A Guerrilla Marketing Plan For Releasing A Short Film Online: How to Build Awareness For Your Filmmaking By Using Social Media

The Thomas Beale Cipher from Andrew S Allen on Vimeo.

If you want to launch a career as a filmmaker in the 21st century, understanding social media marketing is a key skill.

In a March 23rd, 2011 post, filmmaker Andrew Allen describes how he and partner Jason Sondhi used social media and guerrilla marketing tactics to build awareness around their short film, The Thomas Beale Cipher.

After a successful 8 month festival run, the filmmakers still didn't have the level of attention from traditional distributors and Hollywood that they wanted. They decided a DIY campaign online was their next best option. And they knew they needed a plan that involved more than posting the video online and hoping.

They started with Vimeo: "It has a stronger filmmaking community than YouTube which may hit more viewers, but Vimeo will attract the right viewers—those more likely to pass it on to others."

Then they harnessed the social media reach of their core supporters - starting with their crew: "Make sure everyone associated with the film knows the plan, and shares it with their social networks. With even 8-10 people sharing on Twitter and Facebook (even if no one individually is Mr. Popular) its not hard to get over 1000 impressions which can be enough to reach a critical mass."

The next step was to reach out to influencers: "We launched the film on Monday morning and continued to promote it all week. We started with what we felt was the film’s strongest asset — the visual aesthetic — and began by targeting the people we knew — Motionographer, Vimeo Staff Picks, and a few dozen others. Beaming from that initial success, we continued to ask ourselves, “what is interesting about the film and to whom might we target it to?” We approached different technology blogs and earned mentions on Gizmodo, BoingBoing, and others. As more took notice, I began to take interviews with larger publishers like Fast Company and Wired. Here’s the rundown of who took notice when and how it affected the numbers:

Monday 24th, 12AM: Posted the film on Vimeo
Monday 24th, 12noon: Motionographer, Vimeo Staff Picks
Wednesday 26th: BoingBoing, Gizmodo, MetaFilter
Thursday 27th: The Daily What
Friday 28th: Fast Co. Interview, Fubiz
Next Monday 31st: Wired article"

Eventually their $0 guerrilla marketing campaign outstripped everything accomplished in their (much more expensive) festival campaign: "170,000 views on Vimeo, 1300+ blog reviews/mentions, Shared over 5000 times on Facebook, 2000 Tweets, and +500 Facebook fans." They even started getting calls from Hollywood.

Andrew Allen's conclusion?

"The extended, year-long festival run doesn’t make sense to me anymore. Medium and smaller festivals just can’t compete with the reach and impact of what you can do online. Next time I’ll keep the entrance fee money and put it toward online marketing. I’ve come to think of a festival run as more of a preview screening — a fun experience with a large audience to share with your cast & crew. The wide release — where a short film can make its biggest impact—happens online."

Thanks to filmmaker and online educator Peter D. Marshall for the link.

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