all the rage these days with folks touting online engagement and the growing number of folks using sites like twitter, facebook, and other more specialized networking sites.
Using The Hunger Games and its Marketing Campaign as a starting point, Greg Sandow talks about ways that The Met could utilize a similar approach in marketing, say, The Ring cycle. Of course, he missed the point of my comment, which is perfectly understandable as it questioned the relevance of the overall marketing strategy used by Lionsgate for its blockbuster which wasn’t used in a similar fashion for the other nearly dozen films it’s released or distributed this year.
Why Lionsgate wouldn’t use what seemed to be a very successful marketing campaign for every one of its products is understandable–movies with big budgets usually require big budget marketing. That amount of marketing just isn’t possible for every single release, and certainly wouldn’t be a sustainable strategy for any business. Best bet, and this happened with regularity in the recording industry, is to push the potential big moneymaking products to compensate for the inevitable shortfall for the other products. If the big release happens to fail (as was the case with the $240 Million dollar budget John Carter) then you hope to have an even bigger release (i.e. The Avengers, which currently ranks as the third biggest domestic grossing film, and third biggest grossing film worldwide of all time).
Taking a look at The Hunger Games, The Avengers, and John Carter we can see that the first two are relatively active brands (the former because of a very successful series of books, the latter because of a decades long current run of comic books as well as several ‘prequel’ blockbuster movies) whereas John Carter has or had no currently active franchise in any media.
Setting aside the name change for the film which some claim was just one of a number of marketing blunders and issues that plague the film (the original title of the Edgar Rice Burroughs book was “A Princess of Mars“) could a stronger Social Media Marketing plan have saved this film which is considered one of the biggest blockbuster fails of all time? While the usage of social media for the film wasn’t lacking, it seems as if its usage as a tool to help generate buzz (or retool the promotional campaign) before the actual release. But really, the question I want to explore is just how useful is Social Media in marketing these days?
A recent quantitative study on “Twitter Cascades” by Eytan Bakshy, Jake Hofman, Winter Mason and Duncan Watts tracks the relative influence of 1.6 million twitter users by tracking 74 million diffusion events over a period of two months and has found that Twitter Cascades are rare–roughly 10 percent of tweets are actually retweeted and usually only by the person’s immediate follower. Knowing that a user has had a previous cascade tells us next to nothing about the likelihood of future cascades.
The usage of social media like Twitter and Facebook pages demonstrates similarly dismal findings in ratio of numbers to actual voting in politics and interestingly, a Pagelever study has demonstrated that the more fans you have on your facebook page, the fewer daily unique newsfeed impressions and page views you will have.
As we have few good tools to actually measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of Social Media Marketing (much less normal Marketing) it’s difficult to understand how the Social Media Marketing campaigns that worked successfully for The Hunger Games and The Avengers didn’t quite work for John Carter other without turning to the content of the franchises (and Social Media) itself.
If there’s a low Return on Investment for social media in general, then what exactly does spur a Twitter Cascade or similar type of activity on Facebook? Unless we can figure out a way to separate the strong brand of franchises like The Hunger Games and The Avengers from the level of active engagement that so many seem to believe constitutes effective usage of Social Media for marketing we’re just as likely to waste time, or at least find diminishing returns for our effort trying to use social media to Market something that just doesn’t have a strong enough brand.
Again, as Peter Montoya says–building your Brand is probably a much more useful and efficient way to generate revenue if for no other reason it makes Marketing that much more efficient.