When an audience doesn’t talk about your work

September 3, 2014
posted by sheric

At the heart of word of mouth marketing is the audience’s willingness, even excitement, to share your work. The problem with relying on that as your main marketing (or sole marketing) tool is your work really has to be remarkable, as in worth remarking on. Or you have to create or curate a bunch of online content that will make them want to share it. The problem with the lionshare of indie films is they just aren’t that remarkable and word of mouth will never work as the sole marketing tool for those films.

Doing “grassroots outreach” with a trailer that is sub par is not going to work.

Putting behind the scenes video clips that aren’t funny or don’t feature notable actors or crew that have a following willing to share it is not going to work.

Getting an aggregator to put your film on every well trafficked digital platform and expect that it will sell itself is not going to work.

Making every post on social media only about your film is not going to work. Word of mouth does not mean only you talking about yourself. If no one else is amplifying for your film, especially if it has been seen at a festival or it has made a few sales on digital platforms, there’s a problem with the film that no marketing is going to fix. Either commit to fixing the film or move on to another project.

But let’s say that your film isn’t yet available, though you have been populating social channels regularly with, ideally, content that your audience should find valuable to their lives (it is informative, entertaining, thought provoking, evokes emotion etc) and they still don’t respond….this video explains why populating your own social media channels cannot be your only tool for marketing. Maybe your audience is made up of social media lurkers. People who listen, but do not respond or share. Lurkers make up the vast majority of the internet. Just because they don’t share doesn’t mean they aren’t being influenced by what you and others share. And sometimes those influences come from many places that aren’t social media, like traditional publicity, advertising, festivals and events, and search engines. If links to your work show up in many places online (not just the ones you put there), it helps in your search ranking and it helps reinforce that your work is something to pay attention to. It is all of these tools working together that provide a tipping point to sales.

If you think social media will do the job all by itself, you probably need to give more thought to your marketing strategy.

Here’s more about how to set up a cycle of influence that could lead to better WOM and sales.

I was watching this very brilliant presentation from artist Shea Hembrey. It is funny, entertaining and gives true insight into a creative mind. As a Southern girl, I can relate to Shea’s background very well!

During the presentation, he talks about how he judges “art.” He said after visiting hundreds of exhibitions and seeing a lot of work, he identified what he found missing from the experience and from a lot of art. One was work that was appealing to a broad public, meaning that a lot of art is not accessible to most people. They can’t connect with what the artist is trying to show. I think many people also cannot connect with the artist as a person which helps in making the art accessible. Some art is just too personal to the artist with no meaning for anyone else and many artists are introverts, preferring their work to speak for them. If you are an introverted artist making work that only speaks to you, how are you going to attract people to you work? As filmmakers, you have to consider this. Are you making work that only appeals to you? If so, it is inaccessible and there is no business model for that. Which is fine, just know going in that you can’t sustain yourself on inaccessible art. Also if we, the audience, cannot connect with you as a person given today’s reality that everyone is personally accessible through multiple social networks, you will find it increasingly harder to exist as an artist.

I know, it isn’t a popular concept. Are there artists in history that managed to rise above the noise and become a “name” without the need (or existence) of social networking? Of course, but in comparison to all artists, you can name them on a few hands and in the past, there were very few outlets one could use to rise above the din. Traditional mass media in the form of art critics was about it. Now there are thousands of outlets and it is just too easy to access them not to be actively doing that. As an artist, I wouldn’t want to hope I get “discovered,” I would want to make sure of it and actively make it happen.

Shea says he developed 2 sets of criteria for judging art he would want in his exhibition (a biennial that he devised. You’ll hear the all about it in the presentation.). One was the Meemaw test (love the term!) which was if he couldn’t explain the art to his grandmother in 5 minutes, then it was not accessible enough and wouldn’t be considered. The other was the three H’s, head, heart and hand. Great art has interesting intellectual ideas for the head; it has passion and soul and can touch people in an emotional way for the heart; and it has great craftsmanship and technique made by hand. I think this is a great way to critique films (both independent and studio made). The work that lasts, garners audience, and succeeds must have all of these things. Just as Shea was having trouble finding these things in the exhibition art world, I have trouble finding these things in the film world. Many independent films are either not accessible or do not have head, heart and hand.

I bet if you examine the film that inspired you to be a filmmaker, you’ll find that it had all three of these things. And you can explain that film in five minutes to someone and they can “get” it. When making work of your own, consider if it has head, heart, hand.