‘Sharknado’: How Twitter turned it from campy to instant classic


“Sharks. Tornado. Sharknado.”

That, right there, was the entire promo ad for the Syfy channel’s latest campy, poorly produced, shamefully acted, and horribly written masterpiece.

Yes. Masterpiece.

Look, I’m a seasoned vet when it comes to watching Syfy’s unbelievably bad but awesome hits. Hits like “Sharktopus” (“A half-shark, half-octopus creature creates terror in Mexico”) and “Dinoshark” (a giant shark trapped below the Earth’s surface for thousands of years is set free by oil drilling and terrorizes California), but “Sharknado” was something different. Because unlike the rest of Syfy’s repertoire of painfully cheesy shark tales, this one had social media in a complete, well, feeding frenzy.

According to Craig Engler, the senior vice president of Syfy Digital and voice of the @Syfy Twitter account, the hashtag #Sharknado appeared 387,000 times on Twitter on Thursday night, hitting 5,000 tweets per minute at its peak.


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“Definitely ‘Sharknado’ is the most social thing that has ever aired on the Syfy channel,” Engler said, “If you actually look at the numbers, we were actually neck-and-neck with people talking about ‘Sharknado’ and people who tweeted about the Red Wedding episode of ‘Game of Thrones’.”

I read at least a few hundred of those -- and about dozen came from me. And many came from the likes of Mia Farrow, Chuck Todd, Olivia Wilde. Even God (or at least @TheTweetofGod) weighed in.

This morning L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti got in on the #Sharknado action:

Looks like a great LA day today. Unless of course #sharknado is coming. Fingers crossed...— Eric Garcetti (@ericgarcetti) July 12, 2013

Honestly, it was trending in Australia, where it wasn’t airing,” Engler said. “I got notes from people that it was trending in the Netherlands.”

Why did so many people fall in love with this film?

“It is just so fun to say,” said L.A. Times TV critic Mary McNamara, who reviewed the movie. “People were tweeting about it without even knowing what it meant.


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“It combines two of our favorite things--sharks (“Jaws” remains the monster film of the 20th century) and B movies. Just watching the characters ‘drive’--twitching the wheel back and forth like toddlers--was a crack-up. It’s ‘Mystery Science Theater’ with flying sharks! And who doesn’t like to see L.A. trashed?”

“Sharknado” didn’t break the Twitter record for most tweeted television event, held by this year’s Super Bowl. Powered by the blackout and Beyonce, the sporting event was tweeted about more than 24.1 million times, according to Twitter.

On a smaller scale, “Sharknado” created a sense of unity, like we are all in this crazy world -- where shark-filled tornadoes are possible -- together.

Syfy isn’t going to let the social buzz around its shark movies die down. Syfy will re-air “Sharknado” on July 18. The network is also already talking about how to capitalize on social media for its next original shark movie, “Ghost Shark,” airing in August. If you’re wondering, it’s about a great white shark that is killed by a fisherman and returns to terrorize all of humanity.

“We know people love to talk about them and have fun with them,” Engler said of such movies. “I don’t think these movies are successful without social media.”



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