In a continuation of the tips series on indieWire in the lead up to the book’s release, here are 5 ways co author Sheri Candler advises to use social media in order to build an audience for your film with examples gleaned from our filmmaker participants in the book. This post first appeared on the indieWire site August 23, 2011.
Within our book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by Prescreen and Area23a, there are many pieces of advice regarding audience building activities. While some filmmakers started the process very early in production (Nina Paley started blogging 3 YEARS before her film, Sita Sings the Blues, was released), some started only after their films hit the festival circuit. Remember, social media isn’t just setting up a Facebook and Twitter account. Anywhere one can share a link, comment on a post, or self publish content for all to read, watch or listen to is considered social media activity.
Here are my 5 tips on using social media to build an audience along with advice found in the book.
1) Don’t spend all of your time talking about your film on social media. After a while, this constant selling is boring to read and you won’t build up interest from your audience. This is the kind of page you get when you solely entrust outside agencies with building and maintaining your social media presence. They cannot effectively be the voice of your work. Think about what interests your audience in their daily lives and why they would be attracted to you as an artist and to your film, then present them with news and information on that. “We talk about everything related to the movie, about collaborations with other people. We also talk about space, indie filmmaking, creative commons issues, and our views on piracy issues. It is a place you can come and learn about us as people, what we believe and what we are doing related to the movie. We just make it more personal and allow people to feel like they are inside the workings of the production. We find that people respond the most when you tell personal stories.” – Nicolas Alcala-Writer/Director of The Cosmonaut.
2) Regular activity is imperative. It is advisable to set up a constant system of feeding new information, assets (text, video and photos), trivia quizzes, links to news stories to your social media sites rather than to post sporadically every few weeks or months. One way to do this is to start a content calendar or editorial calendar to plan out when you will post, what events are coming up that you want to be sure your audience knows about, links to interesting stories you have found and want to comment on for the blog and any guest posts from those outside of your production who can cross audiences with you. “The most effective weapon we had in online outreach was content, which is offered as an exclusive to garner prime placement on certain homepages or newsfeeds. This might be in the form of clips, outtakes, audience reactions, new trailers, or famous fans talking about the film. These clips can be time-consuming to create, but are worth doing when the organization in question will hit mailing lists (many we hit were 20,000+), and then support again with a giveaway come the DVD release.”- Paul Thomas and Matt Harlock, the filmmakers of American: The Bill Hicks Story
3) Researching and building connections with influential people to your audience is a smart and efficient way to reach an audience with whom you do not have a personal connection. Largely, this can be done through online channels, but you must think what you are offering. Influencers have trust built up with their audience and cannot risk putting it in jeopardy to help you. Make sure there is a natural and reciprocal relationship built on respect. “Elden Nelson has a blog called fatcyclist.com, which I was a big follower of, and he’s got a pretty big audience. We’ve since worked with Elden and fatcyclist.com to raise money [for cancer research], and he’s talking about the project in his inner circles, which has been fantastic.”-Mike Dion, producer of Ride the Divide
4) Knowing your audience and what drives them is the most important rule of marketing . Indie filmmakers are notoriously neglectful of this basic marketing knowledge and try to embark on social media campaigns that are totally ME centric (if they start campaigns at all). Many times when you are not in touch with your audience, what you think will resonate with them is actually wrong. “Once we started directly engaging with our fans on Facebook and Twitter, we realized that many of our most active fans weren’t necessarily the fans of our bigger names; they were fans of Bridget Regan and they were absolutely insane with passion. These are the fans who have reached out to us directly, rallied their communities, and quite literally dragged the film on their backs into their local movie theaters.”-Josh Shelov, director and co writer of The Best and The Brightest
5) Another key to having a successful social media effort is making sure that there is a dialog with your audience. Great content should include a place for conversation between the production and the fans and within the community of fans. Gear your site to be the facilitator of connections among people with common interests. They will help widen your circle of audience naturally by bringing other like minded people in so that you don’t have to be so dependent on advertising. “This conversation, between filmmaker, audience and distributor is the antithesis of the present way films are most commonly distributed and marketed. It’s a conversation where a community forms around the niche aspects of a film and then the filmmaker reacts to this conversation to improve his/her offer to the audience. In essence the audience is telling the filmmaker/distributor how to market the film.”-Andy Green, co owner of Distrify.
For more great information, RSS our blog and read our forthcoming book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul Presented by Prescreen and Area23a Movie Events, find us on Facebook and follow our hashtag on Twitter #syfnotsys.