Improve Your Social Media Marketing
If you're a microbudget or low budget filmmaker, getting your core audience (even if it starts with just a few true fans) to share information about your independent film via social media is key.
Social media marketing is cheap and it can be highly effective. But too many independent filmmakers fail to understand how an effective social media marketing campaign works.
Gifts are Key in Social Media Marketing
Simply "pushing" out a message via Facebook or Twitter (e.g., "please buy my movie" or "please like my film's page") won't work. The goal with social media marketing is to offer your core fans a gift - something that they will want to share via Facebook or Twitter - not because they feel obligated but because the link leads to something that their friends will really appreciate and enjoy.
That's why many filmmakers are blogging or tweeting helpful information about the process of making a movie (especially tips about low budget or microbudget filmmaking). They hope that their existing (small circle of?) fans, friends and followers will share these useful tips to their fans, friends and followers, and so on.
For independent filmmakers who are just starting, your initial audience may be very small: But it's important to appreciate who they are and what they are likely to share online with their friends. For example, a large percentage of a low budget or microbudget filmmaker's fans, friends and followers are probably people who are also passionate about low budget movies or microbudget filmmaking. Maybe a filmmaker has also become friends with a few people who share an interest in the theme or message of her film. The trick is to think about your work and your existing friends and then to share content via social media that your current friends will in turn really want to share.
Even if you're starting with a very short list of online friends, for an effective social media marketing campaign, you need to consider what your target audience cares about and then create content that they will appreciate and want to share with their fans, friends and followers. If you give your fans, friends and followers an experience that they want to tell their friends about, your fanbase will grow.
Viral is a Misnomer
This kind of information spread - where a few friends tell their friends who tell their friends in an expanding network - can really increase awareness of a filmmaker and her film. It's often called "viral marketing." That's probably a misnomer. Viruses are spread involuntarily and nobody really wants to get a virus. The key to effective social media marketing is to make any content that you want to be shared so desirable and useful (i.e., like a great gift) that people in your target audience actually want to share it. That's why I don't call it "viral marketing." I call it social media marketing ("targeted-online-information-that-feels-like-a-gift-marketing" is even more accurate - but kinda unwieldy).
Search Engines and Web Visibility
So now that we understand the kind of content we want to create to start a social media marketing campaign - how do we get one started for your film?
In addition to posting useful information on a blog and providing links to that post on a Facebook page or Twitter profile, are their ways to create content that search engines will find? In other words, are there ways to improve the chances of your website showing up when strangers are searching online for information?
These topics (search engines and search engine optimization or SEO) keep an army of seo consultants and seo companies employed around the clock. The tricks for gaming search engines are constantly evolving - and the big search companies - like Google - spend millions to keep improving their search engines - to defeat people trying to game the system (so called "black hat seo") and to increase the usefulness of their searches.
The latest trend in SEO is away from the hidden keywords (the so called metadata). Hidden keywords - embedded in the behind-the-scenes HTML - are still hugely important for image search. But the big search companies no longer rely on hidden keywords as a primary tool for text search. Instead, the actual text of the post and how many people are using it (e.g., number of inbound links) - and whether other users (e.g., people in the searcher's social network or geographically near the searcher) have found the information useful - are becoming increasingly important to search engines.
Social media campaigns - for example a series of blogposts that a filmmaker makes about her movie or the process of filmmaking - that travel effectively through a social network - are actually an increasingly important way for search engines to find and recommend content.
Writing Text for Social Media That Will Increase Your Web Visibility
There are a few simple tools that can really improve your web visibility.
Inboundwriter.com and formstack.com are two powerful tools for improving your online impact. With these two online services, you don't need to hire an seo consultant or seo company to improve your internet marketing.
It may be hard to believe, but the difference between a search engine optimization strategy that works for your microbudget film, and one that fails - may be as simple as using a (free or cheap) online tool when you're writing a blogpost or building a landing page.
Inboundwriter.com helps you to find out what interests your audience - specifically what words or phrases they are using in their online searches and when they share. If you're engaged in social media marketing - a tool like inboundwriter can really increase your web visibility. Inboundwriter will help you to structure your online content (like this blogpost) to increase reach and engagement.
Formstack.com lets you add secure epayment to your website - so you can sell your film or take donations without a complicated ecommerce platform. Formstack can also help you to create a landing page - so that your social media campaign leads to a webpage that maximizes your return on investment (e.g., how much return you get for the time and money you've put into making your independent movie and its marketing).
Here's the really good news, both inboundwriter.com and formstack.com offer free introductory versions.
UPDATE: December 31st, 2012 On Dec. 21st, 2012 Bill Slawski and Will Critchlow published a post about SEO that goes into much more detail about how SEO professionals approach their jobs - including specific tips that might help filmmakers.
Randy Finch's Film Blog:
Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.