EducationHow a series creator used social media to build an audience
November 17, 2017
The biggest mistake filmmakers make on their new and beautifully branded social media accounts is both understandable and completely fixable: making it all about them. This might seem counterintuitive — “Isn’t the point of social media to tell people about my project?” Absolutely! But not at first, and definitely not all the time. I’m here to talk about how you, no matter the production stage you’re in, can build an engaged and thriving community and leverage that to get eyes on your project. Filmmaker to filmmaker.
Pick Your [social media] Poison
While it might seem to make the most SEO-sense, having a presence on every social media platform is unnecessary. Even a single social media site is stressful to maintain, so don’t overwhelm yourself without really thinking about which site you’ll make the most impact on.
For me and my projects (mostly web series), the best platforms were Twitter and Tumblr. Twitter made sense because it has a preexisting and thriving community of other filmmakers, particularly web series creators, who I could network with, trade promotion with and collaborate with. With Tumblr, I was already fairly active on the platform personally and because my project’s genre — zombie horror comedy — had a lot of fans already hanging out there.
What does this mean? Go where you’re already comfortable, and go where your intended audience already lives.
Share Thematically Similar Content
This shouldn’t be a surprise, but when you’re an unknown entity, no one cares about you or your project. This is where curating a thematically linked social media presence or blog will help you out. Instead of your account being a series of links to behind-the-scenes content for a show no one knows about, it’ll be a one-stop-shop for your genre or theme that transcends your particular project.
Take how I used Tumblr for example. My web series is a zombie comedy that uses psychology both as a zombie inside joke (“braaaaaaaaains….”) and as a plot device. There are already people on Tumblr interested in zombies, in psychology, in comedies...and in brains. Those people — that community — would theoretically love my show, and I wanted to get in front of them. So I started resharing other people’s posts relating to brains, zombies, classic horror movies. I reblogged GIF-sets (designed compilations of GIFs) from iZombie, another female-led zombie series on the CW, I reblogged classic posters from George Romero films, I reblogged cooking tutorials making pastries decorated to look like brains, I reblogged zombie art from individual artists, and so on and so forth. People started following that blog because they were a fan of the theme, and eventually, once I started posting more about my own show, they were more receptive to watching and sharing because, and this is important, they trusted me. It didn’t feel like I’d tricked them into following me with the eventual goal of bait-and-switching to get eyeballs on my project, and was treated with the same interest as all the other content, because they were explicitly following me for that content.
Promote Other People
Another way of curating a community is to start a blog or website to directly highlight other people in your community, genre, or theme. One of the best versions of this I’ve seen is Or Die Trying’s blog, started by the filmmakers to establish credibility in their production’s theme (women in film) before their series had completed post-production. Largely what they featured were “Women in Film Spotlight” interviews, where they spoke to other women in the entertainment industry about their experiences, triumphs and challenges. They spoke to women who were their peers as well as women further along in their careers, and it was by far one of the smartest community building tactics I’ve ever seen. Not only were they legitimately interested in sharing these stories, but they were also expanding their marketing reach in a totally organic way. Whenever a woman’s interview was published, that woman would share it on her social media and with her friends, fans and family, which linked those people to the Or Die Trying website. And when Or Die Trying actually premiered, the women behind it now had a huge new network of people to ask to help spread the word, because they’d already established their credibility as genuine supporters of women in film and curated a community of people who already knew they were the real deal.
If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this: building a community and an audience must never be done cynically. If your end goal is solely to promote your projects, you will fall short each and every time. Building an engaged, genuine community of people interested in your themes, your genres, and, eventually, your work is the most sustainable way to build an audience that will stick with you for the rest of your career.
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