Stars' online followers harnessed for films' marketing push

As of this writing, my Klout score is 62.

Not terrible, but nothing to write the folks back in Minnesota about. With any luck, my debut here as a Variety film columnist will goose that number.

So what’s yours?

WHAT? You don’t know?

Listen, if you’re talent working in Hollywood — or trying to be — make this a priority. Because your potential employers are.

For those who don’t know already, Klout.com measures individuals’ social media influence on a scale of 1-100; criteria include number of Twitter followers and the degree to which they engage you. Other platforms, like Facebook, can be added later, but it starts with Twitter.

And if the actress sitting across the lobby at auditions has a six-figure following and a Klout score in the high 70s while you’re still dithering about whether to start an account, well … she’s got a leg up.

Here’s why: As digital marketers gain power and influence in Hollywood (see page one story), they’re looking at talent’s social-media footprint — on-camera talent primarily, but writers, directors and producers are in the mix here, too — when deciding who’ll best help them promote any given project.

That’s not to say digital’s young guns are casting roles. But they have earned their seat at the table where those decisions are made, and their opinions are gaining gravity.

Of the more than 25 digital-marketing mavens I spoke with while working on this issue, a healthy number either copped to actively campaigning for social-media savvy actors in pitch meetings or said they definitely would do so. These are tomorrow’s marketing moguls — and they would much rather work with, say, Channing Tatum (2.5 million Twitter followers, Klout score 85) than Chris Hemsworth (no Twitter), Henry Cavill (no Twitter) or Tom Hardy (no Twitter, alas).

And that’s just what’s going on at the studio level.

Social media is even more important for indie filmmakers, whose projects lack the budget for a big TV spend. But launching a made-from-scratch social campaign — especially for original, non-branded content — can be like whispering in a windstorm.

That’s where the talent’s existing followers mean the most.

Take comedian Mike Birbiglia (175,000 followers, Klout score 83), whose micro-budget comedy “Sleepwalk With Me” has reached a promising $1.62 million-and-counting B.O. (plus VOD revenue) by turning his Twitter acolytes into a small army of marketers and, following another hot digital trend, by creating original content in the form of a viral video tete-a-tete with Joss Whedon.

But Birbiglia also had U.S. distributor IFC on his side. To see a true leap of faith into social-media-as-marketing, check out “Vampire Diaries” star Daniel Gillies, who is self-distributing his dark drama “Broken Kingdom” online next Tuesday.

Fed up with the indie distrib model, Gillies (190,000 followers, Klout score 81) is hoping his social-media circle, including wife and “Kingdom” co-star Rachel Leigh Cook (47,000 followers, Klout score 81), can drum up interest in his $5 download. Gillies has no delusions about getting into the black here, but he’d rather roll the dice on social media than grovel his way onto the film festival circuit.

Call him crazy, but Gillies won’t be the last filmmaker to try going it alone. But without that kind of Klout, he’d have no hope at all.

Studio name-dropping: digital marketing edition

A footnote to today’s front-page story: In the course of my reporting, I asked everyone which studio is doing digital marketing best. No surprise that Lionsgate came up — you saw that Los Angeles Times tongue-bath about “The Hunger Games” campaign, right? — but I was shocked at just how frequently the mini-major was named No. 1 by peers.

Sony has the most polished unit, led by Dwight Caines, who was engineering online customer experiences before most of us got our first email account. No studio is more diligent or systematic in its approach; it also does post-mortems on its digital campaigns, unique among the majors.

Disney was routinely praised for nurturing brands across social media, making sure campaigns thrive from project announcement to homevid and beyond. Vendors find the studio a pain in the ass to work with, but Disney wants things a certain way. Who can fault that?

Just about everyone nods to the chops of Paramount and digital marketing prexy Amy Powell. Not only is she an innovator who’s game to try new things, she’s also recently become a film producer, so she understands the synergy between digital marketing and filmmaking. We’ll be hearing from her in coming years.

But always with the Lionsgate! A sampling of comments from my notebook: “They take risks.” “They’ll try anything once.” “Less corporate, more nimble, free to experiment.” “They’re smaller, so they’re always adjusting.” And, just to be fair: “They have the right kind of movies for digital.”

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