Once upon a time – as stories often start – films were promoted via the Hollywood star system, where promising young actors would be selected and new images created for them to sell their personas, and consequently their films, to the public. Fan magazines also played an important part of getting people in to cinemas, and posters and trailers were all a part of the marketing campaigns for the major studios.
Today the film companies have embraced social media as the ideal way to engage filmgoers, to interest and excite them, and to offer them special insights into the film world and their favourite films and stars.
The rise of social media
There was a time when newspapers, radio and TV were the main sources of information about entertainment. The arrival of the internet and email opened up new channels of communication – you could almost call email the first wave of social media – but it wasn’t until the launch of apps such as Facebook and Twitter that what you now know as social media took off.
As with any new phenomenon, it took a little while for the film studios to catch on, but now social media marketing is an essential part of their overall marketing strategies. It’s not just the production companies that want to engage with you, it’s cinemas too. There are many social media platforms, in addition to the two mentioned previously, where films can be promoted and where you can find a whole range of images, gossip, chat and trailers for upcoming films.
Every social media platform has its specific strengths. If you want to share videos and images, Pinterest and Instagram are ideal, and for videos and vlogging YouTube is also a major platform. Podcasts can be posted on SoundCloud and iTunes and more content can be shared on Tumblr as well as Twitter and Facebook.
Social media has an enormous reach and the film industry knows this.
Paranormal Activity, a low-budget film – made for under $15,000 (around £9,500) – that initially had a limited release, was promoted by Paramount through Facebook and partner Eventful to get potential fans to ask for the film to be screened in their area. So successful was this marketing gambit that the film went on to gross over $150 million through the box office, not a bad return for the initial outlay.
Sony’s The Social Network, all about Facebook, couldn’t use that platform to create interest but the studio had many other options and plugged its social media marketing into Myspace and Twitter to attract the curiosity of film fans.
Viral alternative reality campaigns are increasingly used to generate interest, with Warner Brothers using viral marketing to get information out when Inception was coming up for release, partnering with SCVNGR, the location-based gaming platform for smart and other mobile phones.
The way ahead
When you’re on any social media platform, you have options to plug into marketing from a range of sources. Film buffs can find out a huge range of information on forthcoming releases as film studios become ever more sophisticated in their use of social media.