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.

Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2011

April 7, 2011
posted by sheric

Once a year, the Social Media Examiner issues a report on the state of social media. I have pulled out a few of their findings that you may find useful in navigating the marketing of your film in the social media world. Please note, the participants come from different industries, not specifically media. Also, these findings do not mean that you have to strictly follow them. All projects are unique and have unique audiences. What works for one film/product will not automatically mean success for yours. Comments in parentheses are personal.

-75% of all Americans use social media. (if you haven’t started an account, it’s time!)

-nearly 25% of all online time is spent on social media sites.

-of the more than 3,000 survey participants, 1/2 have less than one year’s experience using social media for marketing.

-63% of people with 3 or more years of experience spend more than 10 hours a week doing social media activitie.s (I’m more like more than 10 hours a day!)

-The number one benefit of social media marketing is standing out in an increasingly noisy world.

-Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs were the top four social media tools used by marketers, with Facebook leading the pack. All of the other social media tools paled in comparison to these top four.

-At least 73% of marketers plan on increasing their use of YouTube/video, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. A significant 86% said they have no plans to utilize MySpace or
will reduce their efforts.

-A mere 40% of businesses plan on increasing their social bookmarking activities, only 36% of businesses will increase their forum activities.

-30% of marketers plan on increasing their use of geolocation services like Foursquare. Larger businesses are more likely to employ geolocation.

-Only 19% of marketers plan on  increasing their use of Groupon or a similar group-shopping site.

-Asked if they were outsourcing any of their social media marketing efforts, the overwhelming majority said no, though the number of those who are outsourcing  has doubled since the 2010 report, from 14% to 28%. (curious until I saw the next stat)

-Design and development, content creation and analytics are the top three areas that  social media marketers are outsourcing. Those with 3 or more years experience are more likely to outsource design and development tasks. (Interesting, those with more experience don’t outsource content creation).

-Top three other types of marketing being utilized included email marketing, search engine optimization and event marketing.

-Slightly less than half (46%) plan on increasing their online advertising efforts. Large businesses (1000 or more employees) were most likely to increase online advertising.

-80% of marketers plan on either keeping the same levels or increasing their use of press releases. Small businesses were significantly more likely to employ press releases than larger ones.

-A significant 55% of marketers either have no plans to use or will decrease their use of print ads.

-Most marketers (68%) have no plans to use radio ads. Only 10% of businesses with 500 employees or more plan on increasing their use of television ads.

Your Content Strategy

March 9, 2011
posted by sheric

You’ve heard me (and many other inbound marketing strategists) say that marketing is more about providing value to your audience; giving them information and knowledge they can use in exchange for keeping their attention; than it is about blasting out one way messages. The value you offer should not be all about you and your project. So, how in the heck to do you find other things to talk/write about? I’m reading a very useful book at the moment called Curation Nation by Steven Rosenbaum and there is a chapter devoted to this question. For those working as PMDs, this book will really help in implementing a content strategy.

Your Content Strategy

While you may not see yourself or your projects as a form of curation, the key to creating a community is taking a leadership role and you do it by being a guide. You and your team should become a resource for interesting content that surrounds your project without overwhelming people with self centered information. These are the steps to setting up a good content strategy.

1) Pick a blog platform-Rosenbaum recommends WordPress, Movable Type and Blogger (I recommend WordPress.org with your own URL). Or if you are more of a micro blogger, Tumblr.

2)Find your keywords- He recommends doing keyword searches if you are looking for strong SEO on your posts. Tools he suggested for this are SEMRush (which costs $49.95 per month), Compete.com (there are free and paid options), Rank Tracker (free version up to $249 for enterprise version) and Word Tracker (free version and $69 per month version). You can also use Google Keyword Tool for free.

3)Using RSS feeds-Really Simple Syndication for newbies. These tools search the internet for content that is of interest to your audience and send it directly to you rather than having to search the internet manually. A tool I didn’t know about is called FastFlip, a kind of customized magazine of topics you have chosen. Just put in a keyword you want to find info on and it brings up a page of posts in graphical form. You can do essentially the same things using Google Alerts and Google Reader. It depends on how you process information really. You can use these stories to populate your Facebook feed, your Twitter feed, your Tumblr account or as inspiration to write a blog post. This system is really the heart of your content calendar. Once you decide on what topics to cover for the month, you can start searching for posts that will provide information or inspiration to riff on in your writing. I also use Diigo to bookmark links that I think will be useful to me later, you can even highlight text on the page and save it to your library and tag it with words to help you remember what you have collected on certain topics.

4)Using Twitter-Rosenbaum says consider Twitter your uber-aggregator. It will help you find links to stories AND the people who are sending these around so you can be sure to follow them and strike up a conversation. He recommends TweetAlarm to monitor your keywords, your project mentions, your @mentions. I use TweetDeck, but whatever.

5)Provide a mix-You don’t have to create every piece of content yourself. It can come from guest bloggers, your audience, videos someone else has made, a Flickr feed of photos etc. You and your team will set the tone based on your personality and the characteristics of your project. Is it casual and fun, serious and mission oriented, informative and technical? This tone will serve as guidance to others on what to expect from their experience on your site.

Ideally, you will have someone devoted to doing this work (hence the PMD reference above) because I understand you don’t have time to do this every day or even a few times a week. Having new content is imperative if you plan on keeping your audience interested in your projects over the long term and getting in the habit of servicing that interest by using tools to make it easier will pay off in not having to start over again every time you have new work to release.

Don’t Automate Your Feed

February 19, 2011
posted by sheric

A few months back I wrote a post addressing the calling out of people on Twitter for not autofollowing and how autofollowing is a bad idea. In fact, I said that I do not advocate using any automated programs for social media. It is surprising to me that so many social networking “experts” encourage their clients to do this. I realize that your time is often limited and having conversations with people is not your number one priority for your business. It is so much easier to broadcast out one way communication and that is why these automated tools have become so popular. Consider this, if you don’t have time for relationship building with your audience, don’t use social media. It is ok not to use it. Buy media advertising, set up a static website, use direct mail, these are all tools too and they are much more suited to the one sided broadcasting you are looking for than pretending with a bot.

Ways to spot a bot (which you are if you are using automated programs; you aren’t there see?)

-Your following to follower ratio is 1:1 and both numbers are high-You seriously can’t be having conversations with the 50,000 people you are following!

-You have the same message on your Facebook page, your Linkedin page, your Twitter stream, your Flickr account, you Tumblr account. Perhaps you think the connections you have on each of those sites is completely different. Have you considered that some of those people are the same and they get sick of seeing the same message from you 4 times? Stop broadcasting into the void and start speaking only when you have something unique to say on each platform.

-You seem to have a canned message ready for different times of day, every day. Do you seriously sit down and plan out what message you want to put out by the hour, every day? Do you do this in real life too? If you did, you would be very difficult to have a conversation with, mostly because you would shout out something and immediately leave the room, right? That is what you are doing when you “schedule” a Tweet or a Facebook update.

People, please listen. Social networking is SOCIAL. If you don’t have time in the day for a little social interaction with your audience/fans/clients, then don’t use these tools. They won’t work well for you. And for goodness sake, don’t pay someone to teach you how to automate your accounts and encourage you to sound like a robot! If you just have to automate, it is simple to find a free tutorial on how to use automated programs.

I personally think you will be missing out by not devoting some time in your day for social interaction, there is a lot to learn from real people on social media sites. You have to make time to do this work or have someone on your team who devotes quite a lot of attention to it [but I really think YOU should do it too]. For many people, this is how they discover new things. Not from being broadcast to, but from asking questions and getting responses, reading what their peers say, gravitating to sites where interaction is happening, getting valuable information from sites and people who are knowledgeable.

Just don’t pretend you’re engaging. Your automation fools no one.

Twitter Etiquette-to autofollow or not to autofollow

November 24, 2010
posted by sheric

I got really steamed today on Twitter because of a message sent to one of my tweeps calling him out for not following her back. I have seen this happening a lot lately and I want to address it here. The best way to turn people off on Twitter is to call them out in public. I might add that to all social networking platforms actually. If you have a flame to throw, you had better consider what you are doing before you press update because it will be out in the universe following you forever.

For the record, I NEVER AUTOFOLLOW. I hate any automated programs for Twitter. I don’t hook my Facebook to Twitter or vice versa. I don’t hook my blog to Twitter, but it does auto post to Facebook and many other networking platforms just to keep those sites updated with content. I do not feel compelled to follow every person who follows me. If I did, I would have an endless stream of junk and spam bots who now can send me DMs too. I think automated programs defeat the whole purpose of social networking which is to ACTIVELY engage on the platform. An automated program sending out scheduled tweets and following everyone who follows you is not actively engaging anyone, it is mechanical and inauthentic. Two huge no nos in social networking. You want automatic, one way communication? Buy an ad.

There are many schools of thought regarding how best to use Twitter. Chris Brogan highly recommends using autofollowing programs like Socialtoo because he gets so many followers a day that he can’t keep up with following them all (very telling about how much he actually engages with his followers). I say, why should he try to keep up with them all? Here are a few reasons I think autofollowing is a bad idea:

-You become a target for spammers-While using automated programs seems like a time saving idea, manually going through and clearing out spam bots from your stream is even more time consuming.

-Unfocused followers-I know many of you use autofollow programs in order to boost your numbers on Twitter. Do you really want to follow the stream of every person who happens to click follow on your profile? There is no way you can follow any conversations taking place there when thousands of tweets are going by, mostly unrelated to anything you are interested in. Numbers only count if there are engaged people behind them. If you want to build a quality following, actively use Twitter! Yes, it will take time so be patient.

-Everyone knows it is a cheat-I can always spot someone using autofollow programs. Their follower to following ratio is very close. When I decide whether I want to follow someone, I look both at the quality of their tweets and at their ratio. If it is close, I pass because their following is most likely full of crap. Following these accounts means the likelihood that they will even see the tweets you post is low. Their level of influence is low because there is no engagement going on when they follow thousands of people. You will get nothing out of clogging up your stream with these accounts.

So when should you follow someone back? I never follow people who don’t 1)talk to me directly on Twitter 2)offer me value in their tweet stream. For me, you are on a trial basis always. I occasionally use Twerpscan to find abandoned accounts to unfollow. I give you 30 days between Tweets. If you haven’t used Twitter in 30 days, I unfollow because you are taking up room in my stream for someone far more interesting and valuable to me. I am pretty militant about it. You might want to give them 90 days, up to you.

-Follow people who are part of the niche in which you are interested-You can find those people using Listorious or Twellow for example.

-Follow people who offer good information-For me it takes time to evaluate this. First I look at their stream and if it seems they actively engage in conversations and post some solid links with a reasonable amount of RT, then I give them a try. So far, there have been very few people I have had to unfollow if I evaluate them first.

-Follow festivals, distributors, production resources, journalists as well as individuals-again you will want to evaluate the quality of their tweets before hitting Follow. Some are administered by bots or people who do not use the platform as intended (one way tweets, no conversation etc) but it can be a good way to strike up a friendship well before you want to ask for something.

-Look at your friends Follow Friday recommendations- usually denoted by #FF, this happens every Friday and these are personal recommendations from your following and follower list. The recommendation serves as a good guide of who is worthy of your attention.

Twitter and Facebook aren’t popularity contests. It is all about the quality, not the quantity. Calling people out because they don’t autofollow to pump up your numbers is NOT a good idea. If the real reason you follow someone is just so you can get your numbers up, you don’t really understand how to use the platform and probably shouldn’t use it. It won’t work for you anyway.

New Twitter Initiative for Indie Filmmakers

September 22, 2010
posted by sheric


Today on Twitter a discussion erupted between Film Threat’s Mark Bell, Atlanta Film Festival Communications Director Charles Judson and myself about why panel discussions at independent film festivals and film events rarely break new ground or feature new voices, just the same old legacy people talking the same old stuff. So I think I suggested that we start our own discussion on new ideas and feature new voices and host it on Twitter. #filmin140 was born.

Starting September 29 9-10pmET we will do a bimonthly discussion on prearranged topics with guests representing various views but with participation from anyone wanting to participate, ask questions, offer solutions and case studies etc. The first topic under discussion is Film Piracy-Does it help or hurt? We think it will be a lively discussion.

We are open to suggestions from participants for future topics of interest. It is our goal that this forum will forward innovative thinking, champion voices we aren’t hearing who are experimenting and finding success and allow those who do not live in major urban centers or can’t regularly travel to them a place where they can learn and participate. We look forward to hearing from you on Wednesday.

Studios such as WB and Lionsgate have leverage with the Cable MSOs and work to  get films marketed and New Video has marketing leverage with iTunes. New Video  works via social media outreach by disseminating a release with images & clips  to sites such as Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon and posts a release on PR distribution sites (ClickPress, i-Newswire, eCommWire, The Open Press) along with feed-based announcements on Google blog search, Technorati, Yahoo! News, Topix etc., tagged with keywords for easier discovery. They also claim to do online grassroots outreach, email marketing and trailer and clip tagging.

Gravitas notes that its PR firms and staff release information about new titles to key websites and bloggers and they utilize what they call “VOD Guide Optimization” where they utilize  relationships with operators to raise the profile of certain Gravitas titles.

Distribber makes it clear that the marketing is up to the filmmaker (and they are also referring our TFC Marketing Services), but all the revenue goes to the filmmakers with no backend percentages taken.

CRM cites the marketing it does and we’re not sure what it entails beyond the usual Facebook and Twitter announcements, but we’re looking into it.

Whichever aggregator you choose to work with, make sure you have either a very firm marketing plan in place and committed to and/or know that you need to deploy one yourself.