The Secret to "Sharknado's" Social Media Frenzy - And How to Model It - Rick Mulready

rick mulready

The Secret to “Sharknado’s” Social Media Frenzy — And How to Model It

July 27, 2013

sharknado social media

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Shark what-o?

It was all over Twitter on the night of July 11th, and I honestly felt a bit in the dark. I’d never heard of this “Sharknado.”

All of a sudden it was everywhere, and I mean, e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. It was so hot that it even became a trending topic on the Twitters!

“Ok, I give up,” I tweeted out.  “What’s this Sharknado?”

Oh, you hadn’t heard of it either?  Good, I don’t feel so bad.

For those of you who still don’t know what I’m talking about (and don’t worry: you’re not alone), Sharknado was a recent Syfy channel original movie about a tornado that basically scoops up sharks and dumps them on people in Los Angeles.

Why didn’t I think of that? Oh yeah, because it’s ridonkulous and no one can believe it became a real movie…

For about a 24-hour period, A LOT of people were talking about the movie.

I mean, Hollywood celebrities with huge Twitter followings tweeted about it, brands jumped in and tweeted about it, LA’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, tweeted about it, even the Today show talked about it the morning after.

At one point during the movie there were as many as 5,000 Sharknado tweets a minute.  That’s a whirlwind of tweets! (sorry, I couldn’t resist)

It was the most talked about TV show on Twitter that night.

Not bad for a campy made-for-TV movie about a twister with teeth, eh?

But how did this social media circus happen?  Was this buzz planned?  Could it be replicated?

Were there any not-so-obvious social media lessons that we as small business owners could take away?

Well, after doing a bit of research, it turns out there are some simple yet great lessons we can learn from this Great White natural disaster…

Here are three key lessons from Sharknado’s social media frenzy that apply to small businesses:

Lesson #1: Vague Tweets + Listening = Buzz?

Within the horror movie community, vague tweets about the movie started as soon as it was announced late last year.  This created intrigue and buzz from people wanting to know more.

Then, the day the movie aired, the Syfy folks took to Twitter and started tweeting Sharknado “warnings” to their followers.  They also began retweeting their fans who were talking about how much they were looking forward to watching the movie.

Syfy’s SVP of Digital, Craig Engler, said that about 20 minutes before the movie started there was a lot of buzz around the movie on Twitter so they “started jumping into as many conversations” as possible.

In other words, they were listening to their fans.

They retweeted “fun posts,” which Engler says, their “fans love.  It gives them their 15 minutes of fame on Twitter and shows them that we’re listening and playing along.”

Takeaway: Know where your customers hangout on social media and then listen to the conversations that are happening.  Engage with and show them you care.  Add value to the conversation whenever possible.

Lesson #2: Go Where Your Customers Are

The Syfy channel had a goal to generate buzz around Sharknado to get people to watch the movie.

They knew that their loyal B-movie fanbase prefer tweeting about these types of movies so they didn’t try to be on every social platform available. They focused on Twitter, where they knew their viewers are.

Engler said: “We know going in that people already love to tweet about these movies, so our goal is to foster the conversation and amplify it.”

Takeaway: Identify your goal, know where your customers are and focus your efforts deeply on those 1-2 channels.  Don’t try to be on every channel out there.

Lesson #3: Have a Product Worth Talking About

Sharknado was a cheesy movie, yes, but it was the type of fun, ridiculous movie people like to talk about.

When the Hollywood types started talking about it on Twitter to their millions of fans, the buzz really took off.

Of course, having people from Hollywood with massive Twitter followings talk about your business isn’t super realistic for everyone, but the point here is that Syfy created a product that was worth talking about.

Will they have this kind of social media success with every movie?  Probably not, (and I say that knowing that next up is Ghost Shark) but a whole lot of people know about the Syfy channel now and know that it’s where they can watch campy, ridiculous movies like Sharknado or Independence Daysaster.

Takeaway: Think about your products and/or services.  Are they unique?  Do they serve a specific niche and are they worthy of people talking about them?

Getting something to “go viral” like Syfy did with Sharknado is reaallllyyyy hard. 

As marketers, it’s not something we have much control over and we can’t count on it.  It’s a bonus.

Instead, we should focus on what we CAN control like having a clear objective, understanding our audience, engaging with them on the digital channels where they are and having a product worth talking about.

These are the strategies that can help create a feeding frenzy around our business.


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