Chumming for Insights: A Social Take on Sharknado

For a brief moment the term Sharknado took the social universe by storm. If you haven’t heard about the Syfy channel original TV movie let us inform you. The biggest actor attached to the film is Tara Reid. With an estimated budget of $1 million, the marketing push behind this Made-For-TV movie must have been incredibly low. Yet, at one point during the movie’s first air the term “Sharknado” hit 5,000 Tweets per minute and became a trending topic. According to Nielsen, approximately 12.3% of all Tweets related to TV were about Sharknado on the day it aired – twice as many Tweets as the next most Tweeted TV event, the return of Derek Jeter in the Yankees vs Kansas City game.

Companies spend millions of dollars promoting hashtags in commercials and yet this movie with a budget less than many companies spend on a single commercial was able to become an instant sensation. In the end, it is results that matter and in this case, the results are viewers. Sharknado was able to achieve an impressive 1.37 million viewers. To compare, NBC during primetime on the same day maxed out at 1.15 million viewers. So how does a small cable channel like Syfy get more viewers than the big boys like NBC?

While Twitter was the dominant focus of the conversation for Sharknado, we thought we would look at how that conversation translated on to other social channels. Was Sharknado spreading like wildfire on Tumblr the way it was on Twitter? Were people blogging about it and discussing it on WordPress and Disqus?

Let’s take a look at Sharknado Social Media:

The white line in the graph is when the first air of Sharknado happened.

These graphs show that, outside of Twitter, conversation about Sharknado acted mostly as expected, except for on Tumblr. WordPress and Disqus saw their peak of activity after the movie aired. People were likely using the long form nature of WordPress blogging reviews followed by Disqus comments to further the discussion, which is typical for these sources of data.

But the really interesting graph is the Tumblr graph:

There are a couple of interesting things to note about how Sharknado conversation happened on Tumblr:

  • The initial spike on July 7th, which is due to a teaser animated GIF that got picked up and reblogged 3000 times an hour.
  • The spike in activity on July 10, which marks the release of the official trailer for Sharknado on YouTube and it’s spread on Tumblr. Tumblr users picked this up and shared it at an impressive 5,500 posts per hour at its peak.
  • The consistent stream of posts related to Sharknado since the air. While all other networks, including Twitter, have seen a significant drop-off, Tumblr is sharing Sharknado related content more after the initial air than before it.

What this means is that social conversation online doesn’t just happen where you intend for it to, and it doesn’t just happen where you are looking. Analyzing the conversation across social networks gives you a full picture of the social conversation and gives you greater visibility into results of your marketing push. Rumor has it Sharknado has a sequel in the works, our bet is that you’ll find the first glimpses of it’s virality on Tumblr and you’ll see it last there until the first glimpses of Sharknado 3.