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

when to grow your film's audience

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!

Audience Preparation Before Release-min

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.

I Felt Like An Idiot On The Internet…Here’s What Put It Into Perspective

I Felt Like An Idiot On The Internet

As a publicist and digital marketer, I spend a significant amount of time on the Internet. Whether it’s sending off a press release to a media outlet, pitching a potential story, generating social media content or crunching social media numbers, I’m either hooked to my laptop, tablet, or phone. And while that comes with the territory, because digital technology is so ubiquitous in everyday life, I found myself in a bit of a predicament.

The lines between work and life began to blur. I found myself looking at the number of ‘likes’ on my personal Facebook page, the follows on my personal Instagram…and feeling dejected. Why weren’t people engaging? Why did the feeds of people I knew look SO damn interesting compared to mine? WHY was I feeling like such a d*ck on social media?

Talk about a First World problem!

My self-indulgent moping was cut short by a wake-up call yesterday. During my morning shower, I discovered a lump in my breast. Upon finding the lump, I felt a sense of dread that I’ve only ever felt once before. My stomach felt like it had dropped through the floor. We lost my sister in law to breast cancer in 2013, so immediately my mind is jumping to the worst conclusion.

I booked an appointment to see my doctor that afternoon and after a thorough inspection he said that he had no reason whatsoever to believe that there was anything sinister about the lump. I was exceptionally relieved.

Here’s the thing: that one little scare put everything else into perspective. No ‘likes’ are going to help you if you have an illness. No amount of follows on Twitter or Instagram would take something like breast cancer away. Perspective is a very valuable thing.

I’m great at what I do when it comes to social media for work. But when it comes to my personal life, a lot of it is not share-worthy…and that’s OK. You won’t see me dolled up to go out right now, but that’s because there’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes every single day. It doesn’t make me more or less worthy than anyone else.

So yes, while engagement levels, shares and other data are important on the business side of what I do, it shouldn’t make a lick of difference on my personal side. I think we sometimes forget (I know I’m guilty of it!) that what we see on social media is what people choose to share with us. It’s carefully curated, even if we’re not intending it to be that way. And how many ‘friends’ do we have on social media that we catch up with in ‘real life’? If a picture I share of my pizza on Instagram gets more ‘likes’ than a picture I took of a beautiful sunset on my DSLR…does it really matter? Am I enjoying sharing content? Yes.

You know, it’s okay to feel like an idiot on the Internet. I think we’ve all had those moments…just don’t stay there. And while I have your attention, check out Breast Cancer Foundation NZ’s breast changes to watch out for. Knowledge is power!

 

We’re Having a Spook-tacular Month!

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It’s been a spook-tacular month at Film Sprites PR in more ways than one! There’s lots going on in the office, so I thought I’d share some of the things we’re working on, as well as some client updates!

It’s been a pleasure to work with horror writer/director Oliver Park for the past few years, and his first horror short, Vicious, has received over 1.1M views on YouTube! He’s currently in LA, talking with studios about the possibility of making Vicious a feature film, as well as talking about other projects. His latest horror short, Still, is being released later this year. You can check out the teaser HERE.

Oliver Park Horror Press

Just some of the press Oliver Park has received- including being in a Buzzfeed article!

And in a similarly spooky vein, Film Sprites PR is assisting H2Ow Productions with PR and digital marketing of Ao-Terror-Oa. The brainchild of producer Hweiling Ow, Ao-Terror-Oa is a horror anthology linked by one unique element- New Zealand culture. Ao-Terror-Oa was funded by NZ On Air and Google, with the shorts being shown on YouTube. In addition to the 6 shorts, there are 2 mini-series being shown on the H2Ow Productions YouTube channel: Hweiling Watches, where producer Hweiling Ow (who doesn’t like watching horror movies) watches horror while being hooked up to a heart monitor, and Body FX Basement of Horror, where the team from Body FX share their techniques. All of these combine to create 6 Weeks of Horror, starting October 27 (Oct 26 Northern Hemisphere time)! For more information, click HERE. Ao-Terror-Oa has already started to receive press attention from outlets like Stuff, Horror Society, Screenz and FilmDebate.

Another Film Sprites PR client, Apple Park Films, recently made their critically acclaimed feature film Little Pieces available to rent/buy via Amazon Video, where it achieved over 800 minutes of viewing time in the first week of release!

Little Pieces Film Poster

Apple Park Films’ latest short film, Emotional Motor Unit, is also coming to Amazon Video very soon. Emotional Motor Unit is a tale set in a dystopian world where emotions are secondary to output. In order to achieve a writing task, Writer (played by Little Pieces‘ Graham Cawte) will find out what it means to be human by interacting with an Emotional Motor Unit robot (played magnificently by Francesca Burgoyne).

EMU A4 POSTER-min

And as we head closer towards the end of 2017, if you’re releasing your film in 2018 it’s a good time to chat with us about publicity and digital marketing. Our services include:

  • Copywriting (IMDb biographies, website copy)
  • Social media marketing (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook)
  • Press kit and press release creation
  • Pitching to media (both traditional and new media)
  • Crowdfunding campaign publicity, promotion and support

Spots fill fast, so get in touch! Don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

And if you’re planning to celebrate Halloween this year- make sure you have a safe and happy time! It’s a good time to enjoy some of those classic horror films, as well as some of the newest releases!

 

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.

 

Answering FAQs About Social Media For Filmmakers

Film Sprites PR FAQ Twitter

At Film Sprites PR we receive a lot of requests to assist with the social media side of film marketing. It’s something we’ve assisted with for 3 years and it’s also something we definitely enjoy doing! You might have read the previous post about how the digital age is assisting filmmakers with their indie films and connecting to their audiences, and the rise in the breadth of social media available is invaluable to the independent filmmaker.

So many indie filmmakers are incredibly social media-savvy (I think it comes from the resourcefulness, creativity and initiative independent filmmakers have!), but if you’re not- fear not! Here, we’re answering some of the frequently asked questions we receive, so you can hit the ground running with social media for your film (and, more importantly, growing your audience).

When do I need to establish social media accounts for my film? The best time is in pre-production. That means you can slowly and organically start to grow your followers/likers which can translate into growing your audience for your film. It’s also a good time to set up your film’s website (or, if you have a production company with a website and multiple films, to add a page for this film). In pre-production you may not have much content to add to your social media and/or website, but you can add things like storyboarding for your film, logline, etcetera. For a more comprehensive look at a publicity and social media timeline for your film, I recommend reading this post.

Do I need to have a social media account on every social media platform? We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to social media platforms. Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram…there’s so many platforms to choose from now. Does your film need to have a social media presence on each one? No. My advice? Choose only the platforms you would feel comfortable using on a routine basis. Are you more visual, and want to give your audience an insight into the filmmaking process? Instagram is a great pick. Like your updates with more text than you can fit into 140 characters on Twitter? Facebook is a good option. If you’re an avid writer, think about having a blog on your film’s website. Here at Film Sprites PR we chose to use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as our social media platforms because they were the three platforms that I use regularly, and subsequently our freelancers also use on a regular basis. I didn’t think about Tumblr and wasn’t interested in adding Snapchat to our social media presence, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. If you’re a master at snapping snazzy content or Tumblr feels second nature to you- go for it! Social media for your film shouldn’t feel like a chore.

What’s your take on buying followers? Here’s the thing: would you rather have 10 followers who have followed you because they are genuinely passionate about your film, and will willingly share your content because they believe in you, or would you prefer 10,000 bought followers who don’t interact and don’t care? Building a following (and an audience for your film) takes time. It’s a process you don’t want to rush. Keep it authentic, and don’t buy into ploys. Quality over quantity!

Do I have to do my own social media for my film?

This is really dependent on your film itself. If you have a micro-budget with minimal cast and crew, you may choose to also do your own social media. If this is something you’re not keen on, perhaps there is someone on the team that can be allocated this task? If your film is an indie with a modest budget, you may choose to have someone on board to do this for you. If you can afford to outsource to a dedicated digital marketing and/or PR person, this is also an option.

Am I going to tell you that that’s the right call because I run a digital marketing and PR consultancy? Absolutely not. I know, I know….you can pick your jaw up off the ground now. Yes, there are advantages to outsourcing your social media marketing (social media that is targeted towards your chosen audience and demographic, etc), but when push comes to shove, there are ways and means and only you know your film, your crew and resources available, and your budget. You can always use this to gauge your digital marketing needs accordingly.

What sort of social media content should I post? I definitely recommend checking out our post that gives you an appropriate timeline for publicity and digital marketing of your indie film for this one. I also recommend checking out our post on the most annoying things you can do on social media so you can see what to avoid.

Most importantly of all: have fun with it. Social media for your film shouldn’t feel like a chore. You have an authentic voice, and film lovers want to connect with that. Best of luck!

Want to know about our publicity and digital marketing services for film? Click HERE.

When To Generate Publicity and Social Media Coverage For Your Indie Film

When to General Publicity and Social Medial Coverage For Your Indie Film-min

Recently on the blog I wrote about whether or not independent films really needed publicity. There’s still a perception that publicity for independent films is nice to have, but isn’t essential. That as may be, if you’re looking to gain significant coverage of your film and build your audience then it’s completely doable- especially as I’m about to give you a good timeline of when and how to generate publicity and social media coverage for your film even if you don’t have your own publicist on board.

Pre-production and production: This is a great time to build your audience prior to release. Now, it’s not so much a Field of Dreams scenario where “if you build it, they will come.” It means forging a genuine connection with your audience. The best way to do that is via social media. The advantage of building your audience in pre-production and production is that the audience gets to take the journey with you. They feel included and will champion what you are doing because you have taken the time to say: “this is what we’re doing right now, wait until you see the finished product!”

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And while you’re in this particular phase of production, it’s an ideal time to gather up visual and other media for use later on: on-set stills, behind-the-scenes informal snaps, interviews with cast and crew, etc. All of these can be exceptionally useful for your social media, for press kits and so on. If you’re thinking about crowdfunding for post-production funds, think about getting cast members to sign items and while you’re at it, photograph them signing the items so you can (again!) use that on social media and during the crowdfunding campaign.

Make sure you have a press release created at the very least, or better yet create a press kit. Be sure to have this in PDF form, and compress the PDF in order to make it smaller in size so it is easier to download and quicker to open. Have this available on your website under a ‘media information’ tab, along with details on who to contact for further press inquiries.

Post-production: here’s where things can ramp up with publicity and social media marketing, and there are many different avenues to look at. If you’re doing post-production crowdfunding for finishing funds, there are many independent filmmaking blogs and podcasts that have entire sections dedicated to films that are in the crowdfunding phase. IndieWire’s Project of the Day is a great way to secure exposure for your film and connect with indie film lovers across the globe.

If you’re submitting to film festivals, you’re going to want to keep your audience updated with all the happenings (including any festival wins- go you!) and that’s best done via social media. Make sure you share any press coverage you receive on all of your social media channels and have a link to coverage on your official website.

Clapboard Film Sprites PR-min

Pre-release: keep that social media presence up! By now you’ll be in the swing of things, so congratulations. Pre-release is a good time to seek out reviewers for your film. Bear in mind there are reviewers who will only review when the film has been publicly released, and that’s fine- you can get in contact with those reviewers when the film is available to the public. Pre-release reviews are useful for building up anticipation of the film and also serve to provide some reviewer quotes that are handy for branding.

Pre-release is also a great time to reach out for features and/or interviews. Media editorial calendars (whether it’s mainstream outlets or indie media) tend to fill in advance extremely fast and make scheduled events a priority. So, for instance, trying to get last-minute press during an international film festival season is not the best move. Again, this is where having a publicist on board can be extremely helpful- they know editorial time frames and events that may impact on the ability to secure coverage.

Release: congratulations! Is that a hefty number of film festival laurels I see on the cover of your blu-ray? The reviewer quotes are a deft touch, too. Hopefully your calendar is booked with interviews and the reviews are glowing. This is another optimal time to promote your film via social media. Got fan art coming in? Share it via your social media networks (yes- it does happen!). Re-share glowing fan reviews and comments. Continue keeping up that connection and keeping the fans up to date with all the news. Make sure you don’t let your social media channels go “dead”, especially if you are planning a new film or working on a new collaboration with someone.

Stand back and admire your awesomeness.