SyFy’s latest low-budget flick about a tornado of sharks in Los Angeles, Sharknado, was all the rage on Twitter last weekend, earning a coveted spot on the site’s list of trending topics. It was a great example of content that was so horrendously bad, it was good—and it even gained a shocking amount of support from big-name tweeters all over the country. But even though social media blew up in response to the outrageous movie, an interesting phenomenon occurred in the social universe. The film’s ratings didn’t even come close to reflecting the publicity it garnered on the Internet, sparking a compelling question for Sharknado and fellow brands that have basked in the glory of social buzz: Is engagement alone enough to bless brands with long-term success?
During its premiere on July 10th, there were 387,000 social mentions about Sharknado, almost all of which were on Twitter. They even beat other popular shows airing that night, including Big Brother and The Big Bang Theory. At the prime time of Sharknado’s social buzz, they were mentioned in almost 5,000 tweets a minute. And with that kind of chatter, you’d think viewing the movie was a national event.
But apparently people were more likely to talk about the movie than actually take the next step and watch it.
The ratings were as shocking as a hit—or shark— to the face. Only 1.369 million people tuned in to watch the terror of Sharknado. History’s Pawn Stars, which also aired that night, had 4.398 million viewers. Re-runs of The Big Bang Theory had 2.072 million. Considering that SyFy ratings paled in comparison, maybe there is some substance to Joe Nocera’s theory that a lot of Twitter is just “frivolous.”
Sharknado isn’t the only film that garnered significant buzz and eventually turned into an unsuccessful dud. Snakes on a Plane—a similarly ludicrous, aptly-named movie—was expected to be a major Hollywood hit. But it completely flopped, raking in just enough revenue to cover production costs.
Of course, there is a chance Sharknado may actually be able to extend its 15 minutes of fame, and there’s still time for viewers to watch the movie during the next airing on SyFy (July 18th) or On Demand, like I unashamedly did.
In fact, the consumption of content related to SyFy jumped 220.49 percent as a result of the premiere. While it’s still early to tell if this boost in traffic will translate into loyal consumers, SyFy is in a unique position where they can completely blow this opportunity out of shark-infested waters.
Creating outrageous content is risky, and having your content go viral can be deceptively exciting as a result. This isn’t the first outlandish film the network has produced either; Sharknado only joins the likes of movies including Piranhaconda and Pegasus vs. Chimera.
With that said, as awesome as the idea of “going viral” is, don’t forget your brand’s overarching goal. You want consumers, and loyal ones at that, to be hungry for your content. Whether or not Sharknado is a business success, your brand should be committed to delivering quality and strategic content will expand your audience and help you reap the ROI benefits.