Who can really use Twitter & Social Media tracking: Big and Slow vs. Small and Fast

To the dichotomy described in the title should probably be added: Studios with a huge amount of money to invest and test social media tools vs. Independents without cash for such activity but with the ability to react to information retrieved.

It is currently accepted that Twitter can be a relatively powerful predictor of BO performance, though as with all other models based on latterly known film characteristics – such knowledge only potentially helps distributors modify P&A spend rather than production investment decisions.

The Flixter Bullseye which aggregates information from Flixter users for The Hollywood Reporter to do 4 quadrant tracking analysis and the USC Annenberg Film Forecaster based on Twitter data both unsurprisingly concentrate on studio movies. They are the most popular so get talked about most and therefore are most interesting for analysis. However, from an internal industry perspective, it is open to question how much impact such data can have on real time campaign management.

Global studio films are greenlit on the basis of territory contribution figures years in advance of release, these are reassessed once the film is completed and adjustments are made. Media spending is centrally bought for efficiency of scale and with international media properties there is not much room for alternation of the creative elements of a campaign (should for example your content be pulling in a different sociodemographic than anticipated). So as live campaign management tools, social media analysis programs are perhaps not very impactful. The overwhelming majority of awareness tracking – at 6, 4 months, 8 weeks out is done by phone survey.

Yet studios benefit from the capital availability of media conglomerates to invest in technology that will benefit the marketing of their slates over the long term. E.g. Warner Bros buying Flixter. Although studios are too big and slow to adapt relatively large proportions of P&A campaigns to social media insights, they can data mine from consumers’ digital engagement with those campaigns to make their marketing for the next slate of films even more highly targeted.

The benefits of scale and long term partnerships with digital marketeers (an approximation of studio inhouse teams) are therefore very important – this mode of operation does not fit with the traditional independent model where relationships are short term and project based.

Although smaller films with fewer resources are able to move quicker during the course of individual campaigns and react to opportunities by allocation of manpower as opposed to spend, they are generally unable to capitalise on the data generated by the release for future projects. Often producers are far removed from the digital agencies (hired by distributors) and the information is lost.

A key issue in the adoption of digital marketing and distribution models is the ownership and sharing of data between partners across the value chain and either development of data management capabilities inhouse by producers or long term relationships with partners in this space.

Given that academic research such as that conducted at the Annenberg lab is not commercialised, there may well be the potential for open systems to be exploited by independents.

Michael Franklin
Research Associate, Creative Scotland

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