#Shorterfilms and Being Trendy on Twitter

For the past two years, I’ve been on the board of the London Short Film Showcase. One thing I’ve been doing is running contests on Facebook and Twitter to promote the event (next Saturday at 7pm! Come!). On Friday, I posted this pair of tweets:

I figured a few local people would enter, which would get people talking about the event and raising awareness, but also having fun with a creative hash tag game. It became much bigger than that.

For an hour or so, I was afraid that I’d get zero entries. A few people directly involved with the Showcase participated, but that was about it. Then some local people entered. A few of them didn’t get it at first, because my < 140 description wasn't great; they described an existing movie in one short sentence, instead of saying how a movie could be shorter (which is a good idea too, and a contest we ran last year).

But then more and more people from London got what I was going for, and began to participate. They followed the formula from my dumb examples, by tweeting descriptions of movies with a shortening alteration to the plot.


  • “Boat misses iceberg.” (@twitch)
  • “Space police find the droids they were looking for.” (@eplatero)
  • “Guy drinks too much. Takes Advil and drinks water. Gets married. No hangover.” (@chadder87)
Eventually, people from outside of London began participating. It became harder and harder to keep track of “entries” in our contest. 
I posted an entry of my own, twisting the formula to spice it up a bit: “I think I’ve heard enough, Sam.”
Either following suite, or because it was a natural evolution of the idea, more and more people began expressing the same #shorterfilms idea in this new way.
  • “It *is* a tumor.” (@nachofiesta)
  • “Hey, these ARE the droids we’re looking for!” (@FatherShaggy)
  • “Dude, there’s my car.” (@memachine)
#shorterfilms spread, and it evolved. Shorter film titles were another variation (“Schindler’s Post-It Note”; @daveeech). Then, a few hours after it started, it was the second-most tweeted about thing in Canada, if trending topics are to be trusted. 
(It went up one after this)
Later in the day, The Globe and Mail even posted an article about the trend, citing it as a reason for “great Twitter moments”. 
So that’s how a trending topic can start. I always wondered. Did #youcanthaveswag originate in a similar way? 
As with most trending topics, by the end of the day, most of the entries were repeats or really bad, and some of the tweets were “wtf I dont understand teh #shorterfilms”.

It was so cool to be involved with a “viral” trend right from the beginning to see how it evolved from a confusing contest to a country-wide sensation, with several mutations, then devolved right back to where it started before abruptly cutting off altogether. I’ve always been fascinated by how ideas spread, and Twitter gives a visibility into this process that was previously impossible.

Oh, and as an illustration of the difference between Twitter and Facebook: the same contest run on Facebook had five entries. Putting stuff on Facebook is like putting cold butter on toast; it doesn’t spread.

So, that’s how to be trendy. I now consider myself a social media expert. If you want to hire me for millions of dollars to promote your own crap, you should do that.

P.S. Come to the London Short Film Showcase next Saturday (Nov 5). It’s gonna be awesome.


2 responses to “#Shorterfilms and Being Trendy on Twitter”

  1. Alyson Avatar

    ” Putting stuff on Facebook is like putting cold butter on toast; it doesn't spread.” SO TRUE.


  2.  Avatar

    ” Putting stuff on Facebook is like putting cold butter on toast; it doesn't spread.” SO TRUE.


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