Reporting on social media from “reliable” sources across the web has to take into account the full gamut when it comes to the demographics for each service. This has to do with how the sources gauge usage, as their methods are almost always proprietary. Since the social media giants themselves are notoriously tight-lipped about the details of who accesses their services, the numbers quoted by marketing websites and gurus is a matter of conjecture. To further complicate matters, these huge sites are international, and in most cases North America makes up only a small percentage of total users.
It’s our working hypothesis that different social media services have varying engagement levels for different genders and ages. This is important for many reasons, most notably because many films appeal primarily to a particular demographic, and the buzz on platforms most used by that demographic should have a disproportionately high level of activity. Following this logic further, we can draw inferences for the potential of future films that have a clear target audience.
To test this hypothesis, let’s take a look at a variety of films that have opened recently, see what their stated demographic breakdowns were, and then compare that to how they ranked in the month prior to release on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to see if any patterns emerge.
At first glance, to the untrained eye there would appear to be zero correlation between platform and target audience, but drilling down further there are clearly nuggets in the data that offer clues to their respective potential.
Hustlers made it onto our list of interesting titles because its audience skewed female (68% female versus 32% male), the majority of whom were over 25. Its biggest performance came on Instagram, where it ranked second in total likes during the month leading up to its release. Given the younger population on Instagram and its even split of men and woman, combined with the film’s star power, it made sense that Hustlers exploded on the service. Facebook and Twitter were solid as well but not nearly as big, which speaks to how well the film performed in the under-35 demographic that Instagram appeals to.
John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum had a high male-skewing audience on opening weekend (64% to 36%), so its strength on Facebook was understandable, especially in light of its strong international opening. While it performed well on the other services, its numbers indicate that its sweet spot was in the 25–35 age range, slightly older than Instagram’s core demographic and slightly younger than Twitter’s core.
Spider-Man: Far from Home was included as a control marker for the most part, as it ruled in two of the three services by a longshot. It was also the only summer film to score a win on Twitter and Instagram, which is a good indication of its broad appeal across both gender and age lines.
Aladdin predictably scored big on Facebook and Instagram while Twitter was lukewarm, indicating a failure to connect as strongly with older men. Meanwhile, Detective Pikachu was huge on Twitter and Instagram but didn’t have much of an impact on Facebook.
This closer look does offer some clues, but there are a lot of moving parts here. The specific marketing campaign’s strengths and weaknesses, the film’s international appeal, whether it’s a brand-new social media property or an existing one from a franchise, and many other factors play a role in how well a film does on these services. That being said, in a broad sense we can draw meaningful inferences from this analysis. For instance, if a film is performing strongly across all three social media services, there is a very high chance of broad appeal on opening and a likely strong debut. Also, with the broad understanding that Twitter is strongest with older men, Instagram with younger audiences, and Facebook with a large overall presence that is especially potent with the 25–44 age group, we can obtain clues about the buzz for upcoming films. For instance, the upcoming James Bond 25, No Time to Die, already has a very strong showing on Twitter despite not yet having a trailer (no. 3 in terms of likes over the past month, behind only Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Joker), which is a very positive sign of the buzz it is creating for its core demographic.
Coming out of this exercise it is clear that demographics on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram vary significantly enough to impact the consumption and reaction to upcoming films based on their marketing pitches and target audiences. While this is a useful tool for pundits to gauge potential, it also offers a roadmap for marketers, theaters, and promoters as to how to tailor their pitches. What clips to show, which interviews to push, engagement with fans: This is the difference between passable, good, and great marketing campaigns, a Rubik’s cube that more and more distributors and theater chains are attempting to solve than ever before.