50 Shades of Sharknado

Broadcastersand advertisers are constantly looking for new ways to stay on top of the latest trends and market opportunities, especially within the complex and ever diversifying market that Smartphones and social media have created.


Marketers have always relied on market research, to help them decide where to spend their advertising dollars; ‘Social TV’ has presented marketers with a new avenue to observe and engage with their customers, promising a deeper understanding of consumers through an interactive and instantaneous connection.

Social TV is challenging traditional modes of engagement between company and consumers, whilst shedding light on the current media environment, effectively helping researchers understand consumer behaviour and enables companies to respond accordingly. The 2012 Australian Online Consumer report estimated that 80% of TV viewers used other devices while watching TV, and more than one fifth of these viewers were using social media to discuss the shows they were watching (Bennet, 2014). Network and content providers have recognised the changing audience behaviour and created ‘social TV’ applications in order to facilitate these behaviours and integrate social networking directly into the programming guide.


This data-driven understanding of consumers’ interaction with company content will allow for “a deeper knowledge of consumer and the brand affinity, real-time understanding of success and failure and an instant measure of engagement” (Peoulx &Shepatin 2012, p.12). One company that successfully achieved this was the Cable channel Syfy’ which boosted the ratings of the B-grade film ‘Sharknado’ with a viral twitter buzz which lead to a over a billion tweets and 3.9 million views of the film (Friedman 2014).

The premier of the show accounted for 17% of TV related tweets on the night, reaching 5000 tweets a minute halfway through, then dropping to 500 by midnight (Figure 1 and 2), the frenzy reaching ‘Beyonce album release’ insanity almost matching the tweets per minute but failing to sustain the buzz and fell short of Yonce’s 1.2 million tweets (Figure 3).




Craig Engler VP and administrator of the @Syfy account stated that he started building buzz a few hours before the premiere and notes 20 minutes before a “feeding frenzy” (Roger 2013) started; Engler says that Twitter is a crucial way Syfy builds interest in shows and his goal is to “foster the conversation and amplify it” (Roger 2013). At one point the account held three of the top 10 trending topics at the same time (#sharknado, #syfy, #tarareid).


Marketers for Dominos, Doritos and Victoria Secret were amongst those to jump on the fishy pun bandwagon and took full advantage of the buzz, here are some of the most popular ones Figure 4) reaching thousands of retweets (Maskeroni 2014).


Experts fear that social media will lead to the death of TV, however research has shown that the experience customers achieve with companies and stars on Twitter is “driving a lot more people to return to watching television shows as they air”( quoted in Proulx & Shepatin 2012, p. 32).

A more recent example can include the buzz around 50 shades of grey, which spawned an array of related viral buzz marketing copy cats.

spoonge Dominos-Pizza-Ad_612x380  fifty-shades-of-earl-grey-tea


Figure 1 and 2: Abad- Santos, A 2013, ‘Sharknado Was the Only Thing Worth Talking about Last Night’, The Wire, accessed 17/04/2015,http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2013/07/sharknado-was-only-thing-worth-talking-about-last-night/67109/

Figure 3: Bennet, S 2014, ‘Beyonce VS Sharknado – Who had the BiggestSOCIALMedia Buzz’, MediaBistro,ACCESSED 12/04/2015,http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/beyonce-v-sharknado_b54137

Figure 4: Maskeroni, A 2014, ‘Brands Jump the Sharknado with a Whirlwind of Fishy Pun Tweets’, Adweek, accessed 16/04/2015,http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/brands-jump-sharknado-whirlwind-fishy-pun-tweets-159215?sf83059=1

Friedman, W 2014, ‘Sharknado 2 By Tweets of Viewers : Who Wins, and What’s the Value’,TV WATCH, accessed 15/04/2015,http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/231268/sharknado-2-by-tweets-or-viewers-who-wins-and-w.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=mostread&utm_campaign=75003

Oztam,2012, ‘Trends in Video Viewership Beyond Conventional Television Sets’, Australian Multi-Screen Report 2012, accessed 15/04/2015,http://www.oztam.com.au/documents/Other/Australian%20Multi-Screen%20Report%20Q3_2012%20FINAL.pdf

Proulx, M & Shepatin, S 2012, ‘The Backchannel: Bringing the Social Conversation to the Forefront’, in Social TV : How Marketers Can Reach and Engage Audiences by Connecting Television to the Web, Social Media, and Mobile, John Wiley & Sons, USA, pp. 10- 33

Roger, S 2013, When a #Sharknado attacks! How the phenomenon happened on Twitter, Twitter: Blog, accessed 14/04/2015, https://blog.twitter.com/2013/when-a-sharknado-attacks-how-the-phenomenon-happened-on-twitter



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