Word-of-mouth (WOM) communication has now expanded to online networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, with potential digital referrals significantly influencing consumer activity.
In fact, many experts view Twitter as the online equivalent of actual word-of-mouth chatter.
In a new study, Chong Oh, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer information systems at Eastern Michigan University, analyzed social media measures from Twitter and movie box-office data from boxofficemojo.com.
He found that activity on Twitter has a direct positive effect on how many people go to see a particular movie — not surprising given its quarter of a billion global users.
Moreover, he also demonstrated on the basis of this analysis that studio-generated content and online engagement with the target audience has an indirect effect.
Oh’s research, as published in the International Journal of Information Systems and Change Management, shows that the marketing via social media is an effective strategy for movie studios.
“The more a movie studio is willing to engage with its followers via social media the more likely it is to have a higher WOM volume. This subsequently increases the likelihood of having a higher opening-weekend box office performance.”
In the study, Oh cites two very different outcomes with respect to two well-known movies.
The first, “John Carter,” a science fiction thriller released in 2012, lost the studio $200 million and led to the resignation of its president.
By contrast, “Paranormal Activity,” a low-budget movie from 2009 shot in a week on a $15,000 budget, grossed $107 million at the box office.
These, of course, are stark outliers, there are many more, and most movies lie somewhere between these two extremes.
For the marketing department ensuring that their next movie is a “Paranormal” rather than a “Carter” is partly, according to Oh, now down to online word-of-mouth. Simply having a presence (or profile) on social media is not sufficient.
“The key activity of sending outgoing tweets in the seven days leading up to the release weekend was a good indicator that correlated to word-of-mouth volume buzz about the movie,” Oh said.
He has some advice for movie marketers based on the findings from this research.
“Social media represent an opportunity to reach an audience and establish relationships at a personal level that traditional advertising is not capable of achieving,” he said.
“Incentives to encourage more interactions such as competition or tweets from the movie’s cast members should go hand-in-hand with other advertisements to pump up word-of-mouth.”
He also suggests the same approach to social marketing might have a similar impact in other areas, such as music sales.
Source: Inderscience Publishers