January 14, 2013
It's a new year. Festivals are gearing up again. People are feeling invigorated about their new projects. And you have just started your fundraising campaign or completed your film and suddenly think, "Social media? How do I even do that? I don't know the first thing about a marketing campaign!" Well luckily, the do-it-yourself marketing technique of social media plays to your strengths: As long as you know how to talk to people, and how to act like a human being, you are going to be just fine.
Reiterating and riffing off of points I put forth in a blog post for POV, here are some evergreen tips to help you on social media.
Be a person
First and foremost, and you will hear this from almost anyone who has run a successful social media campaign, you must be a person. Yes, social media for filmmakers is a great DIY marketing strategy, yet no one enjoys ads that feel like ads or promotional cyborgs or spam. Your tweets and posts should be conversational. They should be shareable by others: interesting, funny, or provocative enough to provoke a click, without saying "We have this for you to watch. Check it out." Write in your own voice and create dialogue. Don't spend all your time asking them for stuff. If you bring them into the fold by acting like a human being, they will easily become your supporters and spread the word about you. Which brings me to my second point...
Talk WITH your audience
One of the biggest tricks you have up your sleeve is another natural strength of yours: conversation. ENGAGE your audience. That's a big buzzword these days, but it is one that is bound to stay around. Spark interest in your viewers to talk back to you. And respond to them. Get a conversation going. Throw points of view around and let them know that you have opinions and ideas you're willing to share. Then, add questions to your posts and tweets. Let your audience know you want to hear their opinions and ideas.
Also, join others' conversations. If you have a film about immigrant populations in Texas, and there is already some buzz about that online, jump in and respond to what others are saying. It is an easy way to assert your presence, assert your knowledge and gain followers from the communities that will ultimately be your biggest supporters.
Find your niche!
Niche audiences are a social media manager's dream! Niche audiences provide the perfect set of evangelizers for a film. They are already engaged deeply with the issues or themes of your film. Niche audiences are passionate about what you have to say. They are also all in contact and dialogue with each other, so word of mouth or tweet potential is HUGE! How do you find them? Let's say you have a historical documentary about women in a certain time period. Tap into two niche audiences which already have plenty of interaction happening online: history buffs and active members of the women's movement. If you target these communities first and get them interested in your film's campaign and what you have to say, they will help that elusive general audience come along for the ride as well. Find tweeters, chat groups, Facebook pages, and join the conversation. Remember that these people have already been talking about the topic, so OFFER something first. If you jump in first with an advertisement for your project, you'll be disregarded.
Content, content, content
You've heard it before because it is true: Content is king. As I said, initiating and engaging in conversation with users is central to your success, but content is how you can initiate those conversations most. Let's face it: nobody really surfs the internet anymore. We are told what to look at by aggregate sites and social media outlets. Serve up what you want people to see! This doesn't mean that you need to churn out new blog posts, new clips, and new content for your own film all the time. In fact, if you did, your social media campaign would probably be pretty boring. Instead, share content from others that relates to your project. If you are doing a project on puppetry, share some articles or videos featuring Jim Henson. If your film is about a writer, share writing tips, or strange stories about other writers. This will not only keep your users engaged, but also it will prove to them that you are here to interact rather than simply promote.
It's not a work to be perfected.
This is something that every filmmaker and every first time social media user must learn right away. Social media is not an art that can be perfected. If you end up concerned about every single post you send out, if you edit your tweets 5 times before you tweet them, if you are worried that too many similar things stack up against each other in your timeline, then you're over-thinking it. Filmmakers are used to having to mold and craft a story, but social media is where you can run wild. Your viewers will digest your posts as they come in on a feed. Most of the time they will not be visiting your page the same way they visit your website. Therefore, it doesn't matter if they see two of the same tweets. In fact, no one will see everything you post and that is fine. As long as you continue to show up in their feeds with interesting content and interesting conversation, you'll have an impact. Social media is not an art - it's a fast paced, sometimes manic, skimming conversation.
Don't fall off the social media bandwagon once your film gets into the festival you were gearing up for, or you get your distribution deal. Your fans followed you and supported you for a reason, and it can only benefit you to keep them engaged. You're out there competing with about a billion people for social media attention. If you get attention, it may be your most valuable asset through festivals, DVD sales or other post-festival offers. And make sure to point your project's followers to your personal Twitter and Facebook pages so you can keep them up to date about your upcoming projects.