Collecting email addresses from fans of your film

October 7, 2011
posted by sheric

All this week, Jon Reiss and I have been participating in a virtual Q&A panel on the D Word site for documentary filmmakers.  I have to say, I like this virtual panel a ton better than the usual live panels at film events. You can ask very specific questions of the panelists without the need for a moderator controlling the questions and having a bunch of panelists sit up there and basically tout the services of their company or give coy answers. It would be kind of awkward to give short and meaningless answers in this kind of forum. I hope everyone else is enjoying it too. Anyway…one of the questions that came up to day from Richard Phinney of Ontario, Canada asks “there is much talk about getting email addresses from audiences at preview screenings … how exactly do you go about doing that?”

In our book, filmmaker Ari Gold describes how he was able to collect over 12,000 email addresses from the audience of his semi theatrical and theatrical screenings.  Here’s the excerpt:

“Ari attached a short video to the front of the feature at the semi-theatrical and theatrical screenings that included the text-to-join number, whereby one texts their email address to a Google Voice number that he set up…it was (213) 290-DRUM [213.290.3786]…and, at the time of this book’s publication, it still works, even though he has to manually copy and paste the emails into his master list. The video alone was extremely effective, but when Ari was also present at the screenings, or when he did a live Skype Q&A, he was able to get almost all in the audience to sign up. Truly unique and impressive.”

The old fashioned way of doing this is passing out a clipboard and I still think that is fine if the screening is small and controlled by you, but it doesn’t work so well at festival screenings. You aren’t given much time to pass it around the audience before the screening and people leave as the credits roll after, plus you are too busy heading up to do Q&A so even if you started passing it, the clipboard is likely to get mislaid while you are tied up and then you have to keep track of the papers and remember to enter in the email addresses by hand.

Another solution I have seen is using QR codes which can be read with any mobile smartphone that takes the web brower to a special landing page where an email address can be entered. The email address is then sent straight into your email provider’s database. Here is an explanation of how it works with Constant Contact.
Providing incentive to give an email address should yield better results than simply putting a sign up box on your website. Giving away a piece of content like a song, ebook, rare photos or a piece of video not found anywhere else are all incentives to give an email address as “payment” to access this content. Topspin Media calls this E4M (email for media) and it powers their embeddable widgets for websites. There are many more features on Topspin as well so check them out (full disclosure: Topspin is one of the sponsors of Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul and we are using them to power our store shopping cart).

Another company I have been speaking with recently is Fanbridge who has a similar feature for Facebook pages as well as any website. They have a free basic edition for you to try out and a more feature rich edition that costs $30 a month. They advocate offering content only your fans can see so it entices those to become fans and rewards those who already are. I will be putting their system to work on 3 pages I help manage on Facebook and I’ll let you know how I get on. Also, it seems kinda cool in that it captures the comments people leave on your wall and you can export the positive quotes for use in other places. You can find out more about how it works on this site which was just acquired by the company and will soon be rebranded.

Hopefully these tips give you some ideas on how to boost your email list. Remember, direct connections to an audience are the lifeblood of monetizing your work in the most profitable way. When someone has given you permission to contact them, they want to hear from you and they are way more likely to support you which is more cost effective than chasing complete strangers.

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