Blog Post:

How Data Could Bring an Action Hero Back to the Big Screen

4 minutes

Rob Salkowitz

As a business and strategy consultant who works with the pop culture and entertainment industries, I get a lot of interesting projects from clients seeking guidance on questions around how to engage with their fans better. This past spring, I fielded an inquiry from one of the biggest movie stars in the world, a household-name action hero with a very specific request. Since I did not want to be terminated, I knew that if I took the job, I’d need some heavy firepower, including the analytical insights of Affinio.

The situation was this: earlier in his career, this actor was associated with a movie franchise that has since gone dormant. He wanted to see if there was still enough interest in the property among his fanbase for him to put together an offer to the rights-holder to bring the character back to the screen.

To test the waters, he posted a teaser image and video clip on his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. He wanted to accurately measure the organic reach of his post, the engagement that the post generated, and the kinds of fans it appealed to as a baseline for assessing the feasibility of the project. If enough people responded well to the test, he’d engage in a full-on effort to mobilize their support. His team asked if I could build a report that incorporated the relevant data to support their business strategy.


I knew there wasn’t a single analytics platform I could use to answer the question with the depth and nuance that the client required, so I brought together several cutting edge tools to measure the reach and engagement of the content across the social media landscape.

Once I had a handle on the absolute and relative performance of the post on the topic under investigation, I wanted to use that data to forecast how much interest this project might generate among the actor’s total social following, not just the small slice that engaged with the single post. To do that, I needed to identify the key characteristics of the most enthusiastic fans, and see how well those characteristics were reflected in a larger dataset. That kind of question is ideally suited to the capabilities of Affinio.

I began by targeting the exact audience on Twitter who quoted, retweeted or replied to the original post, using Affinio’s search tool to track the URL link that was embedded in the original tweet. Affinio allowed me to identify that the most engaged audience was 85% male, with an average age of 35, and composed mostly of people who tweet more than 15 times per month. Because I was working with a small initial dataset, I limited my segmentation to six subgroups. Unsurprisingly, these groups sorted themselves into categories like “Comic fans,” “videogamers,” “genre media fans” and “celebrity followers,” as well as geographic categories representing Asia and Latin America.


Next, I ran an analysis of my client’s total following of 3.4 million active, authentic Twitter followers, a much larger and broader group of fans than the ones who responded to the tweet. Within the 11 main data clusters in that group, three of them closely matched the characteristics of the superfans I discovered on the first search, adding up to a total of 1.2 million. In other words, at least 35% of the actor’s existing Twitter followers share the interests and affinities of the slice who engaged with the single tweet.

Assuming the characteristics of the Facebook and Instagram audiences map out to roughly the same subsegments and demographics identified on Twitter, that 35% translates to as many as 13 million existing fans who could be mobilized to support this project given a coordinated campaign outreach, and many more globally who share similar characteristics, demographics and brand affinities. And thanks to Affinio, we now have a much better idea how to target them with boosted posts and amplification in the event of a broader social campaign.

These conclusions more than satisfied my client’s baseline inquiries:

  • Is there enough interest among his own fanbase to form a critical mass of support for the new project? Yes.
  • Could those fans be activated with more content and a greater investment in reach? Yes. 
  • Did the influencer retweets help, and should those influencers be part of the campaign? Yes and yes.
  • Is there an audience for this project in the wider world beyond this actor’s own following? Hell yes!

I can’t say for sure what the client decided with regard to the bigger project. All I can say is, if you are a fan of this particular character and this data helped influence the decision, He’ll Be Back.


About the writer: Rob Salkowitz is a consultant and author specializing in the business of popular culture, media and technology. He works with top brands and clients worldwide on marketing, branding and strategy to engage with fan communities. He writes regularly for Forbes, ICv2, and Publishers Weekly, teaches at the University of Washington, and is the author or editor of five books. Follow him @robsalk.