How Social Media Tricks Translate into Movie Tickets

Photo Credit: Lionsgate
November 21st, 2012

How Social Media Tricks Translate into Movie Tickets

-- Word of mouth has always been the way that Hollywood sold tickets to its latest movie releases. The problem was, and continues to be, how to stay up-to-date with the trends in marketing. Once upon a time, a movie-related toy in a kids' meal was the best way to get the word out about a new movie for that market. But today, social media is taking over. The potential in social media goes beyond simply sending out movie ads. Social media platforms like Facebook, iTunes, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr offer opportunities to lure moviegoers to the box office through gaming, exclusive leaks, and sharing activities that take advantage of virtual word-of-mouth advertising. Movie publicity can now begin months or even a year before a movie release and can involve games, sweepstakes, and other unconventional methods of social media advertising.

Importance of Staying Current
The social media approach only works if the marketer uses the most current platform for the campaigns. There is no point in marketing on a social media site that few people are using. That is why movies today are marketed across several social media platforms to ensure that everyone is covered. Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube channels, and even fan blogs are all viable options for a movie marketing campaign.

The Gaming Approach
With the advent of social media apps online and on mobile devices, many marketers have found an opportunity to spread the word about their upcoming movies. Apple's iTunes offers many gaming apps created to introduce users to particular movies. These take the form of games based on the movies' plots. Facebook gaming apps do the same thing with a sharing option. Users can help their friends and invite others to play movie-related games, thereby spreading the word about a movie even before the first print ads are released. The object of the games is to hook users and make them fans who will be certain to buy tickets when the movie is finally released.

The Leaks
Another important tool used by movie marketers in social media is the leak. By signing up or friending a movie's fan site, users and fans get the opportunity to see special, exclusive material related to the movie. Fan sites offer alternate movie trailers, interviews with the cast and crew, set photos, and other details in return for information about the user. Once signed up, the social media user will receive updates about the film meant to keep their curiosity piqued until the release date. Movies today dole out these tidbits like addictive little teasers to keep their newfound fans talking about and recommending the movie when the box office opens. Although the fan sites offer this information to anyone who signs up, the feeling of exclusivity is just one more benefit the marketing tool offers the user.

Winning and Sharing
Sweepstakes have long been a tool to roust up new fans. In the age of social media, however, the ways in which fans can win-along with the types of things they can win-have changed. Scavenger hunts online are new ways to get many people intrigued about the movie. Drawings with daily entry methods and sharing bonuses are another form of sweepstakes that movie marketers use. Fans can typically enter a sweepstakes every day until the contest ends. This brings users back to the site repeatedly for weeks. Each time the person returns, something new appears on the site to spark conversation about the movie. Some of the contests offer sharing options that spread the word to more and more people every day. Video contests, naming sweepstakes, and other types of interactive contests get fans even more involved with the movie and keep them interested enough to want to see the movie when it finally opens in theaters.

A Real Movie Example
The best example of a successful marketing campaign is the recent movie "The Hunger Games." The marketers for Lionsgate, the studio behind the film, used an aggressive social media campaign to promote the film. A year before the movie's release, marketers created fan pages to rope in lovers of the Hunger Games book series. Twitter scavenger hunts gave fans the opportunity to build a "Hunger Games" movie poster online and compete for real-life gifts with benefits offline. Game apps on Facebook and iTunes introduced fans to the world featured in the movie. Meanwhile, exclusive leaks of teasers, set photos, interviews, and more were offered to people who signed up on the movie's social media fan sites. The marketers also created YouTube channels featuring exclusive clips from the film and more interviews. A tumblr blog kept fans updated as well.

The campaign was successful. "The Hunger Games" grossed over $80 million in its opening weekend-more than enough to cover the movie's budget, which included social media advertising. In today's market, Lionsgate isn't the only studio taking advantage of social media. Think about that the next time a request to join a movie-themed game crosses your computer screen on Facebook.