Social media is everywhere and I’ll let you decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. However, as a free marketing tool, it’s fantastic.
Traditional marketing involves having posters everywhere (on the sides of buses, at train stations, and drowning YouTube audiences with 30 second ads). So what can you do if you don’t have a million dollar marketing budget, and you know your audience doesn’t just arrive at your content?
By using social media to market your content you get the best of both worlds: a wide audience, a deep audience and it’s a whole lot cheaper. We’re going to come back to wide and deep audiences in a second, but first let’s take a deeper look at both marketing methods.
|Pros of traditional||Cons of traditional|
|Reach a wide audience||Doesn’t get a deep audience|
|Visually more impactful||Highly expensive|
|Pros of social media||Cons of social media|
|Can reach wide and deep||Can get lost in the mix|
|More cost-effective||Less impactful/memorable|
Wide vs Deep
Content that has a wide audience means it appeals to a wide variety of people – it might span the 16-19 audience all the way up to the 36-45 audience. YouTube videos often have a wide audience because their content appeals to plenty of people. Some films will have a wide audience too – like family oriented films. Inside Out has a wide audience because even though it’s an under 16 film, the themes are mature enough for every other audience to enjoy.
A deep audience is heavily invested in the content and have a deep understanding and appreciation of it. Although a deep audience will be smaller that a wide one, a deep audience can be more useful to capitalise on. Being invested in one piece of content means they will be more likely to support the next piece of content, and the next.
How to use social media to promote your content
Firstly, start using it way before you have something to promote. We all dislike self-promotion because underneath the ‘this amazing script…’ and the ‘we had an amazing time making this’ reads a self-serving ‘we need you to watch this’.
No one likes being told what to do, nor do we appreciate people who only seem to care about their own things. H&M don’t persuade you to buy that pair of jeans that you probably don’t need by saying, ‘we worked super-hard on this’. They sell it to you. They don’t try and make you go to them.
The reason you go to H&M (or wherever you go) is because they have a consistent presence and make offers. They don’t tell you what to do. Instead, they exist on multiple platforms and stay relevant to their consumers. They’re not pushing you, they’re serving you.
Now compare that with that person who only posts on Instagram when he’s on a cool holiday or he’s just finished making a short film. Inconsistent and reads as self-serving. You don’t become invested in their content. There’s nothing in it for you, so you scroll past it. This is everything you’re not going to do.
Establish yourself on social media, regardless of where your project is at. Establish who you are as a person, then back it up with regular posts. People want to see a person, not a personality. Be honest. Don’t be that guy constantly posting photos from his Bahamas holiday two years ago. Make something interesting out of the everyday.
Where to get started
All of my VIP clients has told me that they don’t know where to get started. Every single one. Even people I get chatting to at screenings or events, or even in the supermarket say the same thing. They don’t know where to start.
It’s a big (online) world and it’s overwhelming thinking about all the things you think you have to get done to make an impact. But I’m here to tell you: you have to do all the things. You have to take up space, and you have to get used to doing that. It doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming though, and you have to stick to the strategy so you’re not wasting your time.
Instagram and Facebook
I always start with Instagram. In a content-driven world, Instagram let’s you showcase that in the best way. Luckily, when you get a business account on Instagram (here’s why you need one) it will create a Facebook page for you. This also means that whenever you post to Instagram, you can also post that to Facebook. Repurposing content is a great way to minimise the amount of work and time you have to spend on socials, and this is one of the easiest ways.
There’s some debate about how often you should post on Instagram. Some suggestions include up to three times per day, but I disagree. Don’t bombard your audience, it’ll push them further away. In order to get them invested in your content, make sure there is always a meaning to it. And if you’re posting three times a day, it’s likely that it won’t be nearly as meaningful as posting three times per week.
You can then automate your posting and schedule it in advance. This is a no-brainer because you know you’ll never forget to post, and you’ll be able to post at the best times for your audience even if you’re busy. I use Planoly, but there are plenty of options out there.
These platforms will allow you to reach a wide audience (there are billions of users on both) and if you’re posting consistently you will cultivate a deep audience too. Are there people who’s stories you always watch because you really enjoy them? That’s the deep audience I’m talking about.
And that’s Facebook and Instagram off to a great start already. (See, no feelings of overwhelm here)
Instagram and Facebook can serve as the cornerstones of your online presence, but they shouldn’t be the only things you use. Twitter is hugely popular with filmmakers and production companies of all levels. It’s also a little more personal – there’s less of a front than there is on Instagram.
Twitter is also a lot less hassle – no taking pictures, editing, hashtagging or captioning. But this doesn’t mean you can take it easy. Having a solid strategy and consistent posting is vital here, and Twitter can end up being hard work because of the amount of interactions you have to manage.
Setting up Twitter isn’t overwhelming once you’ve broken it down. Use Canva to create a header photo if you want a professional look, get a profile picture and include all the relevant info in your bio. Then start tweeting. Let people know who you are and what you’re working on. Be honest and open with it – it’s not a sales pitch.
Find people in your industry and your niche to follow, and start engaging with them. I’m not talking about spamming them with constant questions or direct messages, you don’t have to be so forceful with it.
Twitter can also reach a wide audience, but it can take a lot longer to cultivate a deep one. Consistency is the key word here.
Snapchat is also useful, but it’s taken a nosedive since Instagram and Messenger stories were introduced (and Kylie Jenner tweeted about not using it). If you’re making content for the 16-19 market or 18-25 market then it’s something to consider.
YouTube is an amazing platform, and don’t worry about getting lost in the mix. It will be the most amount of work, so to keep the workload and overwhelm at bay, set up Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and get comfortable with them before jumping into YouTube.
Marketing your content
So how do you inplement all this information to get your content out there? First of all, DO NOT SKIP the part of creating a consistent posting schedule. Post regularly, and post meaningful content.
Engage with your audience. Talk about what you’re working on regularly, in an honest way. There’s no need to sugarcoat it or make out like ‘this is the most amazing thing ever’! Don’t post five photos in one go and expect your audience to actively engage with every single one. They’ll just get sick of it. Dripfeed the whole project to your audience.
Focus on the long-game. The reason why people post five photos in one go? They realise they have these photos, get overexcited and don’t think about the long game. Those five photos can last you ten days. Don’t waste ten days of content in one afternoon. You need to have consistent content, don’t let yourself get overexcited.
Create a hashtag for your content. If you’re making a short film, the hashtag might be the name of your film. When we were sharing content about the short ‘Foxhole’ we went for #foxholefilm. This meant we reached the short film audience, and there was also some majorly weird stuff for just #foxhole. Do your research people!
Use that tag on all platforms, for every piece of content you post that relates to it. Get your cast and crew using the hashtag on every little thing that relates to the film. Having numerous people using that tag will make it more popular and more likely to be seen by other filmmakers, distributors and festivals.
What should I let the cast and crew post?
Good question. I know it’s popular to have cast and crew agree to not post anything relating to the film and wait until you’ve got all your stills approved and ready. But that’s a missed opportunity.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media. It’s easy to think that if you can control every post online that’s about your content you will cultivate the perfect image for your project. Sure, you might, but you’ll need a ridiculous number of perfect stills photos to keep the publicity level up, and realistically that won’t happen. Secondly, your crew probably won’t be interested in posting a perfectly edited photo of one of the cast members, because it’s nothing to do with them. So they just don’t post. And you’ve lost a contributor to your hashtag. It is much more important to have a lot of people making a buzz online than it is to have no imperfect photos.
So I always want my crew taking photos of the shoot, themselves, anything they feel makes a good photo that they want to keep. Obviously if one of your characters gets murdered then you don’t want to be posting that online, but it depends on your content. Sometimes you’ll need everyone to know that they can’t post x, y or z because it’ll be a spoilers, but sometimes it’s completely fine.
Do I need an expensive camera?
No. There are people making feature films on their iPhones, you don’t need to spend £400+ on a camera when you can be using the money on getting your content out there!
Hiring a stills photographer is like the best of both worlds. You can take all your own pictures (as can the cast and crew), but you can then get the photographer to take beautiful high-quality photos you can use for everything – social media, posters, official website photos.
How to manage your social media and market content:
- Set up all social media platforms
Start with a business account on Instagram, a Facebook page and Twitter. Analyse your audience to deciding whether you need Snapchat.
- Create a posting schedule
Mark the dates in your calendar so you know when you’re posting, and you don’t have any gaps when you’re not nurturing your audience.
- Download Planoly
This is the best way of creating a posting schedule. The free app lets you plan all of your Instagram content in advance. You can see how your photos look next to each other, schedule them and let the app post automatically for you.
- Create a hashtag
Research this beforehand – make sure no one else is using it. Then use it on every piece of content you share, and make sure your whole team knows about it and uses it.
- Engage with your audience
Find people in your industry and niche and engage with their content. Leave meaningful comments or replies and activiely show an interest in their work. Remember that it’s not a race or a competition. Supporting other content creators is the best way to improve the industry.
Start making your films
Or just stick with the never-ending freelance jobs