What Filmmakers Need To Know About Facebook: Part 1

A Facebook Page is a great way for New World filmmakers to connect with their audience. And understanding the tools that Facebook provides (from fan gating to how to use the Facebook Page Admin Panel) are key skills for anyone marketing their film through social media.

In the New World - where online recommendations and shares are rapidly becoming the primary methods for reaching an audience for a microbudget film - filmmakers who insist on putting all their focus into festivals are playing a very high-stakes game - a game that in the last few years has had very few financial winners.

I know, a filmmaker still gets an enormous amount of attention when her film screens at Sundance or Toronto.

And your investors and your mom will be very happy that you've received that attention.

You might even be the one in 10,000 who gets a deal at a prestige festival.

But even if you win that lottery, the deals out of Sundance and Toronto (even for a film with stars) have been so small lately that they rarely pay investors back.

What's a filmmaker to do?

Filmmakers who want to pay back their investors and build a lasting fanbase need to understand how to interact with their core audience on social media - and today that includes a Facebook Page.

In particular, in the New World of microbudget film, understanding how "likes" can become the basis for a guerrilla marketing campaign and how a Facebook Page can be tweaked to increase interactivity and engagement are key skills.

Why are Facebook "likes" important?

When it comes time to monetize your film - you'll need a list of core supporters who will advocate for you - spreading the word about your content on their social graph. The fans who have "liked" your film's Page are the storm troopers of your guerrilla marketing. If you have a strong relationship with a core group of advocates, you can mobilize them when you need them. But building that relationship requires that you first put in the time and effort (e.g., consistently supplying valuable content to your fans).

What kind of content builds a relationship and earns "likes" on Facebook?

Interactivity should be your goal.

It's called SOCIAL media for a reason.

Simply pumping out "Buy My Film" posts won't cut it.

Your Facebook presence must invite interactivity.

The basic level of fan participation is earned by providing content that a user will want to share with their friends. Getting a user to click on a like button (which informs everyone on their social graph that they've "liked" your Page) or a share button may seem like a small step, but it's crucial in building a "viral" campaign for your film.

Is getting a "like" enough?

If you really want to distinguish yourself - how about providing content on your Facebook Page that encourages more interactivity?

For example, could you provide (exclusively to our fans?) a branching video where the user has decisions to make that send the story off in directions that they control (e.g., a choose your own adventure video that appeals to a niche you are trying to reach).

Creating content that engages fans by inviting their input is something every microbudget filmmaker working today should at least consider.

The key to getting "likes" on Facebook is providing content on your Facebook Page that is so useful and/or entertaining that members of a niche audience will be motivated to spread that content to their friends. And content that invites interaction and participation will stand out from all the other content competing for attention online.

Before you can make the kind of content for your Facebook Page that is useful or entertaining to a niche - you've got to identify the niches that your film ultimately wants to reach.

How should filmmakers go about identifying the niches in their audience?

As you begin building your Facebook Page and other social media overtures, you and your PMD should be doing audience research.

The best way to start the "audience profile" process is with a brainstorming session where your best guesses about your core fans are written down. For example, sit down with your PMD and engage in some initial guesswork, proposing the types of people who might become advocates for your film.

Obviously your crew, friends, family and classmates should be listed as your first 4 profiles.

But who else? Who are the hypothetical fans for your film?

Other microbudget filmmakers? OK. That's a 5th profile.

What other kinds of people will be interested in the theme of your film?

Perhaps there are different niches that will relate to the themes of your film in slightly different ways. For example, a documentary about an election might appeal to people who voted for a candidate in the film but it might also appeal to political science teachers. Those are 2 more niches.

Try to get very specific in your audience profile hypotheticals. This is what traditional marketers do (e.g., Nascar Dads, WalMart Moms, Tween Girls, etc.).

Finally, once when you've got a list of different audience profiles, ask three key questions about each potential niche:

1) What are the CHANNELS they use to gather information
2) What are their CONCERNS
3) What KEYWORDS do they use when searching online for information about their concerns.

As you are making your film, your PMD should be reaching out to actual members of your audience (e.g., testing whether your guesses about their concerns are accurate).

Your PMD's duties with respect to social media boil down to this: Your PMD is in charge of building a relationship with each of the niches - and that means curating content for each niche that is expressly designed to create a relationship between members of that niche and you as a filmmaker.

Since each niche will have it's own channels and concerns, your PMD may decide to create a blog for one niche and Facebook page that serves another. For some films, the core audience may primarily use Old School channels, like email, so your PMD will need to figure out how to obtain email lists.

It isn't glamorous, but determining the CHANNELS that each niche uses is the starting point for your initial outreach.

OK. How does a filmmaker use the CONCERNS and KEYWORDS guesses about each niche?

Basically, you'll need to find your niches where they already gather - the CHANNELS - and then introduce yourself into the conversation by providing valuable information.

The goal in the early phases of a social media campaign is not to tell your potential audience about your film. First you need to build a relationship. Your objective, at first, is to provide members of a niche with information that addresses their CONCERNS. So - thinking from your niche's point of view - what kind of posts will appeal to them?

Why are KEYWORDS important?

Using the right KEYWORDS in your posts will increase the likelihood that members of a niche will stumble across your posts as they search for information about their concerns online (the clever use of keywords is a huge part of search engine optimization or SEO).

Once you begin to interact with members of a niche, you can make them aware of your Facebook Page - a place where your core audience can begin to interact with you.

And, once potential fans begin to visit your film's Facebook Page, you should have content there that potential fans of your film will choose to share with their friends - either through "liking" your page (which informs their social graph of your existence) or - better still - through content that they choose to share.

What kind of content gets shared?

I'm NOT talking about a trailer for your film or a traditional ad. People come to social media to interact with their friends and to be informed and entertained without ads. So the worst thing you can do on social media is sell. Instead, you should use social media to build a relationship with potential customers. The strongest social media relationships are based on your ability to relate to the concerns of your fans and friends with valuable information. In creating content for social media, you should not be thinking about selling your movie, you should instead be thinking about what matters to each niche.

Obviously, every niche will have their own ideas about what is valuable (useful or entertaining).

I'm going to assume that all of you will have identified other microbudget filmmakers as a potential niche audience for your film, so I'll conclude this post using that niche as an example:

As filmmakers, we tend to be interested in what our peers are doing. So one type of useful content that you could have on your Facebook Page is tips about microbudget filmmaking. Sharing the best practices you've learned from your own filmmaking process is therefore one proven way to build awareness and loyalty - and it's also a great way to collect information (i.e., likes - which gives you access to your fans) that will be enormously helpful when it comes time to sell your film.

For example, while you are working on your film, consider making short videos about the process. Of course, you can put these videos on YouTube or Vimeo to help build awareness. But, to take advantage of what Facebook offers, I'd recommend that you also offer a custom "Lessons Learned" video behind a fan gate on you Facebook Page. (If making a behind-the-scenes video is more than you want to take on, you can put some other information that would be of interest to your fans behind a fangate - like an excerpt of your script or photos from the set)

In subsequent posts I'll take on the specifics of fan gating and how to use the Facebook Page Admin Panel, but this seems like enough for today.

Happy hunting.

No comments:

Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.