There are a lot of dirty little secrets slithering their way through HBO’s Game of Thrones. But Sophie Turner, the actor who plays Sansa Stark on the popular show, may have just pulled back the curtain on a skeleton in Hollywood’s closet: Having a healthy social media following can land you gigs.
In the upcoming fall issue of Porter magazine, the 21-yer-old X-Men: Apocalypse star said, “I auditioned for a project and it was between me and another girl who is a far better actress than I am, far better, but I had the followers, so I got the job,” according to The Telegraph. “It’s not right, but it is part of the movie industry now.”
Long suspected at the highest reaches of the movie industry, casting according to social reach has been previously acknowledged by movie executives and social media teams, but never by an A-lister. Oliver Luckett, co-founder of TheAudience, described his Los Angeles-based media firm as being a part of the casting process early on.
In an interview with Fortune several years ago, Luckett described participating in ad campaign casting discussions in which there was a list of six actors, but just two had big social media presences. “They were people like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie—there’s a whole list of them, people who publicly denounce social media,” said Luckett. “I’ve seen those people’s names on lists literally checked off because they don’t have a Facebook page.”
But younger actors like Turner have Facebook accounts and then some. Five million people follow her on Instagram, 2 million follow her official account on Facebook, and 1.35 million keep up with her on Twitter.
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One reason that movie executives look at an actor’s social media following is simple return on investment. To get the most bang for their casting bucks, directors want to book social-media-savvy talent who have a lot of eyes on them online—the idea being that they’ll generate more interest for a film or television show if they post about it online.
But if actors are asked (or paid) to post online, it blurs the line between organic and sponsored posts, the latter of which are considered advertising and must be marked as such. Recently the FTC issued a warning about celebrity-posted social media ads that lacked any disclosure.