The Social Media Box Office.

Does investing in social media marketing lead to box office success? 
Caroline Henley
Caroline Henley
July 23, 2015 - 5 min. read

It’s hot here in New York City, which means one thing: everyone’s heading to the movies to catch some free A/C.

Marketo recently published a thoughtful infographic on lessons from Hollywood’s marketing efforts. Marketo found that “87% of Twitter users say their most recent decision to see a film was influenced by tweets.”

This is where we want to dive in–which films/studios are taking advantage of the power of social? Which blockbusters are doing social best this summer, and does it correlate with their ticket sales?

We’ve pitted six summer blockbusters against each other, and we’re measuring the number of times they have been mentioned across the web, as well as the owned media on their Facebook pages.

The movies selected:

Tomorrowland (released May 22nd is the US)
Terminator Genisys (July 1st)
Jurassic World (June 12th)
Inside Out (June 19th)
Minions (July 10th)
Magic Mike XXL (July 1st)


We’re assuming the teams have had the potential for a somewhat equally massive budget for social media marketing. The average movie marketing budget was quoted at $36M last year. We can get a sense of the percentage of marketing budget that goes to digital in a couple of ways–one, by tracking the total number of mentions of each film across the web, and two, by benchmarking the movies’ social media fanpages, to measure how much they’ve spent in relation to the others.

Minions is working with a whopping $593M marketing budget. Does this scale with the movie’s digital footprint?

Jurassic World has been out for a few weeks already. Will an older movie strengthened by its compounding digital advertising lead to box office staying power?

Mentions across the web vs box office success
This graph visualizes the number of times each movie has been mentioned across blogs, forums, the news, social media, comment boards, etc, over the past month in the US.


Here is the same ‘listening’ data, listed by number of mentions the movie has had across the web in the US.

box office success

Now, let’s compare the listening data with box office gross totals thus far.


With this much buzz, Minions is on track to rival Jurassic World’s staggering box office returns.

The surprise here is Magic Mike XXL, which is gathering a ton of buzz for its more niche adult market. So, is the Magic Mike XXL marketing team at Warner Brothers able to lasso all this buzz into its owned media? Let’s look at these movies’ Facebook pages to find out.

Facebook reach vs box office success
A look at Facebook total likes gives you an immediate sense of which movies invested in Facebook. Minions and Magic Mike have a clear advantage, having built on existing pages.


Clearly Terminator Genisys invested in its social media presence–the page has three times the fans of Jurassic World. But Jurassic World has seven times the ticket sales.

They might have a ton of fans, but is the messaging reaching the intended audiences? Here’s a look at these pages’ post engagements benchmarked against each other over the past month.


Minions might have 31M fans, but its posts aren’t resonating as strongly as the other movies. Big money can buy you reach on Facebook, but knowing your audience and creating compelling content saves you that money through earned engagement and sharing.

More impressive than Minions is Inside Out, which spiked on its release date, and has maintained strong post engagement since. What is Pixar doing so well here? Quality, compelling video–shortened down to less than ten seconds for social.


This is the only time you’ll find me willingly entering a dark room with loud noises. Inside Out is now playing in 3D:

Posted by Inside Out on Friday, June 19, 2015

Now let’s look at Terminator Genisys, one of the biggest box office disappointments this summer. The fanpage’s audience is engaging with all of its posts. Could the call-to-action on the posts be tied closer to ticket sales? Many of the page posts lead directly to its branded tickets page.

So where did Terminator’s social strategy falter, where could the team have better funneled its digital marketing to ticket sales? The page is actually one of the most sophisticated of the bunch.


Witness the epic battle against the machines. See Terminator Genisys in theaters now.

Posted by Terminator Genisys on Monday, July 6, 2015

Forbes points to six reasons why the movie bombed in the US, like the movie’s terrible reviews and its going up against the more family-friendly “four quadrant” movies Jurassic World and Inside Out. But its social media marketing efforts were spot on.

We saw in the number of mentions across the web that Magic Mike is picking up a ton of buzz from news, reviews, blogs and fans. So it’s no surprise that the page’s most engaging posts, by far, are raw fan photos and videos of the actors attending a screening–four times more engaging than the other posts, the glossy video and posters.


Dropped in and sang happy birthday to a Magic Mike fan! Surprised the #ArcLightHollywood with Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello! #MagicMikeXXL

Posted by Channing Tatum on Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Magic Mike fans create and share content online, as seen in the listening mentions–so there’s a lot more opportunity here for the page to showcase the raw, user-generated content.

Jurassic World’s creative is downright meta.


The park is currently experiencing technical difficulties. If you’re on Isla Nublar and require immediate assistance,…

Posted by Jurassic World on Thursday, June 11, 2015

The studio used the page to advertise Jurassic World, the theme park, rather than the movie itself. Very creative, and fits the tone of the movie really well! But–the page has been abandoned since opening day. Is it really not worth the studio’s time to continue to market its movie on social? I doubt it.

Use social data to find new opportunities
What does all this movie data point to, all-in-all? Opportunity! When you get a birds-eye view of your mentions across the web, and all the inherent data there, you can craft your in-house content to make it resonate better, knowing what has already worked with others. A solid social media presence is definitely a way for studios to maintain the momentum of ticket sales past opening weekend.

But if you’re cut down by terrible reviews early on… you might just be out of luck.

*Header Image Credit: Leo Hidalgo

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