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Newsletter #965: The “Lessons from Sharknado” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Sharknado originally aired as a typical, made-for-TV, B-movie on the Syfy channel. (You know, the one famous for gems like Titanic II, Dinocroc, and Chupacabra vs. The Alamo.) But when the first signs of the movie’s viral success popped up, instead of crossing their fingers and hoping for the best, Syfy took action.

Here’s how they turned Sharknado into a viral phenomena:

1. Release it into the wild
2. Make it an event
3. Give them more to talk about
4. Let fans take over
5. Don’t let lawyers ruin it
6. Check it out: 14 Brilliant Movies with Worse Reviews than Sharknado

1. Release it into the wild

Syfy channel screen

Photo thanks to our teammate, Bridgette.

With the Syfy logo in the corner and no commercial breaks, the downloadable version of Sharknado online is almost certainly the official version. And while most directors would cringe at the thought of giving away their work, Sharknado actually tried to make it easier for people to share the video. They know word of mouth spreads faster and more efficiently when you let people share.

The lesson: Copy protection is the opposite of copy promotion.

Learn more: Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That!

2. Make it an event

Less than a month after Sharknado first aired on the Syfy channel, Regal Cinemas showed the movie in about 200 theaters, and the tickets sold out fast. So fast, that each of the theaters added a second screening, which sold out even faster. That quick move stoked the fan excitement they had for the TV showing. Even better, since the tickets were limited, it made the movie-goers insiders.

The lesson: Exclusive events make your fans feel special, and people love to tell their friends when they feel special.

Learn more: The Wrap

3. Give them more to talk about

Sharknado director at a convention

Photo thanks to Nerdlocker.

When do you see an interview with a director of a made-for-TV movie — much less, a line of fans waiting to get that director’s autograph at a conference? Sharknado continued the word of mouth conversations by giving their fans more stuff to talk about.

The lesson: When you put meaningful promotion and PR behind your stuff, you help turn your casual fans into experts (and people love talking about their expertise).

Learn more: Nerdlocker

4. Let fans take over

When you listen to your customers’ feedback, it shows you care. When your customers own your branding, it shows you’re all about them. Sharknado did it by letting their fans name the sequel, Sharknado 2: The Second One, through a Twitter contest. That not only got Sharknado some social media promotion, but also sent an important message to their fans: This one’s for you.

The lesson: Your fans love being a part of your business. Give them ways to make a meaningful difference in how you do it.

Learn more: Ad Age

5. Don’t let lawyers ruin it

Sharknado cat hat

Photo thanks to Notso Kitty Shop.

One of the biggest compliments you can get from your customers is to have them make all kinds of stuff with your name on it — and Sharknado’s fan are good at this. You can find anything from T-shirts, to mini sculptures, and even cat hats, all made by their fans. Instead of sending cease and desist letters, Sharknado encourages fan creativity.

The lesson: Are you preventing your raving fans from raving about you?

Learn more: Mental Floss

6. Check it out: 14 Brilliant Movies with Worse Reviews than Sharknado

While Rotten Tomatoes is basically just the Yelp for movies, it still has some explaining to do with this one.

Check it out: BuzzFeed

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