3 Steps to Creating Your Own Shark Week

Sharks are awesome. They’ve been around for 450 million years; residing at the top of the food chain in the environment that covers the majority of the earth’s surface. This past week sharks went a step further by dominating digital surfaces as well during the annual social media feeding frenzy commonly known as Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

There is a psychology at play during Shark Week that lends itself extraordinarily well to social media virality. Shark Week is, at its core, a highly visible event around a subject that everyone is familiar with at some level. Whether inspired by fear, curiosity, or the sheer spectacle that Shark Week has become, we are all inspired to weigh in.

A lot of the conversation around Shark Week is generated by people watching the show, but I think the more interesting constituents are the people talking about it who are not watching. Discovery has successfully incited a Shark Week culture around the programming that transcends the show itself. Though growing into the monster hit that Shark Week has become takes a certain amount of good fortune, there are a few marketing principles from Shark Week we'd all be wise to apply.

1. Keep the Conversation Going

While Shark Week may have originally taken off by shedding light upon mysterious and impressive creatures, it is currently sustained in its 26th year by the outpour of young support and pervasiveness of conversation around the show, both in person and digital. These conversations are immensely important for any company to inspire and nurture, allowing for greater brand awareness at any time of the year and in any marketing cycle. If you are struggling to involve your audience, there are companies that can help.

Last week, Nielsen released a study proving what many television people already knew: there is indeed a causal relationship between Twitter activity and TV viewership. If you Tweet it, they will come, and if they come, they will Tweet about it. Using Mass Relevance’s Reporting tool, I found that Shark Week generated more than 2.6 million Tweets and had a potential social reach of over 3 billion impressions from August 4-10! This massive social reach is contributing to the strong ratings Shark Week continues to garner.

2. Be more than a Product or Service

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Shark Week is a lifestyle (though some people do have Shark-themed parties and even get their pets involved), but I do think Shark Week is a frame of mind for a lot of people during that one week in August. For many, I think Shark Week is an outlet for expressing the inner-child that so often gets suppressed by everyday responsibilities and commitments.

The lesson here is that if you can successfully associate yourself with a feeling or emotion, you are aligning your company with something that is far more powerful and lasting than any product. Synonymous with excitement, childishness, and a little fear, Shark Week is the unofficial holiday we look forward to between the 4th of July and Halloween.

3. Be Good so that You’re Lucky

We’ve all heard the saying “I’d rather be lucky than be good.” Although this is an idiotic statement, I think there is a connection between being good and being lucky that’s worth examining. People who are good have a way of appearing lucky because they’ve attracted other people and organizations to respond to their goodness favorably.

Shark Week has been so good that they’ve given rise to an ecosystem of goodness around the show—not to mention an ecosystem of social reminders every time we go online. Some might contend that Sharknado served as a fortuitous teaser leading up to Shark Week, but would Sharknado exist without Shark Week proving that there’s a large and engaged audience that loves sharks?

We at Mass Relevance are always thinking about ways of inspiring and displaying social conversations. Working with a partner like Discovery is a natural fit since much of their success hinges on the earned commentary they get for events such as Shark Week. Nielsen said it last week: Tweets matter for ratings.

In many ways, we’ve positioned ourselves to enable clients to keep the conversation going and provide more color around their products or services. Although being good is up to you, we can make sure the conversations are being surfaced appropriately so that you too can spawn your own social media feeding frenzy.


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