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Lights, camera, post: The role of social media in Nollywood’s box office boom

'A Tribe Called Judah' sells over 374,000 cinema tickets to generate ₦1.4bn 'A Tribe Called Judah' sells over 374,000 cinema tickets to generate ₦1.4bn
'A Tribe Called Judah' sells over 374,000 cinema tickets to generate ₦1.4bn

BY CHIDI CHINWETALU

Once upon a time, the only way we could know about the next Nollywood movie was through posters or watching trailers in the movies we rented from the local movie rental store. The trailers were exciting and fast-paced with a distinct voice that had all the possible onomatopoeia a mouth can produce. The trailers always ended with the marketer’s address – 51 Iweka Road, Onitsha, and 1/3 Pound Road, Aba – which were iconic addresses in the formative years of Nollywood. 

Those days are long gone and Nollywood has evolved into the digital age and requires intense digital marketing strategies for any movie to have good numbers at the box office. The scene has shifted dramatically, social media has transformed how Nollywood movies are promoted and consumed, with filmmakers like Funke Akindele leading the charge in this digital renaissance.

Akindele exemplifies the strategic use of social media to create buzz and drive anticipation for her films. We almost always know when she is ready to release a movie because she integrates the full production lifecycle into her plans. She doesn’t just work on the movie production but also on elements of promotion for social media.

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Take ‘A Tribe Called Judah’ for example, which has amassed over N1.4 billion at the box office, making it the highest-grossing Nollywood film ever. The success of this film is not just a testament to its quality but also the formidable power of social media marketing. Akindele had built a robust community around the movie even before it dropped. 

Other Nollywood filmmakers are also tapping into the vast potential of social media to promote their movies. Kunle Afolayan, for instance, used a conversation-based strategy to promote his movie ‘Citation’ which addresses important social issues. Similarly, Kemi Adetiba’s promotional strategy for ‘King of Boys’ involved extensive use of social media to tease her audience. By releasing character posters, and teaser trailers, and engaging with fans through live sessions, Adetiba built a fervent following that eagerly awaited the film’s release. 

The transition from traditional marketing methods to sophisticated social media strategies marks a significant evolution in Nollywood. Gone are the days when movie promotion relied solely on TV trailers and radio jingles. Today, the digital landscape offers filmmakers a dynamic platform to reach a broader, more engaged audience. Social media has democratised the promotional process, allowing filmmakers to connect directly with fans, build communities, and generate organic buzz.

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Filmmakers must embrace the transformative power of this new era by integrating their promotional strategies from the very beginning of their projects. Social media promotion should never be an afterthought. Instead, it should be interwoven with every stage of the filmmaking process. By creating a comprehensive social media plan alongside their production plan, filmmakers can ensure that their movies generate excitement and maintain visibility throughout their entire lifecycle.

It begins with identifying key milestones and developing content strategies tailored to each stage of production. Casting announcements can be used to introduce the film to potential audiences via platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and X. A crucial aspect of this approach is creating content that is native to each social media platform.

Each platform has its unique style and audience, and content should be crafted to maximise engagement on each one. Instagram, with its visual focus, is ideal for sharing striking images and short video clips. TikTok, known for its viral trends, can be used to create challenges and snippets that encourage user participation. X is perfect for real-time updates and interactions with fans.

In the current trend where movies often transition from cinemas to streaming platforms, having a robust social media presence becomes even more critical. Films that maintain a vibrant online community are more attractive to streaming services, as they come with a built-in audience ready to watch and promote the movie. This gives filmmakers greater bargaining leverage when negotiating with streaming platforms, potentially leading to more favourable deals and wider distribution. Without a community, it becomes challenging to demonstrate the film’s ongoing value, making it harder to secure such opportunities.

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Chidi Chinwetalu is a content strategist working in programs and market insight at TikTok.



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