What to do When Social Media Outages Affect Your Film’s Marketing Plans

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If you use Facebook and connected social media like Instagram, you have probably been affected by the recent outage. Outages often mean that social media marketing plans are revised as a result. Any automated posts you had planned become redundant…or worse yet, you have to re-post and/or re-plan once the outage is over! It’s proof that while we can have social media marketing as part of an overall publicity plan, social media (like traditional media) is not infallible.

The recent outage provided a shared moment that was relatable to anyone who uses Facebook and Instagram. So here’s an idea you can use today: you might want to find some clever way to integrate it into your social media posts. The more something is relatable and resonates with an audience, the more engagement it will receive and the more likely your post will be shared. Remember when Kim Kardashian broke the Internet? Think about how YOU ‘broke the Internet’ today and run with it. In Sprites’ case, the outages happened after ALICE, the film we’ve been providing social media marketing for, won the Narrative Feature Award and CherryPicks First Female Feature Award at SXSW. ALICE broke the Internet!

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But what happens if you’re running a crowdfunding campaign when an outage happens on social? I’ve had this happen several times in the 7 years I’ve been assisting with crowdfunding campaigns, and while it’s not ideal you can work around it to make sure that you can still make the most of it. You may want to expand on the previous idea and use it as a call to action with your mailing list. If one platform is unavailable, channel your social media marketing efforts into the platforms you still have available to you at the time. Time really is money with a crowdfunding campaign!

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If you have a release that is affected by the outage, the above suggestions definitely apply- when you don’t have access to certain social media platforms during an outage, concentrate on the social media platforms where your film has a presence that are still available to you. You can always repurpose any content you had planned during an outage at a later date while still keeping the remainder of the social media marketing plan active and current.

Most importantly, if you have the time available to you…get away from the screen! This morning before I started my hours at Boosted, I could see how the outages were affecting my workflow when it came to social media marketing for Sprites clients…so I walked away. I went outside with a cup of coffee and watched the world go by so that when I returned to the computer I would be fresh as a daisy and raring to go.

Outages are awful, but unavoidable. It’s a reminder that no system is perfect!

How to Put a Publicity Budget Into Action (and Get the Best Value For Money!)

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Recently I’ve been letting you in on how to get more bang for your publicity buck, along with some more no-cost and low-cost publicity and social media ideas. This post is a continuation of that series. In this post, we’re going to look at how best to put together a publicity budget and then get the best value for money out of that budget (even if you have very little to spare).

If you receive distribution for your film, chances are the distribution company will do the PR and social media heavy lifting for you…but what happens if you have to self-distribute but still want to utilize publicity and social media marketing to connect with media and audiences? How do you plan a publicity budget and make the most of it?

I’m no expert, but I’ve worked with indie filmmakers just like you over the past 4 and a half years and regardless of the budget available, we’ve made it work very effectively. I think it helps that I grew up in an impoverished household. I saw how my mother was able to make do in miraculous ways. Needless to say, I’ve adopted that mindset when it comes to budgets of any kind. This is the way I approach publicity budgets and it’s a way that I’ve found works. You may have a better way, or adapt this to suit your purposes. There’s really no wrong way to do this.

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So, let’s look at how to work with what you have available (even if you’re low to no budget) to get maximum results:

  • Define your project: is it a short film, feature, webseries?
  • Define your publicity and social media marketing goals: what are you hoping to achieve with publicity and social media marketing of your film/webseries? List everything. Examples could include: growing your social media presence for your film, encouraging people to purchase tickets to local screenings, gaining reviews of your film, securing interviews and features in the run-up to your film’s release, etcetera.
  • Look at your publicity and social media marketing budget: absolutely NO money available? NO problem! It just means you’ll be looking for no-cost options, like creating and maintaining your film/webseries social media presence, reaching out to reviewers and journalists, or staging a local screening in conjunction with a club or organization (or a very kind venue that will stage it for free!). Check out our previous posts for some no-cost options. If you have funds available, look at your goals and research your options. If you have screenings coming up locally or on limited release, you might want to put a percentage into running paid Facebook or Instagram promotions, or paid promotions on film genre-specific websites. You may even choose to outsource your publicity and social media marketing to someone else who can do the heavy lifting for you (that’s when people come to us!).
  • Work out a publicity plan going forward and allocate funds based on the above: share this plan with your producers and anyone assisting with publicity and social media marketing. It’s good to have the numbers down so everyone is clear on the financials and you have a record of everything. Even if you have no funds available, I still suggest doing a publicity plan so you’re not flying by the seat of your pants with your publicity and social media marketing efforts!

There’s countless options available that don’t mean taking out a second mortgage- you can achieve great things with little to no funds available and make your film or webseries a huge hit.

When’s The Best Time to Grow Your Film’s Audience?

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A few weeks ago I was up in Auckland to catch up with clients and film industry acquaintances. One afternoon, I was chatting with an acquaintance who has been in the film industry here in NZ for many years. We were discussing the best time to grow your audience for your film via publicity and social media. The consensus? Pre-production.

Yes, really! Pre-production is the best time to start to grow your audience. Mainstream releases and tentpole films generally have the benefit of being able to secure coverage and have a built-in audience due to things like the cast, a known director, being part of a franchise, and more. It can be a lot harder for indie films and filmmakers to receive that sort of coverage…but it’s not impossible. It just takes a bit of strategic planning early on in production.

So why start building your audience in pre-production?:

  • You will cultivate a following that wants to support you every step of the way: this can be particularly beneficial if you’re looking to crowdfund during production or in post.
  • Your intended audience will have more awareness of your film on release: imagine having a dedicated following and fan base ready and waiting to see your film and media outlets who are more likely to provide coverage and/or review your film because they’re aware of your film prior to release. That’s powerful stuff!

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So, how do you go about building your audience in pre-production?

Make sure you have your social media accounts and website established: if you have a production company website and social media accounts already set up and with a large following, you may want to retain that instead of setting up separate accounts, especially if you are building your audience for a short film or have a slate of films in the works. Check out our post on the most frequently asked questions about social media for filmmakers for more hints and tips.

Crowdfunded in pre-production? Capitalize on campaign updates: the great thing about crowdfunding platforms is that they provide you with the opportunity to raise funds for your project, but also help you to build an audience at the same time. The campaign updates function on your campaign page should not be forgotten after your campaign! You can find out about maintaining contributor connection after a crowdfunding campaign here.

Establish a mailing list: invite people to subscribe to your mailing list via your website or a call to action on social media. Provide content like production updates, competitions, and cut-and-paste sample tweets or Facebook posts that can be used by fans when you’re getting ready to launch!

Reward your fans: some of the most passionate, dedicated fans are the ones who follow your entire journey, so why not reward them? Think about having a ‘Fan of the Week’ post on social media, share fan art, have competitions for signed merch, and more. Your imagination is the limit here!

Start building relationships with journalists and media outlets: get to know the journalists and media outlets that you would like to secure coverage from when you’re ready to release your film. Follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook, interact with them and share content from them that is relevant to your audience. Never underestimate the power of a great connection with media and journalists.

Building your audience in pre-production may sound daunting. After all, you’ve got so much else to juggle! But think of it as an investment in your film that will return to you right when you want it.

Making E-mail Marketing Part of Your Film’s Publicity Strategy

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Back in the late 90’s I created my first e-mail newsletter. It was a film news and reviews newsletter, very basic and in plain text. I gained subscribers through friends and acquaintances. Before long, I had around 300 subscribers- not many in today’s terms, but not bad! I would scour the Internet for film news, do reviews of favourite films, and so on. When I look back, it was sort of a foreshadowing of what I do now!

E-mail marketing has thankfully come a long way from my rudimentary attempt in the 1990s, and it’s something that can be extremely useful for connecting with your audience as an independent filmmaker. It can also be integrated into your film’s publicity strategy in some very fun ways.

If you’ve had the experience of crowdfunding before, you’ll know that many of the various crowdfunding platforms provide a space for updates. When you post an update on your crowdfunding page, it’s also e-mailed to donors who contributed to your campaign. E-mail marketing is not all that different to providing those updates on your crowdfunding page. If you haven’t had the experience of providing updates to crowdfunding donors- no worries! E-mail marketing is easy, it can be incredibly fun and is a great asset to have as part of your film’s publicity strategy.

Where do I start?

It’s a good idea to pick an email marketing platform, like Sendlane or Mailchimp. I don’t recommend just sending out e-mails from your e-mail account as people won’t have the option to opt out of receiving your e-mails unless they e-mail you back. Email marketing platforms generally have the option of a free account provided you have under a certain amount of subscribers which is perfect for when you’re just starting out.

In order to grow your subscribers you can create a landing page for your film’s website or share the link to a sign-up form via your social media accounts.

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What about content?

When it comes to the content of your newsletter, the choices are endless! Here’s a few ideas:

  • Provide subscriber-only exclusives, like behind-the-scenes videos or giveaways (signed film posters, a prop from the film, etc)
  • Update subscribers with the film’s progress via short vlogs that can then be re-purposed via social media at a later date
  • Mobilise your subscribers to spread the word about the film (especially in the lead-up to release) by providing them with digital assets they can use on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These can be housed in a dropbox and subscribers can download them via a link in your newsletter. You can also provide sample tweets they can copy and paste
  • Let people into your filmmaking world: is music particularly important to your process? Share a list of songs or albums that have influenced you. Found resources that you know fellow filmmakers and filmmaking fans would love? Share them!

Experiment. Have fun. See where the mood takes you and what your audience responds to. It’s another way to connect with your audience from production onwards in an intimate and rewarding way.

And speaking of mailing lists….yes, we have one now. Sign up to our mailing list to receive film publicity, social media marketing and crowdfunding hints and tips, exclusive content, and occasional FREE resources. You’ll also be the first to be notified of discounted service rates. You can sign up HERE.

Crowdfunding and The Benefits For Indie Filmmakers

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Chances are, if you hop onto Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and check out the pages of indie filmmakers and their films, you may encounter posts about crowdfunding campaigns. Since the “early adopters” phase of crowdfunding in the early 2010s, filmmakers are looking at crowdfunding and various crowdfunding platforms to help assist them in funding their projects. In fact, Film Sprites PR started primarily by promoting and supporting crowdfunding campaigns for filmmaking. In the almost 4 years of operation, we’ve assisted with various successful campaigns (which you can read more about here if you’re so inclined), and the creation of Sprites came about after being inspired by Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, The Art of Asking. We’ve seen what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and everything in between. There’s nothing more fantastic than seeing a filmmaker not just cross the 100% mark, but exceed it and be able to celebrate with their donors, fans, friends and family!

There are a now variety of crowdfunding platform choices available to filmmakers; from film and TV-based Seed & Spark, through to all-or-nothing crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and flexible funding like IndieGoGo. And while this array of platforms gives filmmakers various options for their crowdfunding campaigns, there are many benefits of crowdfunding campaigns which go above and beyond providing funds for filmmaking and webseries creation. Here’s just some of the benefits:

Crowdfunding is a good chance to grow your audience (and stay connected with them): you’ve planned and prepared your campaign, you’ve launched it, and the contributions start rolling in. You finish the campaign…but what happens next? If you’re really savvy, you’ll use the campaign updates function on your crowdfunding page (and/or update people via your website mailing list), and keep people updated. Your audience gets to see how production is progressing, and it’s also a great chance to have your fans be a part of the process, especially if you get them to share content (like the perks they received via your campaign) with specific hashtags. Don’t think of a crowdfunding campaign solely as a way to secure funds- it’s a way to connect with the core of your audience, the people who passionately believe in your work and want to support you 100% (if you’re interested in more info about maintaining contributor connection after your crowdfunding campaign, you can read about it here.)

Your campaign can provide useful financial information when approaching other investors: let’s face it- funding any film or webseries, big or small can be tough. When it comes to the financials, sometimes funding will come from various sources, making up the finished funding puzzle. But having the ability to approach a private investor or production company and be able to provide proof of the viability of your project? That can be particularly useful.

Crowdfunding is another opportunity to grow awareness of your films: when people come to your crowdfunding campaign page, you have a fabulous opportunity to think of it as a window into your filmmaking world. It’s not only a campaign to secure the funds you require, but it’s also like having free PR! It’s a moment in time to capture the hearts and minds of your audience, and hopefully have them contribute joyfully to your campaign. It’s a win-win.

It can provide valuable skills: as an indie filmmaker you will know that sometimes you don’t have the luxury of having people taking care of aspects of the filmmaking process (like publicity or producing) so that you can solely focus on directing. When you go through the process of planning and implementing a crowdfunding campaign, you pick up skills that are not just useful in the short-term, but will have benefits long after the campaign has ended. These skills include investor relations, pitching to media, audience building just to name a few.

Your crowdfunding campaign can be a unique experience, not just for you but also for your audience and contributors. If you’re thinking of running a crowdfunding campaign, good news: we’re dedicating the month of March on our blog to providing hints, tips, insights and advice on crowdfunding, so keep your eyes peeled for further posts.

*this statistic takes into account the amount of dollars pledged for both successful and unsuccessful projects. For more stats, click HERE.

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.

Advertising/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. Also, 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.

And, hey- I’m going to be cheeky and shamelessly self-promote. Here at Film Sprites PR we offer publicity and digital marketing services to independent filmmakers; from crowdfunding campaign promotion and support through to securing media placements (reviews, interviews, features), and social media marketing (both feature and short films). We can also provide copywriting services for websites and IMDb biographies. Get in touch with us to see how we can assist you. Email us at: thefilmsprites@gmail.com.

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  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).

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.