Social media and how it should be deployed has become the singular most important element that filmmakers need to be addressed. It doesn’t need to be hard if you start with social media basics.
Filmmakers who understand and utilise social media can give their films a ‘lift’ that could well mean the difference between commercial success and oblivion. Getting a film off the ground is a daunting task Understand and using spocial media to advantage is one way filmmakers can short cut the perilous path to commercial success.
Many filmmakers today view social media as a burdensome chore which is a luxury best served at the end of the food chain – not, as I believe, at the front.
Despite the obvious value of social media, its application to filmmakers is still a subject where there is a hunger for basic understanding of the value of social media, both in straightforward fiscal terms, but also in terms of branding and brand extension. Most filmmakers view social media strategy and associated commitments as an unnecessary commitment on top of the struggle to get their films made.
What happens then are filmmakers tired and exhausted questions: “Do we need to get a Twitter?” with no strategy or means of assessing their results.
I’m going to try and point you to a few basics. Cover these and you could look like you are the consummate social media expert. Potential film distributors will love you.
Social Media Basics: Just shut up and start
Back on the farm, they used to say that a barn full of hay got filled, one forkful at a time and one forkful needed to be first. Just pull your finger out and get going!
Simply Start and Start Simply. Tell everyone on your team that your film project is a social media project. You need to set up accounts immediately on the ‘big 6’: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google, Instagram and Youtube. Encourage everyone on your team to get involved in the process. What is the process? Letting everyone know what you are doing, and filling the digital airwaves with items of interest.
Personally, I am a Twitter addict – I like the short microblog posts, and the instant feedback you can get from posts and questions. My Twitter followers also come up with tomes of suggestions and ideas which is an extremely valuable resource and asset.
Listening is a really important part of social media – something that the big corporate companies have learned. Companies like Nike, Dell, Ford and Comcast have realised the valued of engaging their customers on social media and developed very sophisticated ways of tapping into their customer (audience). Should be any different for a filmmaker? What if your film is controversial or thought provoking? What if your movie has issues that fall outside the socially acceptable? Surely a good social media audience will give you a chance to explore and engage with your audience – all potential future customers.
Define your social media objectives.
The “why” of social media is a more important question than the “how”. Specifically, define what you want to achieve for your film or your filmmaking career with social media. The next step is to develop a plan, decide which social media tools will fit with your objectives and strategy. And then execute.
Typical objectives might include:
- creating awareness of a crowd funding campaign
- promoting your festival screenings
- getting people to watch your trailer
- calls for volunteers during production
- informing investors
While these objectives are pretty clear, getting results using social media is far less clear. Social media requires patience and persistence. Social media also requires a consistency to your approach to your audience. Social media is about creating a community around you and your work. Social media is about listening. All of these factors add to your brand – and remember a brand isn’t about logos, websites or social media. It is what people think about you or your movie.
Web marketers will tell you that the best way to attract people to your profile and the best way to develop a following is to create fresh, bold content. Useful information like How To videos, infographics, blogs and webinars are some web tools available to distribute this high-quality content, and hopefully your film too.
Creating the actual web tools to deliver on these channels is very simple. Executing and maintaining them is not. To succeed, filmmakers need to embrace the concept and demand total involvement from everyone on the team.
Social Media Basics: Running a website
Good old-fashioned websites are still a mammoth tool, despite everything you hear about mobile friendly and tablet friendly websites. Of course, it makes sense to have your site compatible with three devices. But don'[t get tempted by relying on a remote person to do your updates. Not only will it drive you crazy, but you lose the ‘feel’ of a website when you can’t jump in, correct a typo or add a paragraph or two.
Design your website with clean and easily understood navigation. Try to keep the formats consistent throughout the site.
Make sure the key members of your team have access to the Content Management System (CMS) and know how to update your site. Many CMS’s are easily understood, and tutorials take minutes (ie: WordPress or Wix).
Hone your tactics
Once you have decided what your social media objectives are, start to develop your tactical plan. I’m assuming, that like me, you have a small team. It makes sense to start with very manageable and achievable objectives. This way you can easily measure the results.
One way to measure web statistics is to instal Google Analytics. This freeware is easy to instal and allows you to create goals. For example, you might want to know how many people click on your trailer, or how many go through to your crowdfunding page.
Another tool is to give away something, like a script, or production diary. When people visit your site, they can get this regard simply by subscribing to your newsletter. once subscribed you can then direct them to a thank you page. This traffic can also easily be measured by Google Analytics.
Each social media tools has certain features and attributes. Reflect on the types of messages and results you want and from there you can decide which tool to use.
The right tool for the right job
There are dozens of social media tools and platforms, with new ones popping up nearly every week.
Hear the the top five social media tools:
In 2011 on my annual trip to Cannes I met an Azerbaijani filmmaker whom I had met the year before in London – she had a documentary in Raindance Film Festival the year before.
We were walking up the main shopping drag in Cannes: Rue d’Antibes discussing whether or not social media was changing anything. She then told me how much she hated and despised Twitter – just as we paused in front of the only English language news agent in Cannes.
“One moment,” she said as she scanned first one, then two headlines. The third newspaper had slipped down in its rack, and in order to read it, she had to pull it up. She read the headline, pulled it up a bit further. “Wait a minute,” she said and started to read the first paragraph. “Hold on” she said and went inside to pay for the paper. when she came back I told her she had just demonstrated Twitter: a series of headlines. Now she is one of Twitters biggest fans.
You can use Twitter to listen and find out what people are saying about certain topics. As your circle of influences grows and develops you can use Twitter to eavesdrop and find out what people are saying or thinking about you or your movie. Twitter is also a really good way to drive people to a cause – or to a page with really good content (like your short or trailer).
Twitter accounts are easy to start and simple to manage. Start a central account yourself, and then encourage team members to open up their own branded account in which they can express personal opinions as well as ones reflecting your film’s values.
You don’t need to follow everyone that follows you – create a list of interesting people to follow, say interesting things yourself and watch your account grow and grow. With its growth so will the influence and reach become more valuable.
Huge ten years ago, blogging has taken a bit of a rap lately for being unfashionable. If you want to build a sizeable list of followers or become known as an expert authority, or if your film is topical, you will want to start and create a blog.
Build a following by delivering well-crafted and informative posts. Blogs also help generate SEO content which leads more people back to your site.
I’m personally a fan of the free open source blogging platform WordPress. It’s easy to understand and use, and installs with a single click. Google has its own version called Blogger, and there are at least a dozen more. Find one that integrates into your website the easiest.
3. Google Plus
Google+ has been a bit slow to catch on but is rapidly establishing itself as an essential social media tool for filmmakers. New features are being added all the time. One of the more popular features of Google Plus is Hangouts and Hangouts On Air. The former allows you to have real-time web video chats with multiple people and is a very useful free web conferencing tool The latter – Hangouts on Air – allows you to live stream your video chat and automatically records it on your YouTube channel.
Speaking of Youtube, you need your own channel.
Of all the social media basics, my personal least favourite is the juggernaut Facebook partly because I don’t understand how the many moving parts of Facebook work. Facebook itself offers a thorough guide on how to set up a company or business page. Their guide will show you how to connect with people, engage your audience and change opinions. This very thorough guide gives the impression that life on planet Facebook is easy to understand when in fact it is not.
Facebook is getting increasingly complicated and is commonly criticised for being overly complicated and difficult to use. Because of its size it has become a very important social media tool, but not one that you can leave to the intern.
If you really are a filmmaker, why not make movies – movies that help promote your film and your career.
Here is the dilemma: it has become so easy to shoot, edit and publish a video that nearly everyone can do it. the question is, what kind of video do you want to promote yourself, your personal brand? Before you grab the DSLR or GoPro off the shelf, have a good hard look at your videomaking skills. You don’t want to look like an idiot, like I did when one of our team uploaded a short promo video I did for one of our courses and got the aspect ratio wrong. This howler managed to attract hundreds of derisory comments before we noticed and took it down. even worse, the video was a promo for a filmmaking course.
As you spread your social media wings you will start to learn about SEO. Basically, you want to make yourself easy to find on the internet when people type in key or search words. Video is another way to get yourself out there. Incorporate a self-branded Youtube channel into your programme, and highlight the video content you create there.
When you start, keep the videos you create within your comfort zone. Very likely you are going to be shy on-camera at first. Rehearse, practice and get a friend to advise until you feel comfortable.
Here are some typical ways filmmakers use video on the web:
- Teaser trailers
- Production stories
- Google handouts live from the set
- Q and A’s
- Promotion videos for crowdfunding campaigns
Who notices? Measuring Your Results
Creating and maintaining a social media presence is a lot of hard work. In order to see the effectiveness of your strategy, you need to measure the views, clicks and page impressions of your content. The results – called analytics – will give you an idea of the effectiveness of your social media strategy and tactics.
Certain analytic tools come pre-installed on the website you use – like FaceBook’s Insights. Others, like Google Analytics, require an instal onto your site. These are free. There are other paid-for analytic tools that range in price from cheap to very expensive and require a considerable amount of training. For started, use Insights and Google Analytics. Take the time to learn how to use these powerful tools. The amount spent in training will be paid back a hundred fold when you use this feedback to create new social media content.
Take it from me: using these social media basics will make you filmmaking career zoom.