What “Sharknado” Can Teach You About Social Media Marketing

“Sharks in a tornado. Sharknado. Simply stunning.”

This quote from Syfy’s recent hit, “Sharknado,” pretty much sums up the movie’s collective social media reaction, which as it turns out, has been the best marketing tool the network could have ever hoped for. The accidental success of a movie that is now being compared to cult classics like “Rocky Horror Picture Show” offers marketing agencies a lesson on the power that social media has in pop culture.

Initial Reactions Lead to Cult Following

Since its initial airing in July, which garnered 5,000 tweets a minute, Twitter has blown up with #Sharknado tweets, many coming from celebrities. Producer Greg Berlanti joked, “somewhere in Hollywood there is a senior executive yelling…for not coming up with #Sharknado first.” Patton Oswalt and Damon Lindelof bantered about starting the first draft for “Sharknado 2: The Sharkening,” while Olivia Wilde wrote that she watched it based on Mia Farrow’s review, “omg omg OMG #sharknado.'”

And that was just the first night.

Nielsen reported that a few hundred thousand viewers turned on “Sharknado” initially, but by the end of the movie, 1.6 million were watching and social media was buzzing with #Sharknado fever. Interestingly, the second airing pulled in 1.9 million viewers and the third airing was the most-watched encore in network history at 2.1 million.  The movie did so well that Regal Cinema’s agreed to pick it up for midnight showings around the country. When it aired in select theaters, it was such a hit that they had to add more theaters and screens to accommodate the audience. Now, the film is being released around the world, including a showing on Friday the 13th in theaters throughout Australia.

In addition to its millions of viewers, the movie has a large contingent of cult followers that haven’t even seen it, which is impressive. The hype around the movie is so engaging that consumers don’t even need to see it to love it.

So, how is it that a TV movie about a tornado full of sharks has become such a pop culture hit and how can marketing agencies learn from Syfy’s success?

Five Things “Sharknado” Can Teach Marketers

Live Tweeting Can be Your Friend

Live tweeting an event engages a wide audience and also creates new content that entices more followers. For example, Patton Oswalt tweeted, “No way is Sharknado as entertaining as the tweets about it. Congrats @SyfyTV. You’ve created a new way to watch movies.”

Social Media is a Key Aspect to Marketing Campaigns

Utilizing social media for your franchise or business saves you money and time. Also, with the right conditions, it can skyrocket your product to a new level of success and offer insight into what your consumers want. These days, everyone has some kind of social media account so even asking your employees to like or share a company post gets more eyes on the product and could draw in new followers.

Embrace the Ridiculous (Sometimes)

If an idea seems too obvious or too ridiculous to work, it’s at least worth a try. “Sharknado” sounds ridiculous, but it was enough to draw in curious viewers who posted about it, which drew in their friends and then friends of those friends and now Syfy has a camp classic in its collection.

Use Buzz to Create New Buzz

If you have success with one product on social media don’t stop there. If your company can use the buzz created by the first product to advertise a new one, it’s likely going to have more success. This method is good for many reasons. First, it keeps the buzz about the first product relevant longer, giving it staying power. Second, it allows you to piggy-back the next project into a higher visibility right off the bat. For example, Syfy learned a lesson from its success, playing up its ridiculous premise and giving fans around the world the chance to choose which theaters “Sharknado” hits next, as well as the title of the sequel (aptly named, “Sharknado 2: The Second One”).

Do Not Underestimate the Staying Power of Trends

Most importantly, never doubt the staying power of popular trends in social media. Sharknado has been in the spotlight for almost two months and it is still tweeted about at least 20 times a day, while generating posts, likes and shares every hour as new people around the world get hooked.

Syfy Proves ‘Accidental’ Success Can Happen With Anything

Syfy has definitely maximized the value of “Sharknado.” Through the brand marketing done on social media sites, the network has launched new marketing campaigns and found a niche to secure the future of its product.

So, if you thought that you couldn’t learn anything from the network that brought you “Chupacabra vs. The Alamo” you may want to start looking for inspiration in other strange places, you never know what you might find.


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