From crowdfunding to building “buzz” to successfully distributing a film, having a social media following is no longer an option if moviemaking is your career. Legacy media like newspapers, TV and radio exposure were once the only ways to reach an audience for your work and they were difficult to penetrate, especially on your own. Now everyone is a publisher and traditional media often point readers/viewers/listeners to social media sites like Twitter and Instagram to keep up with news feeds and trending topics. But learning to use social media professionally for a film career can be difficult for some. This guide will take you through some of the most popular social networking platforms and give some examples of accounts to follow and emulate.
First thing to remember when planning to build this following for later commercial purposes: social channels are “top of funnel” outlets. You can achieve awareness and connection through using them, but in order to convert your following into active supporters (i.e. financial or through word of mouth activity), your work must be compelling enough that people will talk about it and pay to see it.
An added benefit of using these tools is the data they provide. All social channels have some form of analytics that give an indication of the kind of audience your accounts are attracting, where that audience is geographically and the kind of content to which they respond. Communication and feedback from your audience is instantaneous and ongoing, which helps in long-term career building. The ability to solicit and possess contact details for your audience means that less effort and money will be expended starting over again with each new work. This is a huge advantage for an artist interested in keeping artistic control and profiting directly from supporters without resorting to outside companies to reach an audience.
1) Facebook (750 million unique visits per month)
Setting up an account. As a professional, you need a professional page rather than a personal profile on Facebook. Personal profiles are meant for your friends and family. A business page is meant for fans of your work, industry contacts and a place to share your professional knowledge (not family vacation photos). Set up a business page by clicking on Create a Page on the Facebook homepage [insert image]
Choose a category for your page. This can be changed later if you aren’t satisfied with your choice. If your page will be focused on promoting you as an artist, choose the Artist, Band or Public Figure category. If your page is intended to only promote your film, choose the Entertainment category. Populate the page with an eye-catching Cover Photo and profile photo (your logo, face, key art), a complete About section (this description is used for SEO and Graph search purposes so use lots of applicable keywords) and choose your unique Facebook URL (you used to have to have a minimum 25 followers to do this, but now you don’t). Choose the unique Facebook URL wisely as it is difficult to change this later.
What do you do with it? Use it to start and maintain an ongoing relationship with your audience. Show who you are professionally and what your work is about. This will help an audience identify with you. Also use it to communicate directly with your fans. Ask for feedback, start a discussion, or post your views on a current event. Try to remember, if you only talk about yourself and your work, it’s a boring conversation for everyone else unless you are a celebrity that they are truly interested in. Champion your followers and other artists. Make your page a must-visit destination. As opposed to the fleeting nature of Twitter, Facebook pages are meant for deeper discussions and closer relationships with your supporters.
Facebook recently started giving higher priority to posts that include photos so you need to have a lot of great still shots (plus you’ll need these for other publicity efforts too) or use tools like PicMonkey and Canva to create some interesting collages and still images.
Also note that Facebook is not really “free” any longer. In order to reach all of your followers, you will need to set aside a monthly budget for sponsored posts and other advertising. The pages with the most followers and engaged users are using some form of advertising and often engage specialist companies such as theAudience and ThisMoment with proprietary software and large teams of technologist, content creators and community managers to handle their pages costing a minimum of $5,000 per month for service.
One thing I love to do with Facebook is audience research. By using the Ad Manager tool and entering in location, age, sex, and interest keywords to hone in on a potential audience size, you can see about how many people you can reach on Facebook that would be interested in your work. As you enter in keywords, the tool changes the number of potential users, giving a good idea whether your audience is reachable via Facebook. Is it millions of people or only a few hundred? You may want to use this tool before entering into production to give an idea of how many (out of a billion Facebook users) are potentially interested in your story and can be easily and cost effectively reached via this social channel.
- DMT: The Spirit Molecule, a 2010 documentary film by Mitch Schultz. The film’s makers have clearly reached its target audience through Facebook and post several times a day. Most of the posts are curated from other pages, with clear attribution, so they are crossing their audience with the audience of another, perhaps more established, entity (artist, filmmaker, publication).
- Tiffany Shlain, filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards. Director Tiffany Shlain’s interest is the intersection of technology and art. Her Facebook page reflects this interest with a mix of photos she created and links to stories, images and videos that address how technology affects our lives.
2) Youtube (450 million unique visits per month)
Setting up an account. You are going to need a Google Plus account to Like, comment on and subscribe to video channels on Youtube, but you won’t have a public presence on Youtube without signing up for a separate YouTube Channel in order to upload videos or make playlists for your followers. I recommend creating additional channels under your Google Plus account for use on your different projects. You can manage up to 50 channels with a single login, and multiple individuals can manage your channel with their own logins if you plan to give other people on your production permission to upload and optimize videos. Name those channels accordingly, do not use your personal profile name.
To create a new channel connected to a Google+ Page, sign in, go to youtube.com/channel_switcher, and click the box marked Create New Channel. Provide a name for the channel and choose a category it will fall under, most likely Arts, Entertainment or Sports.
As with Facebook, you’ll want to customize the look of your channel with a compelling cover photo, profile photo and you may add a short Welcome video explaining what visitors (and potential subscribers) will find on your page. Fill in all of the About section including links to your other social channels, your main website and even places to buy your content (like Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play).
What do you do with it? Build a video subscriber base. View numbers on videos are great and definitely have a use in securing optimal placement in Youtube search and publicity attention (though it will take many millions of views for it to have an impact on press coverage), but your subscribers are the ones who will see your new videos in their homepage newsfeed and receive an email when you post something new. Also, encourage Likes, comments and shares of your videos as that impacts how Youtube ranks your channel in its search results.
Youtube seems to be custom made for people who tell stories in a visual medium, but I am constantly surprised at how few filmmakers are actually good at creating video for Youtube. Effective videos need to be somewhat short (no more than five minutes), but capture attention within the first five seconds. 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day. There is major competition for attention on the site so a video that doesn’t engage immediately won’t succeed here.
When you don’t yet have a large stockpile of videos created, build up playlists of Youtube videos that were not created by you, but suit the interests of your core audience. You can elect to feature these playlists when viewers visit your channel and it will at least give them an idea of what your channel aspires to create.
- Kevin Smith’s SIT channel. Prolific filmmaker Kevin Smith adds to his web empire with his own internet TV channel on Youtube. He has a different theme video every day except Thursday and over 113,000 subscribers.
- Freddie Wong, maker of the action comedy web series Video Game High School. Wong puts out videos several times a week. He has over six million subscribers and most of his videos reach over a million views each. With this fan base, Wong has seen two successful Kickstarter campaigns raising over $1 million from over 15,000 donors. Bear in mind though, Wong has been active on Youtube for over six years. This level of success does not come overnight.
Two Mondays from now, we’ll be publishing Part Two of Sheri Candler’s Guide to Social Media Movie Promotion, featuring Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. For now, don’t forget to connect with MovieMaker on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (where we’re about to hit 10,000 followers)! We could probably pick up a couple tips ourselves… MM
Follow Sheri on Twitter @shericandler, Facebook/Sheri Candler Marketing and Publicity, and on her G+ community dedicated to independent film marketing and distribution.
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