Did you watch Sharknado, the SyFy Channel’s original movie featuring Tara Reid, Ian Ziering, a chainsaw and a whole lot of flying sharks? Even if you didn’t watch the B-movie, if you’re on social media—especially Twitter—you undoubtedly saw a frenzy of activity over the so-bad-it’s-good flick.
The Los Angeles Times reports Sharknado was SyFy’s most social telecast ever, hitting 5,000 tweets per minute. With nearly 400,000 social mentions (97 percent of them on Twitter driven by hashtags #sharknado and #syfy), Sharknado achieved about 25 percent of the online buzz of the last Super Bowl, and came within 2,500 tweets of Game of Thrones’ widely buzzed-about #RedWedding episode. That's pretty impressive for a minor cable channel.
Sharknado is just one of about 24 original movies the cable sci-fi channel produces each year, most for a low budget of about $1.5 million, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. That’s all well and good for SyFy, but what can small-business owners learn from its social media success?
1. It’s all social. What people are saying about your product or service may now matter more than the product or service itself. Half the fun (or possibly all the fun) of watching Sharknado was watching the frenzy on Twitter as everyone from Mia Farrow to the Red Cross and the mayor of Los Angeles tweeted about the movie. I’m not sure whether this is a good or bad thing (do you want to be known for your substance or your sizzle?), but it’s something every small business needs to be aware of.
2. Make it memorable. SyFy’s brainstorming sessions to come up with ideas for original movies start with brainstorming titles, which need to be catchy. Consider previous movies like Mansquito, Sharktopus or Piranhaconda. Memorable titles translate into easy-to-use hashtags like #sharknado that are simple to spread and share socially.
3. Know your market. SyFy viewers are mostly men in their 40s and 50s who like movies about sharks, snakes, monsters and natural disasters. So even if a title is funny or catchy, if it doesn’t resonate with that core group of users, it won’t get the green light.
4. Go with the flow. Sharknado’s director Anthony C. Ferrante told the Hollywood Reporter, “We did something very unique and none of it was planned. There wasn't a $20 million marketing budget designed to make this; it just happened. The audience took the movie for its own and decided to make it an event, and that's pretty awesome.”
5. Build demand. Even people who didn’t watch Sharknado were tweeting about it. In fact, tweets about the misery of missing Sharknado were almost as numerous as those celebrating it. Of course, there’s now talk of a sequel, and SyFy is rerunning Sharknado Thursday, July 18 at 7PM (ET/PT).
6. Social success doesn’t always mean sales. As many small-business owners know, likes, retweets and follows don’t necessarily put money in your pocket. The Los Angeles Times reports only about 1 million viewers actually watched Sharknado. (Perhaps, like some of my friends, they were so busy tweeting about it that they forgot what time it was airing.) Bloomberg BusinessWeek says most of SyFy’s original movies average 1.5 million viewers, and some get twice that amount.
But social success does translate into buzz—so be ready to take advantage of it. Marveling at the roster of actors, comedians and other entertainment industry bigwigs who tweeted about Sharknado, Ferrante told the Hollywood Reporter, “Before last night, none of these people —whom I have immense respect for—knew who I was. Now I'm the guy who directed Sharknado.”
When your 15 minutes of fame hit, be prepared to monetize and maximize them by talking to the media, reaching out to your customers and, of course, continuing the conversation on social media.
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