Sharknado Success Shows Impact of Social Media on Public Opinion

Stephanie is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

There was nothing about it. It was just another B-movie airing on one of Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) premiere networks. But by the time the final credits on Sharknado ran, the buzz had already begun on popular social media site Twitter. A full week later, the public and the press are still talking about it, with the SyFy channel planning a second airing and plans for a sequel already in the works.

While the initial audience for the show was lower than the channel averages on a given night, expectations are high for future airings. The film itself isn't what people are talking about, however. The social media chatter serves as proof that sites like Twitter can have real-world impact. The attention caused Comcast's stock to increase slightly and Twitter to report approximately 5,000 tweets a minute by the end of the show.

A celebrity endorsement

What does it take to become a social media sensation? A celebrity endorsement doesn't hurt. Senator Chris Murphy, Elizabeth Banks, Mia Farrow, Wil Wheaton, Patton Oswalt, and, in his last tweet, Cory Monteith, were only a few of the big names who weighed in on the movie. Those tweets prompted retweets and, voila, a star was born.

For Comcast, SyFy and other channels in its NBCUniversal division have been big earners since Comcast bought out GE's share earlier this year. In its most recent earnings report, Comcast reported a 17% earnings increase, thanks largely to its entertainment unit. NBCUniversal's chief has stated that it would take 3-5 years for the division to show a significant profit, with low ratings and reduced revenue from content licensing agreements to blame for the drop.

YouTube makes stars

While the news continues to state this as a "first" for social media, YouTube has been creating careers for years. Just last year, the Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) property launched the short-lived superstardom of Psy with his Gangnam Style video. But perhaps the biggest career to come out of the site is that of Justin Bieber, who was spotted singing on the site when he was only 12 years old. When the video started getting mass views, the music industry took notice.

As YouTube has become a replacement for video music channels like MTV and VH1, Google continues to reap the rewards. The company reported profits that were up 20% in its core business, which excludes its costly Motorola hardware unit. Ad prices were down, however, due to dropping mobile search ad prices, which are now 40% below ads for websites viewed on PCs.

YouTube is a winner for the company, however, bringing in more revenue than it earned in early 2013. Music stars and movie studios frequently turn to the site to promote upcoming releases and new music, giving YouTube ad revenue opportunities. Not only is YouTube creating careers, it's creating promotion opportunities.

Facebook Fail

While Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) is a favorite marketing tool of businesses around the country, its closed nature stops the very type of mega-social media event Sharknado experienced. Likes and Shares can spread from one page to the next, sure, but the site lacks the ability to lure hundreds of thousands of strangers into a conversation on the same topic at once.

Still, the site can't help but be part of films and TV shows, as evidenced by the popular movie Catfish, which has launched a series on MTV. The show follows social media users who date using various social media sites to find out of the person they're dating is being honest.

Perhaps it's because Facebook is the social media site to beat. The company still holds a 57.13% market share of social media visits, with YouTube coming in second with 24.8%. Twitter lags well behind, just above LinkedIn and Pinterest at 1.72%. Facebook's revenue was up 38% in its last quarter from the previous quarter, coming in at $1.46 billion.

While many analysts focus on the war between Facebook and Twitter, Google may be the one to watch. The company is a winner in many areas, but its Google Plus and YouTube segments are proof that the tech giant is a tech giant for a reason. However, its one downfall is its high valuation, forcing the company to continue to prove it's worth.

Facebook's introduction of Graph Search and the growing adoption of Instagram among younger users may make a difference, but Twitter's ambition is impressive. Not only is its Vine service growing in popularity, TV viewers are being encouraged to interact on Twitter as part of mass TV-viewing events. Chances are, Sharknado is only one of many success stories we'll hear from Twitter.

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Stephanie Faris has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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