How Can SEO Build Your Personal Brand? Pt 1

June 9, 2011
posted by sheric

This guest post series is from my friend PJ Christie, a Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) and expert SEO strategist. I am not an SEO strategist so I found his advice informative and easy to follow and I hope you will too.

I’m going to write this as a three part series. One of the problems with the topic is that I think every filmmaker wants to first know they can reach Page 1 on Google Search.  Part 2 Not every filmmaker wants to blog and be social so this part willl be for them. Part 3 will be more about how to build an integrated campaign to the creative project.

How Can SEO Build Your Personal Brand?

If you, the indie filmmaker, want to make sure that you have a Personal Brand, the place to start is know what Google is saying about you. I’m going to teach you how to get on page 1.

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. I’ve done it hundreds of times and I’m really good at it. Your Personal Brand. Your online reputation. It’s the same thing. But you can’t do it if you’re not on page 1.

The first thing you want to do is to actually search for your professional name in Google, and your goal is to own as many of the entries on the first page as possible with a positive image of you as a filmmaker. For those of you with an uncommon name that’s going to be easy. My clients are lucky in that regard.

It makes sense to begin with determining your official branded professional moniker. The one that will follow you through your career.  Ideally you should have accounts using the same name at:

LinkedIn
Facebook
Twitter
IMDB – this is the most important for you long term
Google Profile
Vimeo
Youtube
About.me

All of these sites will allow you to have a custom url using yourbrandedname. And you should have a website that uses yourbrandedname.com that links out to all of these sites. Every time you comment on a blog, send an e-mail, put up an official movie site, you will use this. On each of these sites, you want to make sure all the personalized url’s are always used.

On yourbrandedname.com, make sure that in the <head> content, you are optimizing the Title tag, the Description tag, and the Keyword tag to put your branded name first.

That looks like this:

<title>Your Branded Name – City, State</title>
<meta name=”copyright” content=”Your Branded Name, year” />
<meta name=”keywords” content=”your, branded, name, filmmaker, independent, movies” />
<meta name=”description” content=”Your Branded Name is a filmmaker based in City, State. My creative mission to blank, blank, and blank” />

You will own the page one listings assuming there is nobody with your name making movies. Now that you are using SEO, how will that build your personal brand?
I say focus on your creative mission. There should be no more than three and these are the foundations for your brand. For me, my personal brand is PJ Christie entrepreneurship, music, and marketing in Austin Texas. Everywhere you see my name online it is related to those three things.

Words of warning, generally speaking.

-Flash is not your friend.
-Choose one consistent method of contact that you can manage that is yourname@yourbrandedname.com. AOL e-mails are to be avoided at all costs.
-Be honest everywhere, don’t feel like you need to exaggerate or apologize for where you are in your career.
-It might not happen instantly, but within a couple weeks you should start to see improved rankings.
-Contrary to what some will say, it isn’t important to blog regularly when you have nothing to say. In fact, blogging for me is always secondary to creative and professional projects.
-You will leverage this personal brand at key times in your career.
-You may already have these social networks created. At a minimum each should have at least 3 pieces of content and your profile should be 100% complete.
-Every account should be managed by the same email address and use the same password.

If you are concerned with keeping personal and professional lives separate, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Filmmakers interested in building a personal brand on the web do not have the luxury of anonymity.

A good product is your best reputation.


Building your brand with no budget

May 13, 2011
posted by sheric

This is a repost of a very short piece on the REACH Personal Branding newsletter written by editor Rachel Gogos. I thought many of you would benefit from it since I speak often of the need for an artist to build a personal identity (a brand). If you want to hear more from REACH, sign up for their newsletter.  I will translate a few of these points so you can understand how they would be appropriate for artists.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Times are tough for many economically. People and companies are trying to stretch their budgets and do more with less, less people, less time, less money.

Here are 5 tactics to to build your online brand if you have no blog site and no budget. (Sheri’s comment-get a blog! many are free)

1. Comment on other people’s blog posts. Who are the leaders in your industry? Identify them, follow them and then start to make thoughtful, consistent comments on their posts. Over time everyone recognizes and values a fan as long as they’re adding to the conversation. Sheri’s comment-if you are reading industry news everyday, and you should be, you will know these people. Their names come up over and over again.

2. Create a Facebook Fan Page for your business. You can start out by uploading your logo to the avatar. Post a well-shot video (doesn’t have to be professionally shot). Get active on Facebook – it’s the #1 social media tool by leaps and bounds. Sheri’s comment-create a professional page for yourself and on it you will only post news and information related to your professional interests. This should be a separate page from your personal profile. The personal page is for your intimate friends and family.

3. Recently delivered a presentation? Turn it into an e-book and offer it up on your Facebook Fan page for free or for a moderate amount of money. Sheri’s comment-this may not be appropriate for all of you, but if you have been asked to participate in a seminar, workshop or panel and prepared with notes or slides, you can do this with it when you are finished. Repurpose your by products.

4. If you have a sizable list offer to host a seminar by a credible resource on a particular topic that your target audience can benefit from. Sheri’s comment-this is especially appropriate if you are a documentarian. If you have a sizable list of supporters of a certain cause, you could offer to host a seminar for them, featuring an expert on that topic

5. Comment on blogs hosted by MAJOR third parties such as the New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalPeople MagazineUSA Today, Huffington Post – some of the biggest news brands on the web. These have lots of Google juice. Sheri’s comment-this could be said about major third party sites specific to the film industry too. The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Screen Daily, indieWire, etc. What’s Google juice? It means these sites rank very high in the search engine. If your name is associated with these sites, it raises your brand (your name) higher too.

Rachel Gogos is a personal brand builder that specializes in building strong and noticeable online identities and highly differentiated WordPress blog sites.

Top 5 Ways to Fail at Crowdfunding

October 10, 2010
posted by sheric

photo credit Paste

I am prompted to write this post because I have been hit up many times lately about supporting, advising or donating to various crowdfunding initiatives. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t quite a complaint because I have been known to support many campaigns by doing any one of these things (ask anyone else offering their advice if they have done any of these things by the way, the answer could surprise you). I do get frustrated by the ones who contact me because they have embarked without thinking through the strategy or they are very close to the time limit and very far from their goal. I thought it might be helpful to list out some ways to fail in this endeavor so you can be sure to avoid these mistakes.

1) You do not already a have a support network online. This is a biggie. I know you’re thinking Sheri, how can I already have an audience and supporters of my work when I haven’t raised the money yet to do my work? Do you have a personal identity built up? Does anyone actually know who you are yet? There are many ways to do this, starting with sharing your knowledge and experiences with people and championing others as much or more than you do yourself. This identity building takes time and should be started well in advance of asking for favors. If you don’t have a strong support network of friends, colleagues and people who enjoy the work you do, do not introduce yourself and your project by asking for money.

2) Your goal is unrealistic. At the moment, the highest amount I personally have seen raised is $30K.  That was for a feature and mostly used on principal photography. Most of the other projects I have seen find success are raising under $10K. Crowdfunding is meant to get your project started, get your project finished or be used for something clearly defined like a festival run or your own screening tour. It is not going to be your only source of financing for your feature film. In time, as your audience grows, this could change for you. Unless you have the base of fans mentioned in #1, try raising $5k and see how you do.

3) You do not know who your audience is. In addition to that base of supporters, you will also need to reach those most interested in the kind of story you are telling. Many filmmakers just keep their campaigns limited to targeting other filmmakers. Folks, I don’t know any filmmakers NOT looking for money to fund their projects. While they may love and support you, you must venture out of that pool to find alternate sources for donation. I was asked whether I felt that crowfunding had reached its peak yet. Hardly! Ask any average joe on the street what crowdfunding is and you’ll get a blank stare. These are the guys you need to hit up, the ones who aren”t completely burned out by being bombarded by appeals and who might enjoy what you are doing.

4) Your campaign length is too long. Kickstarter has advised that the most successful campaigns are the shortest. Why? Because you and everyone else you know gets exhausted fundraising for 90 days. The campaign starts off strong (you hope) but somewhere around the 30 day mark it wanes big time! The momentum stalls, people get tired of shilling for you, you get tired of shilling too. Set the goal for 30 days maximum and work it nonstop during that time. Hint: that doesn’t mean your only communication is donation appeals. A reminder or two a day will suffice. The rest of the time, tell us about what you have planned for the project, comment on other conversations, share some useful links. Don’t be a complete pest!

5) Just offer tshirts and DVDs as perks. Nothing meaningful or imaginative. While I usually do not donate based on the perks, but on how well I know the people and how much I believe they can carry off the project, many people are all about the perks. If you are offering the same run of the mill stuff that can be purchased way cheaper at Walmart than at your minimum donation level, you need to think from the greedy donor perspective. I can get tshirts for $5 and a DVD of a film I have actually heard of far cheaper than a donation at the $50 mark. Get creative on what you can give donors that they will actually like, need, and most importantly, talk about. Are you a great cook? Can you do cool magic tricks? Are you a poet (I’m looking at you John Trigonis)? What can you offer your donors that is special to them and won’t cost you much if any money to manufacture?

Anyone else have some mistakes to add? Advice from those in the trenches is always appreciated.

Building Your Online Brand

August 20, 2009
posted by sheric

This post could really be for anyone, but I will focus it on the emerging filmmaker because I think it is just as important to showcase yourself online as it is to showcase your film.

I check out the online profile of everyone I meet or am about to meet. It may sound a little stalker-like, but I like to know who I am talking to and what we have in common. If I can’t find out anything about you when I Google your name, it is as if you do not exist. Well, your personal brand doesn’t exist at least. So what are you doing to build your personal brand? What methods can be used?

The reason for building a personal brand online is to establish how you want to be known. If you want to be known as a director, screenwriter, actor etc., you must cultivate that online. Constructing a simple blog or website, a Linkedin profile, an imdb page, or a separate Facebook page from your personal profile page are all good ways to build and control your personal brand. I recommend that everyone Google your name and see what pops up. It may be a reference to you in an article or a comment you left on some one’s blog or it may be your last Amazon purchase. You can remove that Amazon information by changing the settings on your Amazon profile, by the way. If you don’t find any personal references, that is a bad thing. You don’t exist online and you need to change that.

First, go to this site and use the online identity calculator to assess where your online brand stands right now. How did you do? Are all of the references relevant to your brand? Next, evaluate your strengths, goals, the offerings that can only come from you, and establish to whom you want these traits presented (your target audience like investors, industry contacts, production companies, agents etc.) and who your competition is. You have to differentiate your talents from the billions of other people out there, some with online brands already in existence. If you don’t already own your vanity domain, claim it. You can go to any web hosting site like Yahoo Hosting or Go Daddy.com. If your name is already taken, come up with a recognizable alternative that you can work with. Your personal site will become your baseline on the Web and where everything else will link back to. Since this is the site you’ll have the most control over, this is the one you want ranking above everything else. With your target audience in mind, create your site with information that would be of interest to them.

Now to spread yourself around the Internet. Grab some social accounts (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flikr etc.) as having these accounts help you to rise to the top of Google, especially Linkedin. There is a service called Knowem you can use to create social media accounts on a ton of sites with just one submission. You don’t have to join them all, just the ones you plan to keep maintained. You could also maintain a blog, use online networking sites (indieProducer, Tribe Hollywood, MyProducer etc.), publish online articles with services such as EzineArticles and participate in web-based communities. You should try to do all of these.  Use these tools wisely and you cultivate an online presence that ensures you’ll show up in search results the way you want to be seen. Always monitor these references too, as the algorithms that establish the rankings change frequently. Google your name every Monday morning to see if anything has changed. Set a Google alert with your name so that you can track any new progress on your personal brand.

This should get you started on establishing an online brand and as the references pile up, more opportunities to promote yourself will come your way. Good luck.