The World’s Biggest Focus Group?


It may be an overstatement to say that social media Websites like Facebook and Twitter are taking over the world… but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Moviemakers already use social networking to connect with their audience, and now two companies have created tools to help moviemakers make the most of their Web-based outreach.

With the help of Home Entertainment Tracker (HET), created by the social media research company Fizziology, a moviemaker can see how the social buzz surrounding his or her film stacks up against the competition. In addition, reports from Fizziology’s staff of social media analysts give would-be Spielbergs insight into which aspects of their movie’s marketing campaign are most effective, thus allowing them to tweak their approach to better reflect audience interests. Once the movie hits theaters, HET can determine which part of the movie itself—whether it’s a character, a scene or even a single line of dialogue—is generating the most buzz, which can be helpful for marketing communications and advertising for a DVD or Blu-ray release. Think this sort of data doesn’t matter to indies? Think again!

“For smaller-budgeted or indie titles, [we can provide] a report on what the social conversation is around that specific title [that gives] insight on what people are talking about and what they like or don’t like,” says Fizziology co-founder Ben Carlson. “So while we aren’t providing a competitive analysis or sales projections, we are able to provide actionable insights to studios and filmmakers.”

Alterian, a marketing technology company, has also stayed on the cutting edge by offering moviemakers a comprehensive data report that lists not only which aspects of a movie are generating the most buzz, but also which key demographic is discussing the movie and which online channels they are using to spread the word. A key component of analyzing the data is determining the sentiment of the chatter surrounding a film. For instance, a word such as “terrible” included in a message board post about a movie would denote a “negative mention” of that movie. Alterian uses the social monitoring tool SM2 to filter out spam, ensuring that the information provided is as accurate as possible.

“Social media is just another form of word of mouth, which is what makes it so important to monitor and analyze what people are saying on social media,” says Jim Reynolds, Alterian’s strategic accounts manager of social media. “It’s now possible to track what people are saying about a movie, to whom, when and where they’re saying it and more. This is an invaluable tool for the movie industry.”

As Reynolds notes, each film should be monitored on a case-by-case basis, as different social analytics might be more important to one film over another. For instance, a studio would likely be interested in the content of social media mentions for a highly controversial movie. For an anticipated blockbuster, however, which must reach a profit quota in its opening weekend, the sheer volume of buzz in the weeks leading up to its release is critical.

“One of the biggest upsides to [social media] reporting is that it gives you the ability to understand the heartbeat of your audience and discern what drives them to love or hate your film,” says Reynolds.

According to both Fizziology and Alterian, analysis of social media buzz will become more widespread over time, which will impact the marketing campaigns and release strategies of future films. “Social media is here to stay,” declares Reynolds. “The film industry depends on the opinion of consumers and how that opinion is spread. It will continue to be spread more rapidly, which means the film industry needs to adapt accordingly.”

“Social media is the world’s biggest, fastest and most honest focus group,” adds Fizziology co-founder Jen Handley. “Access to all of those opinions and the data that comes from it will have a significant impact on the film industry. From more accurate predictions of how movies will perform to smarter, faster marketing changes to even faster recognition of breakout talent and potential movie subjects, it will impact nearly every part of the film industry.”

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