Arts and Entertainment

Appease the Audience

In the age of the internet, how much power does social media yield over Hollywood?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

From short, quirky reviews on Letterboxd to snippets of films on TikTok, social media has been steadily overtaken by content relating to the film and television industry. With a deepening relationship between the two, the film industry has developed an increased reliance on social media and is now being altered and expanded in line with the wishes of social media users.

Alongside the rise of TikTok has come the escalation of fan culture, which has now gained a greater reach due to high usership and TikTok’s features, which allow creators to easily post edits or fancams of popular films. Prominent on the For You pages of most users, these fan posts have time and time again been able to catch the attention of producers and studios. With the release of Wednesday (2022- ), for instance, the show’s now-iconic prom dance scene was captured, reposted, and edited all over TikTok. Set to the track of Lady Gaga’s “Bloody Mary” (2011), the song’s second-party social media fame was able to launch it back onto the Billboard Top 100 for the first time since its release. 

Twitter has also become increasingly influential, boasting 450 million active users per month, including politicians, celebrities, and journalists. Twitter reaches diverse communities around the world, thereby inducing plentiful and rich discussions surrounding entertainment. Elon Musk’s recent purchase of Twitter led to the expansion of its capacity for free discussion, and it now hosts users that are more vocal than ever before. In a 2013 study conducted by Nielsen Media Research, it was determined that in 29 percent of sampled cases, Twitter activity by means of engaging with posts on the site—whether by posting, reposting, or responding—increased the entertainment industry’s viewership rates. Twitter’s quick-read nature and increasing number of users allows for on-the-nose film commentary, encouraging the large-scale discussion of entertainment.

Hit HBO series Euphoria’s (2019- ) social media popularity is a shining example of the huge role platforms can play in a show’s success. The teen drama—whose star-studded cast features the likes of Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, Jacob Elordi, and Hunter Schafer—has become one of the most popular shows of the decade, largely due to its coverage on social media. Just last year, Twitter revealed that over 34 million tweets regarding the show had been posted since its release, making Euphoria “the most tweeted show of the decade.” This overwhelming relevance online stems from its relatability to teenagers and young adults, including topical commentary on growing up in the Internet era. Characters like Kat (Barbie Fereira) struggle to find an identity within the toxic nature of online culture, resonating with many teenage viewers who share this struggle. Studios and directors have noticed social media’s undeniable power and have now begun to take advantage of it by advertising their shows through verified account posts and fan interactions on social media platforms. 

Outside of increasing viewership rates, social media can also serve as a deeply impactful means of communication between the average viewer and massive movie studios. A recent example of this is the “Release the Snyder Cut” campaign against Warner Bros. The campaign called for the restoration of an original cut from the 2017 Justice League film by Zack Snyder, which was scrapped and reshot by Joss Whedon after Snyder had to step away from the project due to personal issues. After the release of a poorly-received 2017 version, fans took to social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube, spreading a campaign for Zack Snyder to finish the story he created. There were reportedly hundreds of thousands of daily tweets in 2019, the campaign’s peak, petitioning for the release of the original film cut. Eventually, even the film’s own stars—Jason Momoa, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Ray Fisher—lent their voices on social media, directly quoting the movement and supporting fans. In addition to petitioning, fans worldwide used social media to promote and fund projects to help garner attention for their cause, most notably through multiple Times Square billboards and flying ads. This campaign’s ultimate success single-handedly heightened expectations for studio accountability; releasing the movie of a man shunned by his company undeniably proved social media’s real impact on the film and television industry. 

Now taking note of the power of social media, many platforms have become increasingly industrialized by advertisers and producers of new projects, aiming to convince the public to watch and support new entertainment. Social media has proven through four-word Twitter campaigns, fan edits, and everything in between that—if used correctly—it has the potential to command the entire film industry.