As you may know, I recently gave the keynote address to the Federation of European Directors General Assembly in Copenhagen. The Assembly’s event was chronicled in the Danish Film Directors’ quarterly magazine Take 58 in July. Below is an excerpt from a longer article about my participation there. Thanks to all who attended the event.
8 questions for Sheri Candler
“These answers are being written from the perspective that all directors should be dedicated to building up a long term base of supporters for all of their work.” -Sheri Candler
TAKE: Should I keep my Facebook identity as a director seperate from my identity as a private person? Meaning should I have two separate pages?
SHERI: Yes, I would advise having a separate professional Facebook page for all of your professional work and leaving those privacy settings as open as possible. Your private profile should be for your actual friends, family and colleagues and the place where you put your personal thoughts and interests and that will have privacy settings optimized to only be shown to those people. While your family and friends may also want to keep up with your professional endeavors, not all of them will and having a professional page allows you to have a place to connect with your fanbase and industry people regarding your work.
TAKE:At what stage should you know the title of your film? Can you change title later on? How do you avoid misleading people, if the film changes radically after the title has been set?
SHERI: Some film titles change as soon as a distributor takes hold of it, so I wouldn’t be too worried about changing a title because your true fans, your community that you have been building for your work over time, will be the first to know the reasons for the change. Remember, you are building up a relationship with these people, they aren’t being gathered for the one film. If the title changes (and I highly recommend doing a thorough title search before you set one so that it doesn’t need to be changed later), only those who have not been with you all during the production of the project will come to know the new title.
Same thing for branding on the film. In fact, this is a way to include the supporters, take a poll onwhich title they like or on which key art they like. American director Edward Burns held a poster contest for his film Newlyweds. He asked his fans to contribute their designs and they voted on the most popular one. It became the poster for the film. American director Tiffany Shlain did the same for her documentary Connected. Don’t treat your supporters as strangers, keep them informed of what is happening with the project and why.
TAKE: What sites should a director have as a minimum? (FB, twitter, website, blog?)
SHERI: First, you must have a website, that is imperative. It is the only true piece of internet real estate you own and control. Every other platform belongs to a third party that may change the rules, go out of business or lock you out whenever they like and that would completely cut you off from your supporters if you depended solely on those for communication. I think directors should choose the social channels they feel most comfortable using and where those which would be most interested in their work frequent. For now, that is probably Facebook (with 900 million users, of course!) and maybe Twitter. But it could also be Pinterest, MySpace, Tumblr etc.
TAKE: How and where do I use my time best online if I want to engage with my audience? It seems that one can use a lot of time on many different things, but where does it have the most impact?
SHERI: The answer to this would be as unique as the audience members. The thing to realize is there are no set rules, there is no magic formula. This is all going to be an experiment and trying out services to gauge a fit. Online tools are just that, tools. It is all in how you use them and you only get out of them what you put in. The more time you spend connecting with others, the more you will get out of the process.
I would say you need an outlet to speak from, which typically means a blog on your website. That blog should be updated weekly, ideally, so that you keep the site higher in search results and it feeds your social channels. Blog pieces do not have to be long, only 500-700 words, and they should primarily be devoted to sharing valuable information and insights, not self promotion.
TAKE How do you see the relationship between engaging your audience in a dialogue and the ability to earn money on having the dialogue? Does one exclude the other?
SHERI: I want all not to start this process with the eye for making money as their foremost thought. It is like saying you are making friends with people only to see how much money you can get out of the relationship. A relationship that starts that way is doomed to fail because people can feel it, feel the insincerity.
The mindset you must start with is ”I am going to find my ’people,’ the ones who would care the most for my art.” And you truly have to believe that. The Latin saying “Do ut des” (I give so that
you will give) is extremely valid in the virtual world, in fact it is expected. The online world rewards generosity, not selfishness. Directors who already have fans or a reputation would actually find this process easier because their fans are eager to connect. But oddly, those directors are the least likely to do this right now. I think we will either see a change in that mindset or a loss of relevance for those directors because people are very fickle and they are getting very used to having personal contact with creators. Those who continue to ignore their fans will find themselves ignored in favor of artists who understand this new mindset. Money and fame are by products of relationship building, so concentrate less on those things and
more on the relationship.
TAKE: How private or personal do you feel that one should be? Many of us directors are shy people and only used to talking to journalists about our films before a release.
SHERI: One would think it will be easier to speak to real people than to journalists! I don’t think you need to share intimate details about your personal life, but I do think we should see some sort of personality behind the communication efforts. All directors are creative people with lots to say to the world. If you aren’t, then perhaps you should rethink your occupation. Writing a blog isn’t journalistic writing, it is personal writing about your inspirations, helpful suggestions, recommendations, personal commentary on events happening in the world. Something that lets the supporters know who you are as an artist. Like attracts like and ideally you will attract those who love the way you tell a story no matter what the story is. We want to see the essence of the real artist, not some sound bite ”message” of the synopsis of the film.
TAKE: Can you give us inspiring examples of feature film directors that use social media to engage their audiences?
SHERI: YES! -American director Kevin Smith connects with his fans every day via Twitter and through his own channels at smodcast.com He is really an example of a director who tells stories in lots of mediums, not just film. A true storyteller.
British actor/screenwriter/director Stephen Fry is also very accomplished at using social channels as well as his own website to connect to his fans.
-Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris also has his own website and social channels www.errolmorris.com
-David Lynch uses Twitter, his tweets totally correspond to who he is as a storyteller.
I would say though that Morris and Lynch do not do a great job at having conversations with their audience, their sites and social channels seem very one sided to me.
-British director Duncan Jones uses Twitter to the extreme (several times a day!) and actually does talk with his followers.
TAKE: What do you mean when you say that a director should be a tribe leader? Does that go for all directors?
SHERI: The tribe idea originates with Seth Godin who wrote a book in 2009 called Tribes-We Need You to Lead Us. It is this idea of finding and connecting with like minded people and leading them to a place they want to go.
The means to do this are universally available to everyone now with the internet, so it isn’t based on geographical location or on having large financial resources to advertise your way into an audience. Advertising has been the default way of building an audience for films for a long time, it is costly and wasteful as you have to start again with each film. The tribe building idea is a totally different way of doing this and it is meant to be more cost efficient and longer lasting for the artist. You don’t need to sell people on the fact that they want to connect (to art, to other people, to a movement) because that is inherent human nature, we want to connect to like minded people. So as a film director, or a storyteller, your job is to connect those like minded people through a platform that you create (your website, blog, or whatever tool you choose) and eliminate the need for them to find each other on their own. They connect through you as the artist and through your work. You are the leader of the tribe and you make your work only for them. They, in turn, bring in their friends, also like minded people, and that widens the reach of your work. Your job is only to make work and nurture those people, delight those people. They will bring the others aboard.
This is a very radical idea though. When the artist is in charge of her tribe, where does that leave the chain of middlemen that once were so important to reach the mass? Mass reach is becoming less and less important because it isn’t sustainable. Audiences for entertainment are becoming fractured and very focused about how they spend their time given the multitude of options for entertainment. Advertising is becoming much less important, but social connections, trust building are becoming more important. People are trusting recommendations from their personal connections much more than advertising blasts. If you have no personal relationship with your audience, your work will be lost in the multitude of other viewing options.
My thanks to Birgitte Staermose for conducting this interview and the the FERA organization for having me in Copenhagen.
Social media accounts were started on nearly the first day (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and later Flickr and Pinterest) and daily posts have been made on them ever since. Google alerts were set up at this time so I could monitor keywords and find stories of interest to my audience. Any time the word Joffrey Ballet is mentioned, I get an alert and I have other keywords set up as well. I joined a few Linkedin groups devoted to dance writers and ballet teachers. I have found Joffrey alumni through these groups as well as journalists and those interested in Joffrey history. I also monitor Twitter through columns on Tweetdeck and through a tool called Twilerts and I know when anyone comments on our Facebook page by using Hyper Alerts. We also have an account on DanceMedia.
The key to building up our following has been consistent posts and watching what people are interacting with. On our Facebook page, old photos of the company always get the thumbs up and the comments rolling in. On Pinterest, I have a mixture of Boards devoted to topics ranging from alumni photos, history of the company, ballets of the Joffrey, ballets commissioned by the Joffrey (choreographed by others), and general ballet related photos. On Twitter, I found getting involved in hashtag conversations has resulted in gaining followers.
Getting it all set up is the easy part, keeping up with it, generating content for these channels, and getting traffic onto the sites is the difficulty and probably the most underestimated aspect of this kind of marketing. I set up a content calendar format to keep track of blog posts, advertising campaigns, promotions we are running with other sites, screening dates, podcasts I am releasing, digital photobooks I am having designed and releasing, press releases we have sent out or will be sending out, scheduled email newsletters, deadlines for designing/printing/mailing collateral (posters, postcards, flyers) etc. As you can see, there a lot of moving parts to this and we have been generating this kind of effort now for 9 months. I am convinced that it has paid off in the distribution opportunities presented, the amount of screening bookings the film has had and the sales from our website.
Content may be written (blogs and articles), audio (podcasts), photo, video (short clips, more than just a trailer) or links and we utilize all of it. For blog inspiration, I have used a combination of excerpts from Anawalt’s book, interview transcripts from the film, photos we have from the Joffrey archives, and Youtube videos of performances that are already on YT to illustrate the posts when I can. As my guide, I use my own curiosity about this story. What would I want to know more about if I were a fan? Then I research what we have in assets to put together the stories. Journalistic skills are needed in doing this work. There are some posts that are more housekeeping like highlighting city premieres or the release of the DVD, but mostly I try to expand the story of the Joffrey company through the blog so fans will want to come back and find out more. Too many times filmmakers publish blogs that are one sided (here’s my film, here are photos of my film, here’s my film poster, here’s how we are doing in post) and offer little to no value to the audience. If the conversation is only about YOU, I get bored, so I see no reason to visit again or share your news after a while.
Whenever anyone signs up to our email list, they receive a series of Joffrey Mavericks Moments digital photobooks as a free pdf download. Each installment covers a different theme and showcases rarely seen photos and quotes from Robert Joffrey, Gerald Arpino, company dancers and associates to contextualize the photos and we have released 4 of these. Again, it expands the history of the company and the story of the film while providing an incentive to sign up to our list. List building is highly useful when it comes time to drive traffic to screenings and to your Store page on the website.
Earlier, I said I was trying to find a way to involve those alumni who were not included in the film. I decided that rather than only writing up interviews to run on the blog, I would allow the alumni to tell their own story using their own voices. It is much more impactful and authentic that way. Weekly, I release a podcast audio interview with alumni from all different eras and mostly they aren’t the ones included in the film itself. Some were principal dancers, some were only in the company a short time, some were not principals, but had a good career with the Joffrey, all have stories to tell. I have also gathered stories from choreographers, costume designers and administrative staff. The Joffrey Ballet is 56 years old, it would be impossible to tell the whole story in a 90 minute film. Luckily with the internet, we don’t have to cut out and discard great stories. We just have to find another outlet and, for this, it is the podcast series. Email list members get a new one delivered to their inbox every week, but anyone can find them on our site and on Soundcloud. I record the telephone interviews and download them to mp3 then I work out the best parts of the interview and write up paper edits, record a voice over for the podcast and work with an audio editor, the incomparable Cameron Ahern, to get them down to around 20 minutes.
Joffrey Maverick Memories podcast series is a living account of the history of the Joffrey Ballet from the people who were there. I took it as a real compliment when one alum said, “You know, our lives as dancers before the internet were so fleeting. Few performances were truly captured, critics reviews only lived for a short time in the newspaper or magazine, photos were taken and put in archives somewhere. There is almost no evidence of what I did when I was young. I’m really glad someone is gathering this together and putting it out there for all of us to see again.” Win win!
Also, when I know an alumni run company or school is having an event or performance, I list those on our social accounts and in our newsletter. We should all benefit by being associated with the film, not treat these people like an unpaid film promotional team. That is what truly partnering with your audience means. Something in it for them, maybe even more than something in it for you. You’ll get something believe me.
Next post: moving from the supercore, to the core within the audience niche of “ballet”
I think those 2 words are starting to lose their meaning when talking about using social media to reach audiences. I am not offering another word because at the end of the day a word should only describe an idea of what you are truly doing and maybe THAT is the thing that is becoming lost in all of this talk. What are we truly saying when we use those words?
Engagement isn’t a measurement from your Facebook or Youtube Insights, it isn’t how many retweets you receive on Twitter. Connections aren’t simply a number of followers and likes. In thinking about the traditional use of this word, your “connection” was someone who was willing to help you, someone who knew you, trusted you and vice versa.
Audiences are now delighted by communicating not with a “brand,” but with a “face” or a person. This mindset shift in corporate America is very hard to make when they really never thought about the audiences actually being people…with faces beyond eyeballs. If they did think this way, would they really keep hitting that face with ads over and over again? Would the conversation be constantly one sided, “buy my stuff” ” buy my stuff” “click here, and buy my stuff.” That is the extent of the brand relationship with customers that the typical movie studio or distributor has now.
When I talk to you about creating a relationship with your audience that is long term, not just for one project, I really want you to think about what this means. The investment of time and creativity and energy this is going to take, not to boost “likes” on Facebook and follower numbers on Twitter, but to really draw people to what you are doing and hold them there willingly. Using these great new tools is just a newer way of communicating, but the communication itself isn’t new. We as humans have always communicated with each other and naturally gravitated to those with similar interests and it is the same now.
That is also an important distinction. Audiences may not only want to communicate with you, but also with like minded people AROUND you and your work. In this way, brands can benefit from heavily using social tools. They don’t have to be the sole source of communication, they can provide a place and content that enables “fans” to speak to each other about the brand. Be careful when you are using these tools only to speak about yourself, but also don’t become so enamored of people “buzzing” about you and your work that you never step into the conversation. I see this a lot with brands that happily RT positive tweets but almost never get into conversations.
Main thing to takeaway here is not the fact that you are trying to pump up “scores” or numbers on your channels. You are trying to touch people using electronic means and this will take time, effort, energy and a lot of patience. There’s no quick fix, no magic solutions, no one ”engagement tool” that is going to make these relationships last. For those who don’t have these attributes (time, energy etc), this isn’t going to work and you will have an increasingly difficult time gaining an audience in the future.
I know this is a cop out post, but I’m feeling totally guilty (and totally overwhelmed at the moment with the upcoming world premiere of Joffrey Mavericks of American Dance in a few weeks) that I haven’t posted anything new in a while. So, I started looking back over the posts from this year that received the most response, the ones that I hope were helpful to you, and thought I would recap them.
How do I know they received a good response? I use PostRank to help me gauge what kind of interest the posts received. These posts all have a score of 7 or higher (scale of 1-10). The number to me doesn’t matter so much as knowing what you respond to so I can speak more about it. I also view blogging as an experiment, trying out new topics. Some work, some don’t and that is ok. If I waited until I knew the perfect topic and made the perfect post to address it…well, the blog would probably only have 12 posts a year. Without further adieu..
10) The importance of a good trailer-This is part one of my interview with trailer editor Bill Woolery on creating a good trailer, working with a trailer editor, and the types of trailers there are. Frankly, I am surprised it ranks so low as a trailer is probably the MOST important element in the promotional efforts for your film. Hopefully if you didn’t catch this 2 part interview, you can read it now.
9)Crowdsourcing as exploitation-This one got a few responses from other sites such as DocumentaryTech and The Chutry Experiment. Basically, I gave my take on the film Life in a Day and how they were using the crowd throughout the filmmaking process into the distribution process, but offering very little in return for the free labor.
8) The ugly truth about social media- A post about feeling overwhelmed with all of the startups devoted to “social media” and how they purport to make life easier, but really there is no easy work around for building up relationships. It is slow, painstaking and never ending work if you use the tool correctly.
7)Readying a crowdfunding campaign-This year saw the donation numbers for independent film projects on crowdfunding site really soar. Whereas a year ago, $10K was the norm, this year it became $20K, $50K, $100K. That’s a significant jump in just a year! But those successes didn’t come from throwing up a page on Kickstarter and watching the money roll in. This post talks about being prepared long before you actually go live with your campaign.
6)The internet expanded consumption but destroyed the industry- A Seth Godin inspired post (of course!) which talks about the redefinition of what it means to be a distributor of content. Bureaucratic and scarcity driven business models that once dominated the industry are being diminished and what will take its place is being capable of grabbing (and keeping!) attention and building an ongoing fanbase.
5)Marketing a documentary with a limited budget-The title pretty much says it all really. I took you through the starting stages of my promotional work for the documentary film Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance; tools I’m using, finding the audience and getting their interest, how we will be distributing it. If you have a documentary project, you might find it interesting. If you have a narrative project with clearly defined audience, you will get something from it too.
4)Building your brand with no budget-As I say many times in interviews and in workshops, the key to building a sustainable fanbase is having an artist brand that people identify with. In this way, you won’t be starting from the ground every time you have a new project to build an audience for, you will simply transition the one you already have. This is work you can start doing right now, before you have another project going and this post is full of tips on how to start.
3)Actors don’t need social media…excuse me?- A post inspired by a Twitter discussion I was having with Paul Osborne (@PaulMakesMovies), Nathan Cole (@WaterholeMovie) and Paul Barrett (@producerpaul) about not only hiring actors with talent, but also ones with a strong social following. They largely disagreed because they see the on screen talent as superseding the need for promotion, but I’m telling you when it comes time to building up an audience with a limited budget, you are going to need all of the help you can get. If there are 2 equally talented actors, pick the one who has a fanbase (duh) and I don’t mean Brad Pitt. There are plenty of actors who are active in social media and can activate a crowd for you. And listen up actors, if you haven’t been doing this, you aren’t an asset, so become one. Even TV casting agents are looking up social footprints of potential hires so stop burying your head. Get a profile up and start interacting.
2)Humanizing your audience-A post inspired by Brian Solis that talks about the shift in communication that the internet, and more specifically social media, has brought to all aspects of our lives. Are there those not communicating online? Sure, its just that they are far from being movers and shakers and they will either come kicking and screaming or they will be completely out of touch with the modern century. But we must never forget that at the heart of social networking is a person, not a pair of eyeballs. Views, likes, and votes are all nice but very fleeting. Don’t boil your online activities just down to boosting these things, not only to the bottom line. Humans are starting to get back to wanting that connection with another human (especially now that the corporate and government trust factor has been disintegrating for the last several years and only gets worse as more transparency is coming to the fore online. Wikileaks anyone?), to feel they matter to you. The bottom line takes care of itself when trust and relationships are built and respected.
1)Facebook is not a good sales platform- This post received a 10! Wow! What more can I say about this subject, huh? I still maintain that people don’t come to social sites to buy, no matter how much those social sites are trying to reconfigure to suit the corporate bottom line. Research has suggested that many people “like” brand pages in order to get coupons though, which makes sense if you think that most corporate brands don’t give a hoot about you so in turn you will go with whichever brand offers the best deal, no loyalty and trust there. I don’t think this mentality is going to work out well for the indie artist so let’s just use Facebook to share interesting content, hold dialog and champion fans as much as we want them to champion us, OK? Let the sales happen on your own site (where you can keep the details, not give over the data to a third party) and offer the best items to your most ardent fans. Let the distributors deal with finding the strangers and giving them the non exclusive stuff. That method is expensive and transitory. Not worth spending your time chasing fickle strangers.
There you have it, the top 10 for this year. I wish all of you the happiest and most productive New Year 2012!
I recently answered a few questions for the kind folks over at Fanbridge about using online tools such as their service to connect with audiences for your film. You can see a bit of what they offer on the Joffrey Ballet Movie page that I am administering and on Dying To Do Letterman’s page on Facebook.
My answers got really long, so they are releasing them in stages. The previous post on my blog dealt with identifying the exact audience characteristics of the film and starting to connect with them early in the production process, like even at inception, like even when you are building up an artist identity. Today’s section deals with ways filmmakers can use social media to build a following. You know, social media is more than just Facebook and Twitter and it is certainly more than just sending one way messages, canned and automated to a certain time of day. Here is more of what I have to say about that.
What are some ways that filmmakers can utilize social media to build a following?
“First, they should be using it personally – well before they have a project to promote. The tools are just too easy to access and younger audiences just demand it. They really don’t know a world where it didn’t exist. People may see advertising, but they are now checking everything out online for information and personal recommendations, so if you aren’t there and your film isn’t there, it is like it doesn’t exist.
Social media is also not just Facebook and Twitter. It is anything on the web, any link that can be shared or commented on, anywhere you can upload content, which is pretty much the whole internet. You should be there with a unique voice. Speak with passion and have something definite to say. Not everyone will agree with you, but you aren’t really trying to attract everyone. You just need to attract a following of those who would be the most interested in what you are doing. Your following will grow slowly so be patient and give it plenty of time. Consistency is key so don’t be erratic with your interactions.
I laugh about books and posts that want to teach you to use social media in 10 minutes a day. It is like trying to regulate how you can maintain relationships in your life in 10 minutes a day. Yes, you need a routine, but the more effort you devote to this, the better it will work. Schedule blog posts, but don’t schedule tweets and Facebook updates. You have to be there for the conversations, you can’t do it “drive by” and expect people to follow you. You have to be present to cultivate a relationship; it can’t be like a message on your answering machine. People don’t have patience for the one way conversation.”
Something I did not say which is quite important here is the need to constantly develop content that grabs attention and keeps it. This is very difficult and important work. I read a tweet this week that said “Social media is free…free like a puppy” and it couldn’t be more true. The easy part is setting up the accounts (actually taking in the puppy) but the spend comes in time and effort (the puppy training, feeding, grooming, vet bills which are like your bills for the tech guy) you will be spending with it. If you aren’t prepared for it, it will fail.
I will be speaking more about this in an upcoming FREE workshop in Lafayette, Louisiana this Sunday November 20 from 2-5pm as part of the Southern Screen Film Festival. If you’re in Louisiana, come join us. This is not going to be a panel discussion, it is real information and real tools that you can take away and start implementing that evening.
I covered this in a past entry, but more of this opinion was voiced on today’s Social Times blog. I’ve seen many new services like FlickLaunch and Dynamo Player configuring their platforms to sell on a film’s Facebook page and Warner Bros has started implementing their own Facebook movie rentals for US residents including Dark Knight, Inception, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Yogi Bear and Life as We Know It paid for with Facebook credit or $3. I’d love to see their sales figures, but remember that a huge advertising and marketing budget was spent on these titles and they have all gone well into the DVD window and beyond. Most indie movies will not have the same kind of demand because similar marketing efforts haven’t been made .
Facebook sales will not be your biggest money maker because people do not come to Facebook to buy.
Facebook is a social platform. People come to Facebook to chat with friends, see what everyone is up to, post news about themselves. While you may have amassed a large following on Facebook, unless you are posting content of interest to your audience on your page regularly, chances are your “fans” have not been back to your page since they joined. They won’t see your fancy Welcome page or your newly constructed BUY NOW page. Most people are only reminded of you if they see your news in their news feed. The news feed is the first page everyone lands on when they go to Facebook. Sometimes they only see the Top News view, even though it is possible to change that to Most Recent, most people do not. If they haven’t visited your page in a while or commented on any of your news, your page has stopped appearing in their feed. NOTE: I am not suggesting you spend all your time shilling for your film on your Facebook page in order to stay in the news feed. A conversation with a shill is boring and a turn off.
Even though you can buy ads to drive more traffic directly to your page, it will take a significant spend to generate the number of impressions someone needs to have before they click on it. On average, an ad will be seen 5-7 times before any action is taken. Facebook is more about attracting and keeping attention that can influenced into a sale later on than it is about making a sale right now.
As the Social Times article contends, social media platforms like Facebook are the top of your sales funnel, the place where relationships and trust are built. After you have accomplished this, and it will take a while, then you can transition your audience to your own website where the sales can take place (here’s where something like Dynamo Player will work). Yet another reason to start your social media efforts and audience building WELL in advance of your finished film. This isn’t a campaign for 3 months, this is commitment for the full life cycle of your film and continues into the length of your career.
So, should you never try and sell streams on your Facebook page?
Undoubtedly there are hundreds of millions of people on Facebook and it is entirely possible that someone will try your film out if they see it’s available. If the cost to set up Facebook streaming is right (ie, low to free), you aren’t losing anything to try, but do not invest a lot in this. As DVD’s popularity continues to plummet, more and more people will be turning to online streaming rentals. Invest in having a good player on your site and spending upfront to access iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and game consoles. Spend the majority of your time and effort on your content marketing to pull you audience in, earn their trust, make them feel connected and give them viewing options.
If anyone here has implemented a Facebook sales platform for film and it has resulted in great success, let’s here about it.
I realize that good marketing is made up of a mix of tools. One of those tools is advertising and it is probably the easiest to use and the most expensive. In order to get attention for every window of release, Hollywood studios spend buckets of money on advertising because it is the quickest and least painful way to get attention. Do they realize that they are not building any lasting assets for their company when they do this? They are renting space over and over instead of retaining consumer attention that they can stimulate again and again. But that takes work and when the budget is reduced (or gone), access to the rental space is reduced too.
I’m sure you know that your website is the biggest piece of online real estate you own. You control it and when you attract audience attention, it is up to you to keep it and to keep in touch for the future. Studios don’t do this. They really don’ t see it as useful to contact audience directly or to hear directly from them. Just have a look at the Warner Bros. site as an example. You can fill out a survey that basically asks you to be their web designer. You can click on the Facebook link which takes you to their page where they have hundreds of thousands of likes. But look at how the page is used. Just advertising the titles. A few comments are left but rare that they ever answer them. To connect is damn hard work and if you can just buy everything, why bother?
But I’m thinking indie filmmakers can’t buy everything, you can’t just buy an audience. This is why you need to pull an audience to you rather than push a message out. Pulling is much harder than pushing, much more time and much more work. Think of this pulling as building assets to continue to attract and add value to your audience so you can minimize the amount of cash spent on renting advertising space and so you can build and maintain a sustainable audience.
What’s an asset? A strong website that has heavy traffic derived from SEO, link authority and interesting content. A blog that repeatedly attracts the interest of your audience because you know what they are interested in and you find or create information to give them. This builds your email signup list and RSS subscriptions (the basic message here is they WANT to hear from you, you have their permission to communicate with them). A social media presence that attracts a like minded community to your work. Communities expand over time. If you are working for the long term, you want this continued expansion.
Why are these assets? Because in order to monetize your work, first you have to build up interest in what you do and a network of people who want to support you. It is you, your talent and your knowledge that keeps them coming back, not a PPC ad, not a half baked contest. YOU and what you have to share.
It’s going to entail work and lots of time though.