Social media trends: Marketing for the big screen

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The 73rd Golden Globes were held on Jan. 10, 2016, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which is made up of about 90 journalists, honored some of the most notable successes of 2015 in film and television.

In case you weren’t able to watch the Golden Globes live, some of the most buzzed-about moments of the night included:

  • Leonardo DiCaprio giving Lady Gaga some serious side eye as she walked passed him to receive an award for her role in American Horror Story: Hotel.


social media trends

If you’re like my family, you may have been too busy oohing and ahhing over the beautiful ball gowns to remember who won each award (please don’t judge us) — but, like most, we did pay attention for two of the night’s biggest awards: Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. Here were this year’s nominees:

Best Motion Picture – Drama nominees:

  • Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15, 2015)
  • Room (Sept. 4, 2015)
  • Spotlight (Nov. 6, 2015)
  • The Revenant (Dec. 25, 2015)
  • Carol (Nov. 20, 2015)

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy nominees:

  • Joy (Dec. 25, 2015)
  • Spy (June 5, 2015)
  • The Big Short (Dec. 11, 2015)
  • The Martian (Oct. 2, 2015)
  • Trainwreck (July 17, 2015)

Now, you may consider yourself to be pretty media-savvy, but be honest — had you heard of all 10 nominees before watching the show (or realize that The Martian was a comedy)? If you did, that’s great! You definitely know your stuff. If not, you’re not alone.

Do you know your movies?

I did a little unscientific research in Buffalo during the week leading up to the awards show. By talking to 50 strangers at Target (2626 Delaware Ave., Buffalo) and Spot Coffee (765 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo), I was able to find out what percentage of average people had actually recognized these titles. Here’s what I found:

Best Motion Picture – Drama nominees:

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy nominees:

What I learned (besides finding out no one knew about Spotlight)

Stay away from holiday shoppers! Just kidding (sort of). While I did run into a few cranky customers — apparently not everyone got what they wanted from Santa — most people were more than happy to spend a quick moment talking to me.

A huge number of people had never heard of (let alone seen) a notable chunk of the movies up for the two biggest Golden Globe awards. Some of the most shocking numbers? Only 6 percent had heard of Spotlight and 8 percent had heard of Room. In fact, most shoppers were unaware of the movies in the Drama category in general, shaking their heads in frustration until I got to the comedies.

Unsurprisingly, Joy and Trainwreck sparked the most conversation — mostly because of the movies’ female stars. While most hadn’t seen Joy yet (it had just came out), they raved about Schumer’s comedy. It turns out raunchy comedy appeals to all ages! Even an elderly couple admitted they watched (and enjoyed) it after their granddaughter raved about it.

The biggest disappointment? Only one guy, who seemed like the tech-savvy hipster we all know and love, was familiar with all 10 movies.

SPOILER ALERT: The Revenant won best drama and The Martian won best musical or comedy.

Hollywood, social media trends and the digital age

So why did so few people recognize the year’s top films? It all has a little something to do with social media marketing plans.

“It used to be that you had to go to the theater to see the trailers for the next batch of upcoming films,” Mashable’s Christina Warren writes. “Then TV shows dedicated to showcasing previews hit the scene. While watching movie previews online has been old-hat for more than a decade, the rise of social media has changed how information gets exposed to fans.”

In other words, as we increasingly hold the ability to pick and choose what media is exposed to us, we can intentionally or unintentionally avoid even the huge-budget movie marketing machines because we either deftly avoid or are blissfully unaware of their campaigns. Although we consume more media than ever, it’s the media we want — and if a biographical drama about Boston Globe reporters exposing child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t fit our parameters, and we don’t fit into the target audience defined by the film marketers, we may never hear about it.

Social campaigns for films that worked

What did the most popular films’ advertising teams do right? Let’s take a look at the two most-recognized movies for both categories.

Joy: According to Engagement Labs, a social analytics company, Joy held the top spot on Instagram and had the highest active social media user base, meaning the highest percentage of people who follow the channel and actively engage with it through comments and likes. What did the film do so well? It posted content more frequently than its competitors and highlighted its cast. A post congratulating star Jennifer Lawrence on her Golden Globe win earned an impressive 1,500 liked within an hour.

One thing Joy has not done, unfortunately, is break out at the box office. The film has raked in less than $47 million in its first three weeks, underperforming despite the significant hype.

joy joy


Trainwreck: Unlike Lawrence, who refuses to personally join the Twittersphere, Trainwreck star Amy Schumer went all-out while promoting her film on her own account. Not only did she tweet about the movie herself, but she interacted with publishers, celebs and fans by retweeting their pictures and responding to their praise.

Although JLaw beat Schumer for the crown of best actress in a comedy, Schumer’s movie was much more successful. Trainwreck brought in over $30 million opening weekend, with a domestic gross total of over $110 million.

fans sister trainwreck


The Revenant: The latest DiCaprio epic also focused on creating a strong social media presence, taking in the number one spot on Engagement Labs’ Facebook eValue and Engagement score. And just like that bear, The Revenant isn’t done just yet. The film gained the highest number of followers on Facebook, adding 10,000 fans the day of the award show.

To mirror the movie’s social media success, The Revenant performed extremely well in the box office. On opening weekend, it brought in an impressive $38 million, taking second only to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

rev the revenant


Mad Max: Fury Road: Mad Max: Fury Road engaged with its Facebook and Twitter fans by asking movie-related questions that drew them into the fictional post-apocalyptic world. The account used the hashtag #askgeorgemiller and had the film’s director (George Miller) respond to questions through Twitter’s video function. Mad Max also took advantage of Snapchat’s new Discover feature, which allowed users to access exclusive content right through the app.

Mad Max: Fury Road is another film that met its anticipated hype. Its opening weekend earned over $45 million, and it’s reached close to $154 million since its debut in May.

mad max

Are social media trends working in film?

Does a kick-ass social media strategy equate to box office results? Well, not necessarily. While we’ve seen what a solid campaign can do to awareness levels, it won’t guarantee the film will resonate well with moviegoers (think Joy). This isn’t to say it shouldn’t be used. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“Social media and its powers of viral marketing have ensured that the film industry stays afloat,” Hootsuite’s Sam Milbrath explains. “Not only does it generate massive buzz, but it connects fans directly with the film, producers, actors and other fans, while minimizing distribution and marketing costs in the process.”

Like any advertising platform used for film, social media trends are experiments that we are still learning about.

Did you recognize all the top Golden Globe nominees this year? Let me know! Tweet me at @QuinlanCompany or @gracegerass.


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