Using social media to promote your film
Promoting a film via social media can reap rewards for both the filmmaker and the film. Used the right way, you get the word out about your film to a worldwide audience. But with several platforms to choose from and the competition fierce, you have to channel your efforts in order to be successful.
Here are five rules you should stick to when using social media:
Social Media is NOT there to offer you a form of free advertising: Social media is about sharing content and engaging with people, so it's important to realize that if you only try to sell yourself and your own work, you're unlikely to be particularly successful. Make sure to find a balance between promoting your film and talking to people, sharing your opinions, and posting interesting and thought provoking content.
"Going Viral" is no easy task: Don't be disheartened if the trailer for your film doesn't go viral as soon as you upload it - getting people to watch and share can be quite challenging. Often films that go viral have done the social media circuit several times. It can often takes a rare set of circumstances, or a hell of a lot of work to propel a film or trailer to internet stardom.
Understand hashtags before you use them: Hashtags are really useful for linking your tweets or instagram photos to certain discussion groups, but they should be used wisely. Don't #hashtag #every #single #word because it's pointless. Use hashtags when you are talking about an event, e.g. a conference or industry event such as #goodpitch, or a common discussion group like #scriptchat or #indiefilm. DO NOT use hastags on Facebook - it doesn't do anything but make you look like you don't know how to use the site.
Do not spam people: There is an obvious line between sharing your work and ramming it down people's throats. Do not send waves of tweets, comments or links to people on a whim. Think about your approach, try to contribute to a conversation which you think might lead to an opportunity to share your website, blog or video. Do not just say "Hi, I think you might be really interested in my film [LINK]" without first having some form of natural dialogue with said person. This will give you a better chance of actually getting the person to engage positively with what you are sending them.
Use as many tools as possible to be successful: Use as many resources as you can to gain exposure. It's important to think about promoting your film online by other means, for example; through your own website or blog, or contributing to online forums. The more active you are online, the bigger the potential is for people to see your work.
There are a whole raft of different social media platforms you can use to promote your film online. Therefore we are going to split this into three parts, looking at key rules to follow when using the following platforms:
Social networking services like Twitter and Facebook
Video-sharing websites like YouTube and Vimeo
Photo-sharing websites like Pinterest and Flickr
Part 1: Social networking services
“Social networking services” are primarily focused on facilitating the building of social relationships among people who share interests or real-life connections. Examples of prominent social networking services are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
Each platform differs slightly from one another, but there are common rules that should be followed in order to try and gain a following on these sites, with a focus on Facebook and Twitter.
1. Set up your profile properly: This may seem obvious, but it’s really important to ensure you create a profile and cover image and write a concise and appealing “bio” about yourself or your film so that people who come across your page can instantly understand what your work is about, what you are using your account for, and can therefore quickly decide if they’d like to connect with you.
2. Follow key influencers, but don’t neglect the little guys: A lot of famous filmmakers, industry influencers and organizations have a presence on social media networks like Twitter. It’s great to follow or like their accounts in order to see what they’re talking about and keep up with key trends and developments in the world of film. However, it’s also important to seek out smaller bloggers and filmmakers as you are much more likely to be able to develop a conversation with them, which could help you with your film promotion. People who specialise in an area you are working in, or who have gone through a process similar to your own are more likely to engage with you and can be potential fountains of knowledge.
3. Use social networking searches to find an audience and discover who’s talking about you: Twitter’s search function works well in helping you find people who may share common interests. You can search for terms such as “independent film” or “producer” or “documentary blog” to find accounts that would be useful to follow and engage with, and who may follow you back. You can also use search to see if anyone on Twitter is talking about you or your film, but isn’t using your Twitter handle. Similarly, Facebook has just introduced a new search function called “graph search” which is still in its early stages, but should be set to improve upon Facebook’s current search function.
4. Keep your content fresh: The popularity of your social networking account will be directly related to the content you post. The challenge facing filmmakers is keeping their social networking content fresh and interesting – if you keep posting the link to your website with the same blog post on it once a day for two weeks then your audience is unlikely to increase. The best thing to do is to try and find a happy balance between posting your own ‘original content’ such as photos from filming and insightful blog posts about your progress, and combining this with interesting articles from around the web, and retweeting or sharing things that you think are fascinating and relevant to your film.
5. Keep your accounts up to date: Don’t let your accounts lie dormant and neglected. If you don’t post regular updates, you’re going to lose your audience. It’s therefore important to think about how much time you have to dedicate to your social networking before you decide which platform you use. For example, Twitter generally requires more updates than Facebook. To develop a successful Twitter account, you need to be posting anything between 1-5 times a day, whereas Facebook can be more like 1-5 a week.
Part 2: Video sharing websites
Video sharing sites have become increasingly useful for filmmakers to promote their films – and they can serve a greater purpose than just being a tool for uploading and hosting your video files online – they can also be a great place to have conversations with your audience and get their feedback on your work.
Here are the 5 main rules to keep in mind when using video sharing websites:
1. Think about your audience when choosing a platform: You may wish to upload your work to more than one video sharing site to maximize exposure. However, have a think about the style or content of your film before choosing a specific platform to use. For example: YouTube has a larger audience, but Vimeo has a stronger filmmaking community. Research into what each platform can offer you, and think about who your audience is so that you can attract the right people and get more traction online.
2. Make your video search-engine friendly: After you upload your video to your chosen video sharing site, make sure you provide as much information as you can to make your video file as searchable as possible. Think about important key words people may use when searching for your film, and also think about the kind of people you want to attract to your video or your channel. It’s important to note that YouTube now accounts for 25% of all Google searches, so making sure your video is described properly is really important.
3. The more quality content you can post, the better: Think about how you can maximize your video resources to create as much content as possible. Think about more than just posting different cuts of your trailer; think about making a vlog (video blog) during the filming process, or ‘behind-the-scenes’ content. That being said, think before you make the effort - there’s no point in spending time and energy producing a load of extra content if it’s not very good quality and won’t appeal to your audience.
4. Include a call to action in your videos: Adding a still to the end of your video asking your viewers to visit your website or social networking site can be a great way of driving traffic to the right areas and get your audience interested in your project and maximize engagement from your viewers.
5. Subscribe, comment, engage and share: Like all social media sites, the more active you are, the better. On video sharing sites you can subscribe to other people’s channels, add friends, comment on videos and also let people comment on your videos too. It takes a bit of effort, but it can bring unexpected rewards – so have a go and see what you can achieve.
Part 3: Photo sharing sites
You know how people say “A picture is worth a thousand words”, well that really is true when it comes to social media. On social networking sites, people love to look at and share photos – even of the most seemingly dull things. Photo sharing sites like Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest have become extremely popular very quickly, and that can be down to the power of the picture – and this can be easily utilized by filmmakers to help them promote their work.
A lot of the guidelines listed above for using video sharing sites also apply to photo sharing sites.
Again, it’s important to think about what each platform can offer you; Flickr has a great photography community which is great for posting film stills; Instagram is closely linked to Twitter and good for sharing lower quality, everyday photos such as pictures from behind the scenes filming; Pinterest allows you to share photos with in depth descriptions and links to websites. There are lots more sites out there, so have a look and see which work for you.
Be aware that posting images on certain sites may affect your copyright – there have been issues in the press recently with concerns over Pinterest and Instagram’s privacy policies – so make sure you do some research before you post.
Once you’ve picked your platform, just follow the same guidelines as above – post regularly, share your images on your other social networks, engage with the community and see where it can take you.
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