Wall Street has soured on Twitter and its stagnating user growth, but the social-media company is hoping new research convinces Hollywood that tweets from a film’s talent are a great promotional vehicle.
Twitter teamed with analytics firm Crimson Hexagon to analyze tweets for 33 movies released in 2015, spanning each film’s lifecycle from trailer release to post-premiere. The films included 15 “over-performers,” which had an average box-office-to-budget ratio of 2.5, and 18 “under-performers,” with a B.O./budget ratio of 0.5.
The key findings: Over-performing movies had 150% more posts on Twitter than the pics that bombed, among the films analyzed. Overall, movies that had talent who were active on Twitter saw a 326% boost in average daily volume of conversation on the service, compared with those whose actors or directors did not have Twitter accounts.
“It’s a powerful story to tell: Having your cast on Twitter does boost the overall conversation about your movie,” said Rachel Dodes, head of film partnerships for Twitter.
In addition, over-performers had more upbeat buzz on Twitter early on. Positive sentiment around over-performers during trailer releases made up 39% of the conversation on Twitter, compared with 19% for under-performers, according to the study.
However, despite the implication that having movie stars on Twitter can yield bigger box office results, Dodes acknowledged that there’s no real way to prove there’s a causal link. For one thing, successful movies would naturally produce more engagement on social networks — not that the chatter necessarily pushes fans into theaters. “There are a whole host of reasons contributing to box office results, and we’d hesitate to suggest causality,” she said.
Another caveat: Twitter’s study excluded movies with budgets over $100 million. That’s because blockbusters have heavy marketing spend, and that makes the link to social activity muddier, according to Dodes. “Word of mouth becomes more important for lower-budget movies,” she said.
Twitter didn’t disclose the list of 33 films it looked at, but said Amy Schumer comedy “Trainwreck” and “Straight Outta Compton” from Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were among the over-performers in the study — and both used talent on Twitter to tubthump the releases.
For example, Schumer (3.6 million Twitter followers) released the “Trainwreck” trailer exclusively on Twitter in February 2015. That was retweeted by NBA star LeBron James (27.8 million followers), who appears in the movie.
— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) February 11, 2015
— Dr. Dre (@drdre) January 7, 2016
“Trainwreck,” released last July, had an estimated production budget of $35 million and grossed $110 million domestically, per Box Office Mojo. “Compton” raked in $161 million on a $28 million budget.
Bottom line: Having actors and other talent promote their movie on social media certainly can’t hurt. “If you were considering hiring actors, you would want to watch their previous work, talk to their agents, speak to people they’ve worked with and get an impression of them,” said Matthew Marolda, chief analytics officer at Legendary Pictures. “Why wouldn’t you also analyze their presence on Twitter to learn how people discuss them and the tone and tenor of the conversation around them, and then assess whether they fit with the kind of film we’re considering?”
There are other examples of movie bizzers using Twitter as a promo megaphone. In October 2014, director Paul Feig used Twitter to announce the “Ghostbusters” reboot, the casting announcements and scenes from set.
It's official. I'm making a new Ghostbusters & writing it with @katiedippold & yes, it will star hilarious women. That's who I'm gonna call.
— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) October 8, 2014
J.J. Abrams used Twitter to promote Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”:
— Bad Robot (@bad_robot) July 10, 2015
And Ryan Reynolds last week engaged in a Twitter Q&A from the company’s HQ in San Francisco to promote 20th Century Fox’s “Deadpool”:
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) February 5, 2016
For the fourth quarter of 2015, Twitter’s monthly active users declined by about 2 million, to 305 million worldwide. In the U.S., MAUs declined sequentially for the first time, from 66 million to 65 million. Twitter chief Jack Dorsey has promised changes to make the service easier to use, and the company this week introduced a new timeline feature that shows recent tweets most relevant to users at the top of their timeline.