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For those of you keeping track, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is now the most-followed American man on Instagram, with just over 200 million followers (time of published). In the new game being played by social media influencers, that means that he can now ask $1 million per post from advertisers looking to get the word out on Instagram. To put that into perspective, that’s more than even the famous Kardashians can get per post on Instagram. And “The Rock” is also the highest-paid actor in Hollywood right now, thanks primarily to the runaway success of the “Fast and the Furious” film franchise. In other words, “The Rock” is on top of the world right now, and there’s a lot that we can learn from his social media success to this point.
Creative projects flow to those with the most followers
Perhaps the biggest takeaway lesson from Johnson’s phenomenal social media success is that creative projects – especially Hollywood films – are now flowing to those individuals with the biggest presence on social media, and not necessarily the most talented or critically-acclaimed actors. Few would claim that Johnson is the “best” actor in Hollywood these days, and even fewer would dare to claim that a film like “Jumanji” is worthy of critical acclaim. But here’s the thing – if you’re a major production studio looking to roll out a blockbuster film, you’re not necessarily looking for A-list actors these days, you’re looking for people who can pack seats in a cinema or pay to stream a film online.
To see why this matters, check out how Dwayne Johnson is promoting his newest film project – “Red Notice” – which is a film originally scheduled for release in June 2020 (and now delayed until 2021 due to COVID-19). Recently, a single Instagram post from Johnson showing the behind-the-scenes shooting for the film in Rome garnered 6.1 million likes and over 30,000 comments. That’s essentially free advertising for the film, and if even a fraction of the people liking and commenting on the post share it with their friends, that’s huge word-of-mouth advertising for a film.
Plus, Johnson has 200 million followers worldwide, so he is essentially guaranteeing global box office success for any film that he can promote on Instagram. Keep in mind, if Johnson can get $1 million per Instagram post from advertisers, he’s potentially putting millions of dollars in advertising behind any creative project he hopes to promote with just a few photos. (And since Netflix is now taking over the “Red Notice” film, “The Rock” can tap into all the synergies behind Netflix’s huge social media presence as well).
Follower counts matter more than ever
A second takeaway lesson from Johnson is that follower counts matter more than ever. On social media platforms like Instagram, follower counts are a way of “keeping score,” and that means that people are going to do whatever they can to juice up their follower counts to attract sponsors, advertisers and financial backers. A singer like Ariana Grande can now walk into any meeting and point to her 203 million followers as proof that a new recording deal is going to be successful, or as a reason for her to get an appearance on a late night talk show or a hosting gig at an entertainment award show. Nobody really thinks Grande is the best singer in the world, but you’d probably tune into a TV show if you knew she was going to appear.
And, of course, this narrow-minded focus on follower counts has implications for everyone else using social media to boost their business. If follower counts matter more than ever, then it means that a politician with more followers is “more popular” than his or her rival and is more likely to win an election. It means that a business executive is “more successful” than another, and is more deserving of conference speaking gigs or industry awards. And it means that certain athletes might be more desirable to a fan base than other similarly-talented athletes. If you’re a cellar-dwelling professional sports team, wouldn’t you be able to pack more fans into a stadium or arena if you were able to land a social media-savvy athlete?
Social media and pop culture
Ultimately, the social media success of Dwayne Johnson is a statement on what’s happening to popular culture today. It’s harder and harder to sell platinum-selling records or make blockbuster films that reap hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. We no longer live in a world with three TV channels and a handful of top production studios. Hollywood studios, for example, now have to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon for any film project.
As a result, in today’s world, the only “bankable” stars are those with a huge social media presence. That’s the new reality today, and it’s especially true in the COVID-19 world, where people are spending all their time at home and on the Internet. They aren’t reading newspapers to see what film critics are saying; instead, they are checking Instagram for updates from their favorite stars. As a result, social media has created a virtuous circle for top influencers, in which more fans lead to more projects, which lead to more fans, which lead to more projects…