Here's the second in our series of excerpts from The Film Collaborative's upcoming book, "Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul." This one's by social media strategist Sheri Candler.
Some filmmakers start the social media process very early in production (Nina Paley started blogging three years before she released "Sita Sings the Blues"); some begin only after their films hit the festival circuit. However you do it, social media isn’t just setting up a Facebook and Twitter account; social media means anywhere you can share a link, comment on a post, or self-publish content for everyone to read, watch or listen. And it's always a work in progress.
Here's five of my best tips on using social media to build an audience.
1) Don’t spend all of your time talking about your film.
Constant selling is boring and that's counterproductive: You're trying to build interest. This is why you should be careful about entrusting outside agencies with building and maintaining your social media presence: They can't 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 that aligns with it.
“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," says Nicolas Alcala, writer-director of "The Cosmonaut." "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.”
2) Regular activity is imperative.
Set up a constant system of feeding new content. It can be text, video, photos, trivia quizzes, links — whatever works, as long as it's not sporadic. every few weeks or months.
One way to do this is to start a content calendar or editorial calendar. Plan posts around upcoming events that you want your audience know about, links to interesting stories and any guest posts from those 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," said Paul Thomas and Matt Harlock, the filmmakers of American: The Bill Hicks Story. "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.”
3) Research and build connections with influential people.
This isn't about sucking up; it's about creating a smart and efficient way to reach a new audience. This requires care and thought; influencers won't risk the trust they've built up with their audiences. The relationship must be natural, reciprocal and 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," says Mike Dion, producer of "Ride the Divide." "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.”
4) Know your audience and what drives them.
This is the most important rule of marketing and one that indie filmmakers notoriously neglect. Too many try to embark on social media campaigns that are totally ME centric (if they start campaigns at all). If you aren't in touch with your audience, often what you think will resonate with them, won't.
“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," said Josh Shelov, director and co-writer of "The Best and The Brightest." "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.”
5) Make sure there's 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 facilitate 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," says Andy Green, co-owner of online film marketing site Distrify. "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.”
The Film Collaborative's new book, "Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul," is comprised of case studies around successful (and not-so-successful) films. It takes a look at what's really necessary for a movie to thrive under the new distribution models.
Written by TFC co-executive directors Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winter in association with filmmaker/author Jon Reiss ("Think Outside The Box Office") and Sheri Candler, "Selling Your Film" will be released September 13 via Apple iBooks, followed by Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and ePub. The book will be available for free initially and then either free or at low cost, supported by premiere sponsor Prescreen and official sponsor Dynamo Player.