The Hunger Games: Using Social Media Marketing to Bring Fiction to Life

The Hunger Games, an overnight sensation in young adult literature, is only a few days away from its theatrical debut and is already making a splash in digital marketing. By strategically leveraging enthusiasts, The Hunger Games has brought its alternate universe to life through social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

For those who haven’t been bitten by the Hunger Games bug (yet), it’s a trilogy written by Susan Collins that takes place in a dystopian future after the destruction of North America. Every year, the oppressive government holds the Hunger Games which forces each district in the nation (now called Panem) to pick one teenage male and female (tributes) to participate in a fight to the death. The first book and movie focuses on the outcome of the 74th Annual Hunger Games where Katniss Everdeen, our narrator and heroine, volunteers to compete for District 12 in place of her younger sister. If you’d like to learn more about the plot, there’s a great video from Taryn Ryder at Celebuzz. For now, I’m going to focus on some of the unique marketing campaigns hyping up to the The Hunger Games release on March 23rd.

Leveraging Social Media to Recreate Panem

Through a dynamic digital campaign, you can become an official citizen of Panem. First, you have to visit the Capitol Network and register for your District Identification Pass. By logging into Facebook or Twitter, the system will register you as a citizen of Panem and assign you an occupation, district and Panem Citizen Number. Your District Identification Pass (DIP) also holds a QR code that scans back to the Capitol website. You can download your DIP as a Facebook profile or cover photo, Twitter profile photo, Google+ profile photo or even a mobile or tablet wallpaper image. You can also go as far as ordering a physical DIP through CafePress for free off Facebook. Unfortunately, you have to pay a few bucks for shipping but the ID card is good quality.

Once you have completed this process, you are prompted to join your district on Facebook. Each District has its own Facebook page complete with a district mayor, recruiter and journalist. These individuals are fans and genuine enthusiasts of The Hunger Games who participated in elections, held earlier this year on the Facebook Wall and were chosen by ‘The Capitol’ to be administrators. The mayors act as leaders for the Districts, and are responsible for celebrating its citizens and relaying communication from the Capitol on Facebook. The recruiters help spread the word through the Districts primarily on Twitter and the journalists (who are established bloggers) receive ‘tips’ from citizens and periodically write about Hunger Games news.

By giving enthusiasts responsibility to participate in this alternate reality of Panem, The Hunger Games is able to push its message further than it would through one channel. Normally, I would recommend against segmenting fan pages in this manner but for The Hunger Games it makes sense. For fans of the book and upcoming film, they have provided huge incentive to play along by rallying behind a District to gain a sense of community and get exclusive content such as watching sneak peek movie clips or becoming a beta tester for their new video game. Also The Hunger Games Facebook page proves to have more engaged fans in comparison to another popular young adult book turned blockbuster phenomenon, Twilight. On average, the Twilight Facebook page receives .20% engagement where as The Hunger Games page receives .90%.

A Deeper Look into District Pages

Each District page on Facebook has a tab called The Square, which was the main gathering area for all districts in the book. These tabs are fan-gated so only those that Like the page can receive information.

The Square tab does a fantastic job of staying in character with a message board to wish tributes good luck on their way to the Hunger Games, warnings about dangers in the district, advertisements for Capitol fashion, film promotions positioned as District Sponsorships and a video player of “Capitol TV” showing the latest trailers. Just recently the pages also announced their partnership with Get Glue to unlock District specific stickers before the movie release March 23rd.

Additional Social Media Campaigns

Using Twitter, The Hunger Games Advanced Screening Program presented by Nook allowed users to tweet special hashtags to unlock cities to show the movie before its release. If the city you tweeted was ‘unlocked’ you also were entered into a drawing to win free tickets to attend. Yahoo! also sponsored a giveaway to the red carpet premiere in which you received more entries for social sharing. As a consolation prize to participants, they also provided a live stream from the premiere hosted on Facebook to those who weren’t chosen. And finally, in the spirit of giving back, The Hunger Games also partnered with Feeding America and World Food Programme to fight against hunger. By taking a short quiz, fans can be entered to win an autographed poster and spread awareness to their networks. The tab also allows users to donate through PayPal, SMS or Credit Card.

Thanks to my friend at the Nashville Public Library, I personally became obsessed with The Hunger Games trilogy in 2011 and have been very impressed with their social campaign efforts thus far. With the correct strategy, The Hunger Games will be able to leverage these networks as a base to promote subsequent movies, allowing their alternate online universe to morph and change with the story line.

And until then, may the odds ever be in their favor.

Ignite Social Media