STUDY: Facebook Activity Correlates To Box-Office Popularity

By Justin Lafferty 

Big movies love to market through Facebook, and Facebook page statistics give an accurate view of what’s going on at the box office. CitizenNet recently released a comprehensive study, finding that Facebook behavior is correlated to box-office returns, but at a cost: More than 75 percent of all impressions of non-franchise film content on Facebook are sponsored.

Recently, AllFacebook examined the top box-office hits, comparing them with the most-talked-about pages on Facebook via PageData, finding that the lists were fairly similar.

CitizenNet discovered that the most correlated metrics between Facebook and the box office are people who have liked the page, the click-through rate of the content shared through the page, and the unlike rate of the page.

Using these metrics, CitizenNet devised predicted box-office figures for 37 different major films that played in at least 2,000 theaters on opening weekend from 2011 through 2013. It looked at two weeks of data for each film, culminating on the Friday of opening weekend. The company found that the amount of hype around a movie’s Facebook page usually meant that the film would be well-attended.

CitizenNet then pared it down to just three Facebook metrics: like-to-unlike ratio, click-through rate, and total number of likes. It found that even just with these figures, there is still a heavy correlation. For this comparison, CitizenNet took its predicted box-office figures and plotted them against the actual total box-office earnings for the films.

However, Facebook success comes at a cost. CitizenNet found that most of the impressions gained by movies on Facebook were paid. Of all of the films in the study, roughly 70 percent of impressions were sponsored. Of the 37 films, roughly two-thirds were original intellectual property (i.e., not sequels or based on well-known books). Only 50 percent of impressions for movies with that prior knowledge base were paid, as opposed to 77 percent for films that weren’t sequels or based off well-known books (with most films higher than 90 percent paid impressions).

CitizenNet wondered: What does this mean?

  • Nonpaid impressions are considered organic (someone decides to go to the film’s Facebook page) or viral (someone is seeing content from a friend about a movie).
  • As such, nonpaid impressions are either due to built-in knowledge of the title (such as a franchise), or due to non-Facebook media driving that traffic, such as TV, print, or radio.
  • New titles, therefore, almost completely rely on paid marketing to push the key metrics that correlate with box office.

CitizenNet then discussed how it’s key for advertisers of these films to understand their fan bases in order to truly get the most out of advertising through targeting:

Segmenting your audience is nothing new, and while segmenting moviegoers 130 different ways would be painstaking, it isn’t impossible. The benefits that segmentation can bring are clear – repeated A/B testing of one audience against another should allow a digital marketer to focus its budgets to the segments performing the best. But what about creative? The usual recipe is to simply try lots of different creative against an audience and see what sticks. Not only is this wasteful (how many of these creative-audience combinations are not good?), it doesn’t really provide much insight into what creative to build.

As an example, the company examined the Facebook connections of actor Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as pro wrestler “The Rock.” CitizenNet looked at men 25 through 34 and women 35 through 44 who like Johnson, and discovered what else they have in common.

Knowing this, if an upcoming film has Johnson as the star, it would be wise to also market to fans of The Rock (obviously), WWE Raw, Marvel Comics, Eminem, Alicia Keys, and Lady Gaga, among others.

Readers: Do you check out and like movies’ Facebook pages before seeing them in theaters?

Teaser image courtesy of Shutterstock.