The Good & Bad of the 'Twitter Effect'

bruno-movie-01Way back in April, we published a post titled “Is Tweeting for the Birds?” That was when Twitter was just becoming the phenomenon it is now – thanks to lots of press from celebrity endorsers.

Our open-ended question to you then – despite the star-studded brouhaha over the brand – was if you thought Twitter would become a relevant and reliable tool for marketing businesses on the Internet.

It seems – and our apologies to the naysayers – that the answer is yes.

Several months have passed since Ashton Kutcher and CNN famously duked it out for the most Twitter followers (Ashton won) – and the celebrity endorsements have consistently subsided (and, in fact, some of those same celebrities who sang Twitter’s praises have threatened to turn on the microblogging service if it went through with a rumored Twitter-based TV program).

All that nonsense aside, in the past months Twitter’s users have proven themselves nothing if not dedicated (with or without Ashton) – and they’re showing big business that they now have the power.

Case in point: Renegade actor Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest guerilla comedy, Bruno, was the talk of every town before its release in early July. Speculation over racy, potentially homophobic content; unsuspecting participants threatening to sue; and Baron Cohen himself appearing in character everywhere you turned led the studio to believe it had a Boratian hit on its hands – if only due to the extreme level of piqued curiosity the marketing efforts managed to create.

“Bruno” opened to an impressive $14.4 million in the U.S. and Canada – and the very next day dropped an equally impressive 39% in ticket sales.

Why? According to this article from Reuters, “Bruno suffered from the ‘Twitter effect,’ meaning audiences reacted quickly online to raunchy scenes of sex and nudity, scaring people away.”

While the Twitter community’s nearly anonymous thumbs-down of “Bruno” caused its early demise – good luck finding a theater near you still playing it less than 5 weeks after its debut – early indicators suggest that director Peter Jackson’s new science-fiction film District 9 may benefit from Twitter exposure.

In the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, reporter Nicole Sperling writes, “On the first night of Comic-Con, Sony Pictures stacked an audience with movie bloggers and screened the low-budget, R-rated sci-fi flick District 9. By 11:39 that night, audience members’ Twitter raves had reached American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who posted ‘Omg I Want to See District 9 asap’ to her 220,000-plus followers. A Web sensation was born.’

Still, while Twitter has the power to impact the entertainment selections of middle America – and force major movie studios to rethink their marketing (and movie-making) strategies – you’re probably wondering how it can help the little people. Like us.

Rest assured – the ‘Twitter effect’ doesn’t discriminate.

This video from CNN provides several examples of how small business owners are using Twitter to build a mobile customer base for their upscale meals on wheels.


But there’s still a looming question – as there always is with social media marketing: “Will this work for me?”

It’s hard to tell. The businesses who have benefited from Twitter – both large and small – possess a sort of mainstream sensibility. That is, their business is accessible to the general public (and in the case of the smaller businesses – the general public in their region), and they’re offering a product or service that entices people to talk (or tweet, as it were).

Think about it … what does your business have to offer your customers that would encourage them to follow your tweets? How can Twitter work for you?

Talk to us. We’d love to hear your success stories.


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