Sharknado and the Real Power of Social Media

The biggest thing to hit Twitter last month (beating even certain scandalous selfies) was the SyFy made-for-TV movie ‘Sharknado’. If you’re not up on the latest in intentionally ridiculous movies, I’ll let Wikipedia explain it: “‘Sharknado’ is a 2013 made-for-television disaster film about a waterspout that lifts sharks out of the ocean and deposits them in Los Angeles.” Silly–and silly on purpose–something about it captured the imagination of the Twitterverse, and by the time the movie was playing, twitter mentions hit a peak of 5,000 tweets per minute.

‘Sharknado’ was such a phenomenon that the official Twitter blog wrote a really interesting piece on how it happened. It’s a must-read if you’re interested in how twitter trends hit critical mass and how major influencers (and smart companies) can really drive a conversation.

But when the ratings came out the day after the premier, it turned out that just over a million people watched, ratings even lower than the average SyFy movie, none of which had ever come close to generating the same buzz as that twitter hit. News outlets–which covered the twitter phenomenon before the movie aired–sounded like they were gloating, with headlines like “Sorry Twitter: ‘Sharknado’ Was An Enormous Ratings Bust”, and “Sharknado¬†ratings: Lot of wind, little bite.”

It looked like the ‘Sharknado’ team did everything right when it came to building a brand online. They connected to the right people, they maintained a strong presence, and they kept engaged with a core group of followers. So it makes sense that people started wondering whether social media buzz was worth anything if it couldn’t turn trending hashtags into ratings. Read More