Ten Things Social Media Cannot Do For Your Film

November 3, 2009
posted by sheric

This is a repost with some adaptation of a post on digiday:DAILY by B.L. Ochman. I thought it was important to emphasize the points she made here because I talk a lot about the wonders of social media marketing for the independent filmmaker and how it gives the power to reach niche audiences like never before. But it isn’t the end all, be all of your marketing strategy. The use of social media is just one tool in the marketing mix and should not be the only tool relied upon for spreading the word about your project.

Social media can’t:   

Substitute for marketing strategy
A Twitter campaign, or a Facebook page that announces your latest activities is not a marketing strategy. Marketing strategy encompasses the type of film you have, the audience you are targeting, where you find that audience and how you connect with them. Campaigns only use the tactics (like Twitter and Facebook), but they don’t define what you are trying to accomplish. A complete strategy must be defined. 

Succeed without top management buy-in
Social media requires a way of thinking that includes willingness to listen to customers (that would be your audience), make changes based on feedback (changes to your script, your trailer, your rough cut etc.), and trust employees to talk to customers (this would be your cast and crew or other members of your production team). Using social media is meant to be collaborative and engaging, so if you aren’t going to put in that kind of time or trust someone else to do it, do not use social media.

Be viewed as a short-term project
Social media is not a one-shot deal. It’s a long-term commitment to openness, experimentation, and change that requires time to bear fruit. This is why I advise to set up your platforms as soon as possible, even during script stage but for sure during production. It will take a long time to gather attention and a core following. It also must be fostered on a regular basis or it will not gather an audience.

Produce meaningful, measurable results quickly
One of the complaints about social media is that it can’t be measured. But in fact there are many things that can be measured: including engagement, sentiment, and whether increased traffic leads to sales. Those results can’t be produced or measured in the short term. Like PR, social media marketing often produces its best results over a long period of time, like a year or two.

Be done in-house by the vast majority of companies
A successful social media campaign integrates social media into the many elements of marketing, including advertising, digital, and PR. Opinion and theory are no match for experience, and the best social media marketers have experience incorporating interactivity, blogs, forums, user-generated content, and contests into online marketing. You need strategy, contacts, tools, and experience–a combination not generally found in-house, so you are forced to reinvent the wheel or choose the wrong tools.

Provide a quick fix to the bottom line or a tarnished reputation
Social media can sometimes provide quick results for a company (or filmmaker) that is already a star. That’s why you see well known celebrities and directors gather large followings for their projects, seemingly overnight. However, there’s a lot of desperation these days and many seem been convinced that a social media campaign can provide a quick fix to sagging sales or reputation issues. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

Be done without a realistic budget
Building a site that incorporates interactivity, allows user-generated content, and perhaps also includes e-commerce doesn’t come cheap from anyone who knows what they are doing. Even taking free software like WordPress and making it function as an effective interactive site, incorporating e-commerce, creating style sheets that integrate with the company’s branding, takes more than time. That takes skill, experience, and money.

Guarantee sales or influence
Unless your effort can pass the “who cares” test  – and most simply can’t – your social media efforts will fall flat.  Unless you know how to drive traffic to your contest, video, blog, event, etc. you’ll have little more than an expensive field of dreams.

Be done by “kids” who “understand social innately”
You can climb Mt Kilaminjaro without a sherpa guide, but why would you? Experience and perspective can make the trip easier, or even save your life. Companies (or filmmakers) trying to run social media without experienced consultants waste time, money, and reputation on their efforts. And then, sadly, many decide that this new-fangled approach doesn’t work.

Replace PR
No matter how great your website, video contest, blog, Twitter strategy, etc. you still need publicity. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come.

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