With mediums such as Facebook and Twitter permeating nearly every aspect of our society, the usefulness of social media can no longer be denied or ignored. Over the recent years, social media has stretched beyond bridging occasional contact between old classmates and colleagues, and has expanded into the professional world. Businesses, organizations, and academic institutions have all integrated social media platforms into their strategies to support their goals and objectives. Of the immeasurable number of companies and brands that utilize these channels, Marvel Entertainment has used social media the most effectively. Having spent a summer interning at Marvel, I was able to witness first-hand the primary elements of Marvel’s successful social media strategy, with its direct interaction with consumers through Twitter, successful use of its Facebook application, and its deep understanding of its fans.
Of the many ways in which Marvel interacts directly with its consumers, Twitter is a primary channel through which this is accomplished. In general, companies that do the bare minimum on Twitter will use its account to simply tweet news on the latest products or promotions. Marvel, on the other hand, reaches out to its consumers and asks for their opinions regarding daily poll questions, or asks them to send in fan-art and fan photos. Many fan tweets are retweeted by the Marvel page for the world to see, and art or photo submissions are posted directly. For instance, last autumn, Marvel hosted an online event dubbed “Costoberfest.” Marvel welcomed its followers to submit photos of themselves “cosplaying,” or dressed up as their favorite superheroes. Every day of October, the official Twitter account would select and feature a photo of one of these fans donning their extravagant and homemade costumes to celebrate their loyalty to the brand, as well as their creativity.
Marvel also has several related, official Twitter accounts that are each updated frequently. During the San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest comic book convention in America, there was a live feed on Twitter that gave fans a play-by-play of Marvel-related events and promotions right from inside the event. Some of Marvel’s other Twitter profiles include character accounts, such as “@RealDeadpool.” Such accounts are used to tweet in the voice of some of Marvel’s most popular characters, and are done very well because the actual comic creators and editors write them. Most of the creators and editors at Marvel have their own Twitter accounts, which are also very popular. One of Marvel’s Executive Editorial Directors, for instance, has over 1.3 million followers on his account. Because the writers, artists and editors are directly involved in the creative process, comic fans are very interested in what they have to say. Furthermore, they take the time to directly answer questions asked by the fans regarding the brand and its characters. Direct access to the company is particularly important in the comic book community, because it comprises of such a loyal and tight-knit fan base.
Another aspect of Marvel’s effective social media strategy is its Facebook application, a game called Avengers Alliance. This application offers fans an interactive gameplay experience in which they can take on the role of their favorite characters and battle against an AI, or even battle other players. The game is also set up so that the more friends or allies that a player invites, the more rewards the player can receive to boost their experience. Additionally, in-game promotions serve as advertisements for Marvel’s new comics and films, and also for partner companies. Special characters and upgrades are offered to players from time to time to coincide with new film releases.
Related to its direct interaction and use of the Facebook application is the core of Marvel’s social media strategy and the main reason it is so effective: Marvel’s deep understanding of its fans. This understanding of the target audience, which is absolutely necessary for any company or brand, is possible because the employees at Marvel are fans themselves. Every intern at Marvel, especially the social media interns, has an in-depth knowledge of all of the brand’s creative properties. This allows them to post questions on their social media accounts that lead to engaging discussions or debates between fans. It also allows them to answer almost any question regarding Marvel properties, even the most obscure or unknown ones. Although recently, Marvel has experienced a significant increase in popularity that can be attributed to its ongoing trend of releasing film adaptations of their comics, its roots are still in the comic industry. Thus, in continuing to keep close ties to the comic community through social media, they are ensuring the success of their efforts.
Marvel Entertainment’s successful usage of social media is apparent, and should be looked to as a model for other companies with similar objectives. Direct interaction with its consumers and fan base, along with a successful Facebook application are main components to said success. The company’s understanding of the fans not only relates to the two aforementioned components, but is also the primary reason for its success. In order to effectively deliver a message, it must first cater to the target audience. Adding a personal element in their efforts makes all the difference because it shows that Marvel is more in tune with its audience than a lot of other brands.