The One Thing We Need to STOP Doing on Social Media

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Earlier this week I logged into my e-mail to see a message from an acquaintance. We’d been connected via Facebook. Upon opening the message, all I see is a banner for his film. There’s no salutation, no explanation…just the banner. Curious, I emailed him back to ask why he had sent it to me.

“Well, I know you’re interested in social media so I e-mailed it to  you for your awareness”.

Awareness achieved…albeit negatively. Perhaps if he had told me more about the film and what he wanted to achieve by sending the picture, I might have been more receptive.

The one thing we need to STOP doing on social media is treating people like receptacles for links.

 

Regardless of whether it’s messaging your IMDb link to someone without context, or using a third-party provider to send an auto DM to your followers when they follow you, we need to get back to having the ‘social’ in ‘social media’. Recently on the blog I mentioned that we need to work smarter, not harder when it comes to social media- especially when you’re trying to gain awareness for your film. No matter what industry you are in, forging strong connections with people in your network is key. Think I’m wrong? Watch Joe Wilson’s video on Film Courage about actors spamming people on Twitter (note: contains swearing).

Imagine you’re at a conference and there’s a networking cocktail hour. People are milling about, catching up and talking about the day’s events. And then there’s you- you have a billion sheets of paper that only have the link to your film’s crowdfunding campaign on them. Instead of organically networking and getting to know people, you throw the paper up in the air and hope that as it falls, people take notice. That’s what social media can feel like at times, instead of being a conversation. One of the advantages that independent and micro-budget filmmakers have is that they have the ability to make the most of social media. Big blockbusters have PR departments, directors may have their own social media accounts but their engagement can be few and far between, depending on scheduling and whether or not they have someone else managing their personal social media feeds or not. With indies and micro-budgets, most of the time it’s you on the other end of the conversation. So instead of thrusting links upon people…engage with your followers. After all, one of the most important parameters of digital marketing is engagement. You can have all the followers you could possibly want, but if engagement levels are low, it’s not good. That’s how you can tell if someone has bought social media followers: the engagement levels don’t correlate with follower numbers.

Additionally, if you are approaching someone to assist you in any way, be it via e-mail or a social media message, approach them as if you were to approach anyone you’d like assistance from outside of social media. Sending a picture with the hopes it gets shared (and sans message) doesn’t cut it. It just doesn’t. Does that mean I’m not guilty of these social media sins? Not at all! I put my hand on my heart and say that as I was learning and growing, I committed some pretty gnarly social media and publicity sins. Everything is a learning process.

Another way of gaining awareness around your project is to help other people out. Take competition out of the equation, especially if you are an indie filmmaker. You’re not scrambling for those box office dollars (not yet, anyway!). If someone is looking for equipment to hire for a weekend shoot, share their info or point them in the right direction. If you know two people who could benefit from meeting one another and networking, introduce them. Being a connector is a great way of not only assisting others with their goals, it’s great karma. Plus, there will come a time when someone thinks of you when it comes to an opportunity, and will gladly connect you to the right person.

And yes, I’m counting myself as a recipient of this blog post, and as needing this message too. At times, I have been guilty of treating people like link receptacles as well. It’s all part of the human experience. So, from now on, let’s make even more of a concerted effort to really connect with the people who have chosen to follow/like us online. Deal? Deal.

 

You Matter: A Call To All Creatives, Dreamers and Entrepreneurs

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When I was 10 years old, I had a teacher who decided it was a good idea to put the word “eccentric” on my personal record. I would never had found out about this, had it not been a rainy day when all of the class was inside and my personal record was open on the desk. Her bowels turned to liquid the moment I saw her after lunch and said: “I’m eccentric, am I?” I remember the blood draining from her face as she realised she had left my record open on the desk for all to see…including myself.

For years, that one comment, written in ballpoint pen, haunted me. I’d been called “weird” by my classmates…but to have an adult say it (especially one in a position of prominence in my life)…it must a)be true and b)also be a really, really bad thing. So I let it rattle around in my head for years and years, and instead of embracing the fact that being eccentric could actually be a good thing, I let it erode my confidence and my interactions with other people. As I got older, however, I discovered that being a little bit “different” in other people’s eyes is actually a good thing. I used to get bullied for being interested in computers, and now they’re commonplace, and as a result of being an early adopter of personal computing in the 1980s I was able to jump on the social media zeitgeist early as well.

Why am I telling you my personal sob story about being the “weird kid”? Because so many of us out there were the “weird kids” growing up. We were the ones who were bullied for what was deemed socially “uncool”, the things our peers  (and sometimes family members) didn’t understand. Quite often, it’s the creatives, dreamers and entrepreneurs of this world who have had to endure the pain of being isolated for what they love and who they are. I love this quote from George R.R. Martin (when Tyrion is giving counsel to Jon Snow):

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

 

Whether you’re in the process of making your first film, working on a fledgling business, or trying to make your life better after tragedy, know this- you matter. Birthing anything into the world can be a lonely process, filled with doubt, regardless of the medium or purpose. There will be some friends and family who don’t understand what you’re doing. Well-meaning people will tell you “horror stories” to try and make you “see sense”. Sometimes, you will walk the path alone- it’s your path to walk, nobody else’s. There’s a reason for that, and it’s got nothing to do with your inherent worth. Remember (and I’m about to geek out on you again here) in The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda was instructing Luke, and Luke had to enter the cave by himself? Exactly. Did he end up alone at the end of the film? Nope. He was alone again *SPOILER ALERT* when Rey meets up with him at the end of Ep VII, but again there would have been a reason for him to be alone, because that was yet another point on his journey where he needed to tread the path on his own.

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Photo by Rich Lock on Unsplash

Believe in yourself and your dream. First and foremost, you need to be your own cheerleader. When others see how much you believe in what you are doing, and how passionate you are about it, that’s when you start to open doors.

The world needs you. Whether you’re writing your first novel, teaching drama to underprivileged children, or composing a score for a film, we need the creatives, entrepreneurs and dreamers of the world to help make the world less lonely, less bland. And yes, there have been times throughout my journey where I have had dark teatimes of the soul, times when it seemed easier to tap out than to continue…but if you get into a similar situation, ask yourself: if I quit today, what will tomorrow look like? In my case, I couldn’t bear to think about a tomorrow that didn’t involve working in the film industry. I just couldn’t. It was a lifelong love, and would physically hurt if I quit. Things have been tough, but I’ve taken it one day at a time and kept going.

So, why did I choose to write about this, instead of a post about social media marketing, filmmaking or publicity? Because sometimes you just need to hear that there are other people out there that have gone through the same things you have. Sometimes, you need to know that other people “get” the creative struggle. Let this be your sign that you are seen and heard…and that you matter.

The Indie Filmmaker’s PR and Digital Marketing Toolkit

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Over the years at Film Sprites PR, we’ve amassed a mountain of really useful resources for independent filmmakers; everything from graphic design lifesavers for your social media graphics, through to inexpensive (or free) ways to advertise your independent film to your audience. They’re all things we’ve been recommending to our clients, and now I want to share them with you. They’re not huge trade secrets- just things that we personally rave about and things that work.

In addition to these resources, we’re also including a ‘sanity saving’ section, additional books to add to your reading list, as well as some inspirational resources to help keep your momentum up. Let’s face it- every bit helps when you’re working hard for your dreams.

Places That Can Assist With Film Promotion

While social media and organic publicity is great, sometimes it’s a good idea to reach out to places that can do paid or unpaid promotion, or provide advertising space. If you’ve got a horror film to promote, we thoroughly recommend PromoteHorror.com. They have a range of options with minimal pricing, but they also provide free services, like the posting of press releases (and they’re exceptionally prompt about it!). Popcorn Horror also has advertising packages available. FirstGlance Film has social media marketing and other options available for the indie film community, starting at $10. And whether you have a short, a feature or a webseries, our media partner FilmDebate has a FREE promotion section. Click HERE to read all the details.

Additional Good Reads for Filmmakers

You may have seen our recent post about great reads for filmmakers, but since then I’ve found more reads that need to be added to the list! Firstly, Dean Silvers’ book, Secrets of Breaking into the Film & TV Business is a great read. Just like Julia Verdin and Matt Dean’s Success in Film, Dean breaks down every step of film production, financing and promotion. It’s not only useful, it’s genuinely enjoyable to read. If you have an interest in film marketing (both indie and mainstream), Film Marketing into the Twenty-First Century is a great read. A series of academic articles, it looks at different topics within the film marketing sphere, so you may choose to read the entire book or just focus on topics that interest you. There’s an excellent piece about international voice casting and subsequent publicity for the Ice Age franchise, as well as publicity around the high frame rate of the Hobbit trilogy.

Our “Cheat Sheet” Posts

As you may know, we’ve been providing “cheat sheet” blog posts which cover the ins and outs of indie film publicity and digital marketing. Here’s a list of posts that can assist you at various stages of production:

Crowdfunding: notes on looking after yourself during your crowdfunding campaign can be found HERE. We also show you how to harness Twitter for your film’s crowdfunding campaign. And what about after your crowdfunding campaign? We show you how to maintain connection with your contributors post-campaign as well.

Publicity and Digital Marketing Timelines: our most popular post gave a handy timeline for generating publicity and social media coverage for indie films, which you can read HERE. We’ve also broken that timeline down even further and with more information in our post about publicity prep in pre-production and filming, and publicity prep from post-production to release.

Social Media: we gave you the lowdown on the most annoying things you can do when promoting your film via social media, as well as giving you some handy alternatives. We also answered the questions we’re most frequently asked by filmmakers.

Pitching to Media Outlets: There will come a time when, if you have to do most of the heavy lifting on your indie film yourself, you will need to pitch to media outlets to secure reviews, interviews or features. We’ve got you covered when it comes to this process! We give you a breakdown of what to do (and how to do it) when pitching your film to media, as well as identifying what’s newsworthy about your film to make it even more appealing to media outlets.

Sanity Saving Resources

Sometimes things can feel impossible, the pressures insurmountable…or sometimes things are just plain awful. It’s a good time to seek out some inspiration! TED talks can be incredibly uplifting. Check out these great talks by J.J. Abrams, Jeff Skoll, and Deborah Scranton. The incredible Marie Forleo and her interviews with creatives and entrepreneurs like Seth Godin, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Tony Robbins (just to name a few!) are definitely a good watch if you’re feeling down or uninspired.

And sometimes the best thing to do when you’re not feeling so great is to get up and get those endorphins firing. Whether you choose to have a short walk, a run on the streets or a jog on the treadmill to get rid of the existential funk, we’ve created a special Spotify playlist for you. Lots of tunes to get you moving and feeling better.

Hopefully there’s something for everyone in this list of resources. Happy filmmaking!

 

The Most Annoying Things You Can Do When Using Social Media For Your Film

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Social media is an incredible tool to help connect you to your film’s audience. But there are great ways of using it, and other social media habits that are…not so great. Those habits can annoy your followers, or at the very worst, get you blocked. There’s one thing I know unequivocally- nobody sets out to be annoying on social media (unless they’re trolls), so here I’m highlighting some of the habits that are seen as common irritants, and giving you solutions. It’s about working smarter, not harder and seeing the results.

And let me tell you, when I started out I did many of these things! It’s true! I don’t consider myself some sort of social media guru, but I have seen what works and what doesn’t through trial, error and evaluation, so I’m passing on what I’ve learned to you. So, what are the most annoying things you can do when promoting your film on social media?

Spamming everyone (not just your followers) on Twitter: imagine you’re sitting in a hotel room by yourself, and you hear a knock on the door. Upon answering it, someone is standing in front of you and says: “help make it happen for….” and then promptly leaves. As you close the door, you hear the same person knocking on every other motel room door and saying the same thing. This is what it’s like when you tweet everyone the link to your film or campaign individually. Not only is it time consuming, it means that your followers can see each tweet you send out with the link to every other follower! At best they will mute you from their timeline, at worst they will block you, so for the sake of sending out the same cut and paste tweet to each individual follower, you’ve lost people.What can amp the annoyance factor up even more is if you tweet your link randomly to someone you’re not even following! I have lost count the amount of times people who are not following Sprites on Twitter have tweeted a link at us (along with a bunch of other people they’re not following, in the hopes of a re-tweet)

A better idea: as I said above, it’s about working smarter, not harder! For all the time you’ve spent copy and pasting and tweeting to each individual follower, you could be spending time engaging with your followers, tweeting out fantastic content about your film or finding additional content to post that will be of interest to your audience. People share great content- so make sure you’re maximising your time on social media by creating that great content. And if you’re crowdfunding your film, check out our guide to maximising Twitter for your crowdfunding campaign for more hints and tips.

Inappropriate hashtags:  hashtags are exceptionally useful, both for people searching for things via certain hashtags, or for people wanting followers to find their content. However, when you’re using inappropriate hashtags for your content, it can end up being a PR disaster waiting to happen. And by ‘inappropriate’ I’m not talking about offensive or rude, I mean the use of hashtags that have no relevance to the content but are there to try and capture the current trends. I’ll use Twitter again for my example: you’re promoting your new short film, but using the hashtags that are trending that day. This can backfire spectacularly, especially if you’re using a hashtag regarding a tragic current event (yes, I have seen this happen).

A better way: if you’re an indie filmmaker (webseries, film or both), the hashtag #SupportIndieFilm is particularly effective, especially for Twitter. Not only does it connect you with indie film fans, it also connects you with other indie filmmakers, and can assist you with networking. A great account to follow on Twitter is FirstGlance Film, the absolute champions of independent film on Twitter (full disclosure- we’re one of their media supporters). In terms of great hashtags for Twitter and Instagram, think about the audience for your film, and then the genres and sub-genres your film belongs to. Experiment, look at your analytics and see what works effectively.

The follow/unfollow tactic: I have to admit, this is the one that annoys me. There are some people who will follow you on Twitter or Instagram, and if you don’t follow back, they’ll unfollow, only to surface again down the track and will follow you again in the hopes that you’ve forgotten about their follow/unfollow!

A better way: people will follow and unfollow who they want to. You can’t beat people over the head with a stick to get them to do what you want on social media. You just can’t. When people use the follow/unfollow tactic, it tells people that they actually don’t care that much about your content, they just want to rack up follower numbers. You should be focusing on quality, not quantity. Follow the people you genuinely want to follow, especially if they have content you love sharing with your followers.

And, related to this point:

Buying followers: No. No. No. NO. Again, it’s quality over quantity. Would you prefer 100 engaged followers who share your content, connect with you and support your film, or 1000 who do nothing? It’s a practice you don’t want to have anything to do with, especially if overnight you suspiciously have a huge amount of followers and minimal engagement. That doesn’t mean people don’t end up with a massive amount of followers and likers overnight (especially if something goes viral, is mentioned in the news or is recommended by someone with a huge following), but it does tend to look very suspicious.

A better way: building up an audience and a following takes time. There’s no magic pill for it, except genuinely connecting with your audience on a regular basis. But building up that audience means that you will have followers/likers who have supported you from day one- isn’t that inspiring? You are inspiring- never forget that! And yes, being in publicity and social media marketing means I can put a quantifiable number on certain aspects of audience engagement, etcetera…but you can’t put a number on inspiration, or on the young person still in high school who avidly follows you and is inspired by your work to become a filmmaker themselves. One of the other things that I think a lot of people tend to do is see the numbers as a reflection of who they are, but it really isn’t. Maybe that sounds a bit woo-woo, but when you’re creating anything and working towards a goal, sometimes it’s easy to see those pesky numbers as a reflection of your self worth. Trust me- I’ve been there! But you and I both know you’re more than the numbers. Don’t sweat it, grow that following organically and over time and your work will be seen, appreciated and shared.

Maintaining Contributor Connection After Your Crowdfunding Campaign

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The crowdfunding campaign for your film has finished, you’ve secured your funds and you’re ready for the next part of production. Congrats! This is a golden opportunity to continue to build anticipation for your film and keep forging links with your audience.

Sometimes with crowdfunding campaigns, the post-campaign period can be forgotten in the excitement of completing the film. Updates on the crowdfunding campaign page can go silent, and in some cases the campaign is not mentioned again- it’s a case of “so long, and thanks for all the fish” when it comes to contributors. So how do you make the most of the post-campaign period in order to keep momentum building for your film’s release and also increase your film’s visibility?

Don’t forget those crowdfunding page updates: crowdfunding page updates are an excellent way to keep in touch with the people who supported you and contributed to the campaign. Think about having exclusive contributor-only sneak peeks prior to the release of a new trailer, let people know when tangible perks are on their way to contributors, and keep the connection alive and exciting by getting people to share photos of their perks with appropriate hashtags on social media. If there are any issues with distribution of perks (for instance, a shipment is taking longer to get to you than expected so getting the perks to contributors will also take longer), let people know. There’s nothing worse than being a contributor and wondering where a perk is.

You can also get your contributors involved in social media for the film when you’re gearing up for release. Have graphics available in the sizes most appropriate for popular social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) that contributors can download and share (including special Facebook and Instagram profile pics and headers), as well as suggested tweets that contributors can copy and paste. That way if contributors are keen to continue assisting your filmmaking efforts, they can help you by spreading the word.

Make it part of the process: got a scrumptious delivery of those t-shirts that were a crowdfunding perk? Show people on social media! If a poster signed by the cast was a perk, take photos showing the cast members signing the posters. Don’t forget: people love being part of the filmmaking journey, so take them on the journey with you via social media.

Celebrate online: finished the crowdfunding campaign successfully! Time to celebrate! After you’ve taken a break away from the campaign (because, let’s face it, you’ll need downtime), schedule a Facebook Live session on your Facebook page to talk about next steps and answer any questions fans may have. Publicize it via your campaign updates and social media well in advance so that people know when it is coming up and can look forward to catching up with you.

 

Identifying Newsworthy Elements of Your Indie Film

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So, you have an amazing film and you want everyone to see it- of course! And while social media is the most immediate way of connecting with your audience, chances are you’re going to want to secure some reviews, features and interviews as well.

Recently we talked about how to pitch to media to secure coverage for your film via traditional (newspapers, print magazines, television and radio news) and new media (websites, blogs, podcasts). In it, we talked about the fact that in order to secure coverage, your pitch for your film needs to be newsworthy (you can see the criteria we used here). If you do your research with regards to your audience and their demographic, you can very easily use these newsworthiness criteria to assist your chances of gaining exposure for your film. The best way to highlight the newsworthy aspects of your film is via your press release. So how can you find the newsworthy aspects of your film in order to secure media coverage? We’re going to give you examples using the newsworthy criteria mentioned above.

Timing: new, now, fresh: timing is everything. You don’t want to secure coverage for your film’s big advanced screening and Q&A after the fact. If your film was released to VOD six months ago, your chances of securing coverage lessens, especially with regards to gaining reviews in large media outlets. Film critics and reviewers are inundated with screenings every day, so you want to get your request to review in as soon as possible (we give you a good timeline here).

Significance: significance can be a useful newsworthy criteria, particularly if your film has a topic that would affect many audience members. For instance, you have a documentary about an illness that affects a large percentage of the worldwide population, it’s worth citing statistics in your press release.

Also, if there’s something of huge significance about the film or the filmmaking process, that’s definitely worth mentioning: for instance, your film raised the most money of any crowdfunding campaign to date on a crowdfunding platform, your principal photography had something of significance, like the longest recorded principal photography shoot in a certain location (or the shortest), etcetera. If, like me, you’ve just seen Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, it’s worth thinking about his film and filmmaking and then thinking about what sort of significance it had that would make it newsworthy (outside of the fact that it’s a WWII epic, directed by Christopher Nolan and with many prominent actors).

Proximity: Citing proximity is always great if you’re pitching to producers at local and national radio and TV news stations, or editors of local and national newspapers. No matter how big or small a film is, regardless of budget, people love the sparkle of movie-making. If the area your film was shot in has particular significance (again tying into the significance criteria) historically that can be a newsworthy element. Perhaps you’ve made an epic Western in an area that has a rich tradition of goldmining, or a psychological horror in a town where a particularly famous horror auteur was born. It’s definitely worth noting if your film has employed predominantly local crew, as it shows your commitment to that particular area and the skills the people of that area have brought to your film.

Prominence: Does your film have a name actor, or crew members that have been attached to Hollywood blockbusters (like SFX people, producers, scriptwriters etc)? This is what you can highlight to make your film more newsworthy, especially if your name actor has had recent successes, won awards or has a huge fanbase.

Human Interest: As the post about newsworthiness criteria states above, this is the sort of thing you see at the end of broadcasts: the cute, the quirky, the inspirational. So what’s cute, quirky or inspirational about your film? This is also where you can highlight anything funny or unusual that happened on set, especially if you have a name actor who is happy to be quoted about something that happened. For instance, a few years ago we mentioned in our press release of a short film (and also via social media) that the film only had two consecutive days allocated to shooting…during the British summertime. Of course, anyone who knows the particulars of British weather knows that this was asking for a miracle. Thankfully, the weather gods smiled on the crew and they had two consecutively fine days to film. This was the approach we used when pitching to British media, knowing they would appreciate the drama of waiting on two rainless days!

Finding newsworthy elements to pitch your film to media doesn’t have to be hard. Every film has a range of the various elements that can be mixed and matched in your press release in order to maximise exposure. Happy filmmaking!

 

 

The Road Ahead For Film Sprites PR

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If you follow Film Sprites PR on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, you’ll probably already know what’s happening here at HQ, but I wanted to grab a cup of tea and write about it on the blog as well.

Tomorrow (which will be the 23rd of July here in the Southern Hemisphere) is a very important day. It’s the 5th anniversary of the day I began the journey towards becoming a film publicist. Film Sprites PR would be born in 2014, but before then there was a 2 year period of gaining my Cert in PR and Business Communication, networking and planning. There was also a lot of  hope, and inspiration. Overall, it was a magical time. It seemed the purest heart of my dream- I had a constant GPS guiding me to the next step…and the next…and the next. It led to the birth of Film Sprites PR. Sprites was my way of making my own opportunities, gaining valuable experience and being of service to the independent film industry.

While Film Sprites PR has been operating, it’s been a celebration of the independent spirit and a passion for film. We’ve assisted with publicity and digital marketing for the successful crowdfunding campaigns for  Magpie, Arcadia Bay, Vampire Mob Graphic Novel Issue 1 and RAIN: A Fan Film About Storm as well as the Kickstarter for the award-winning short film Hello World. In December 2016 we also assisted with the successful Kickstarter for Daphne Fisher’s Enough, helping to not only secure the $6K goal but also helping to raise an additional $945.

I’ve had freelancers on the team who have been integral to the journey, because I wanted them to gain the experience I never had before starting Sprites so they could take that out into the world and forge their own successful path. I’ve also had the pleasure of being interviewed by Cinemaddicts NZ, Turnabout, Young Women Entrepreneurs Club, and Write Out of LA. I’ve also appeared on the Cinema After Dark and Dave Bullis podcasts. Every single part of the journey has been rewarding, and I’m grateful.

But the time has come to move forward- I’ve had a bit of a strange start, because usually someone will work for an established PR firm and then work for themselves but I did it the other way around! I’ve always wanted to work for a studio or distributor, and that’s what I’m aiming for now.

So where does that leave Film Sprites PR? The website is still up and running, as are all of our social media accounts. We are doing publicity and digital marketing for one last film, Around Here (where I am also serving as producer). We will no longer be offering freelance services to filmmakers. Instead, as one last ‘thank you’ to the community who embraced me and has supported me for these past 5 years, I will be distilling down everything I have learned and put into practice successfully and putting it on the blog. That’s my love letter to the indie community. You’ll find hints, tips, and no-nonsense information. I’ve taken PR and digital marketing practices and adapted them to make them easier for independent filmmakers.

I am so grateful to every single person who has been a part of this journey with me. Hopefully I’ll be seeing you again in a different publicity and digital marketing capacity (fingers crossed!). And, heck- if there’s anyone reading this who is looking for an incredible publicist and digital marketer to join their team…here I am. I’m also on LinkedIn if anyone is interested in connecting there.