Whether you understand Twitter or not, it’s hard to argue the phenomenal success of the social web site. For those few of you who don’t know, Twitter is an online service that allows you to follow other people’s message “stream,” sharing thoughts, comments and web links 140 characters at a time. It’s sort of like instant messaging but instead of isolated conversations you’re speaking to a crowd (although, you can send messages to individuals if you want).
While it has been around since 2006, Twitter really picked up mainstream momentum this year. Moving beyond your standard web service, the social tool has become a platform for communication. Corporations and consumers alike now broadcast everything from product sales to thoughts on the latest films. It’s that last point I want to focus on.
The L.A. Times ran an interesting story about the “Twitter Effect” on movies. That being, how talking about films on Twitter may effect moviegoers and influence their movie watching choices. Take the data at face value and Twitter sounds like it may not be the smart bomb of film criticism everyone thinks it is:
“OTX did an online survey of nearly 1,500 moviegoers in mid- September, the bulk of the sample being moviegoers from age 13 to 49, the key moviegoing demographic group. When asked what was the most influential source for word of mouth, most respondents picked “family and friends and coworkers,” which scored 40%, followed by Facebook (31%), MySpace (9%), IMDB (8%), with Twitter and online message boards bringing up the rear with 6% each.”
I completely disagree. Why? Simply put, the study is inherently flawed. OTX went and separated sites like Twitter and Facebook from the “family and friends and coworkers” category which fails to recognize the fact most of the information we get from those two social sites are from family and friends and coworkers. Take that into consideration and it stands to reason Twitter is making up a portion of that 40% belonging to the other category.
Furthermore, of all the word of mouth influences included in the survey Twitter has the highest level of reoccurring impressions. Every 140 character tweet saying a movie is bad is like a little advertisement. Factor in re-tweeting and it doesn’t take long for your Twitter stream to have a lot of “ads” telling you not to see a given film. Before you know it you’re subconsciously thinking a film is bad, or really good in some cases.
That’s a somewhat vague and nuanced concept so let’s get to the core of this study. Is Twitter a marketing tool? According to anonymous “studio marketing chief” the answer is no, “Twitter isn’t a marketing tool, it’s an observational tool.”
Not a marketing tool? Seriously? This guy should talk to Dell about the millions of dollars it made off Twitter and re-evaluate his opinion. The same person went onto say, “…it [Twitter] probably has an influence far beyond its numbers.” Thank you mystery marketing guy for proving the very point I’m trying to make. Metrics may tell one story, real world examples tell another.
The very fact Twitter accounts for 6% in word of mouth buzz is telling given its relative infancy as a communication tool. As the user base grows so to will the impression it has over consumers, specifically moviegoers. Twitter simply isn’t a form of word of mouth advertising it is word of mouth.
Is Twitter the new film critic? Not at this point, but it’s getting there and can’t be marginalized as this study seems to do. As the Web continues to become more social emphasis will be put on those places like Twitter that crowd-source information. Why settle for a few critics when you can tap into millions of everyday people voicing their opinions online via Twitter?
Speaking of film critics, it’s interesting that among those word of mouth sources in the study professional critics were not listed. Are we to assume then that movie critics have even less of an impact on moviegoers then Twitter does? Let me check Twitter and I’ll get back to you.
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