As a filmmaker, your audience is your business. Without an audience you have no business. Given the current distribution paradigm shift, YOU are now responsible for sourcing your audience. And while I do not think any filmmaker would disagree that things are changing – the biggest challenge is figuring out how to find success.
While there are both online and offline strategies to market and sell your movie, in my approach to filmmaking, I believe your biggest asset is the internet. By utilizing a few internet marketing tools, you will be able to find out where your potential audience hangs out online.
Here are my top filmmaker marketing tools:
YouTube – All filmmakers need a YouTube channel. And because it only takes a few minutes to set up, I suggest you stop reading this and set one up right now. From there, you should complete a simple search on YouTube for movies similar to your own (for example, Horror Movies). This will provide you with an idea of what other filmmakers are doing to promote their movies.
When doing this research, make a list of SIX of the most popular independent film trailers and also get contact information for the producers of the movie. Later you will reach out to these filmmakers and find out if there are ways you can cross promote. For right now, simply keep the info in a safe place.
Social Media For Filmmakers
Sites like StumbleUpon, Delicious and Twitter can be very effective for your grassroots movie marketing. Since each social media site is a little different, you will want to conduct site-wide searches for your movie related keywords. This will help you find out what your audience is looking for. The following provides a brief overview of the top networking sites and how to utilize them.
StumbleUpon – This is a social bookmarking tool that allows people to share interesting websites with their StumbleUpon networks as well as Facebook, Twitter and email contacts. If someone happens to “stumble upon” your movie website, you have the potential to garner significant traffic! The reason why I am enthusiastic about the site is because our zombie movie got over 100,000 visitors from the service!
But did you know you can actually pay for someone to “stumble upon” your site? It’s true. And it’s awesome. The StumbleUpon paid discovery service allows you to choose from three advertising service tiers. Each tier provides a different level of audience targeting. The first tier starts at a nickel per stumble. But here is where it gets interesting. Unlike other paid advertising solutions, StumbleUpon allows for exponential, unpaid traffic.
To explain, let’s say you want to target someone into horror movies. So you invest a nickel to get that person to “stumble” your website. But then that person shares your site with four of his friends. Guess what? Because your paid stumble resulted in four additional free stumbles, you really only invested one penny per visit (five cents for five visits). Taking this further, let’s say these five stumblers each share your site with one friend. Now you got ten visits for a nickel. That is an investment of merely a half-cent per visit!
Assuming these visitors convert to paying customers, then you may figure out a way to make this simple method very profitable for you. Unfortunately, every movie is different. I initially thought this discovery would provide me with the secret ingredient for selling movies. I have since tested this strategy with other movie websites and so far only a small handful of my test sites resulted in significant traffic. The rest just were not interesting enough to warrant exponential stumbles. But it might be worth testing!
Action: Set up an account at StumbleUpon. Make sure you index your movie website. Then sign up for their advertising program and test the results.
Delicious – My buddy’s teenage son talks about Delicious as if it’s the most important site on the internet. And after doing some research I found out he’s not venturing too far into hyperbole. This social bookmarking site allows users to share their favorite sites across the web. These virtual collections often include videos, pictures, tweets, blog posts, or articles. This means that if someone bookmarks your movie website or trailer, odds are good that that your movie may be discovered by other people.
Action: Visit Delicious and conduct keyword searches. Find out what articles, videos and websites come up. Then reach out to the top influencers.
Google Alerts – Google Alerts is a free service offered by Google that allows you to monitor online conversations related to your industry. For example, one of my Google alerts is “film distribution.” Every Sunday I get an email from Google with links to recent articles focused on film distribution. From these articles, I am able to find out what the movers and shakers in Hollywood are doing. On many occasions, I have been able to reach out to these companies and form relationship.
Action: Set up Google alerts for keywords related to your movie subject matter. Reach out to the influencers and build an online relationship. Find out if there are any ways you can cross promote.
Twitter – By now, I feel really foolish telling filmmakers that they need to participate in Twitter. But if you are serious about filmmaking, you need to get serious about Twitter. The reason is simple. Twitter allows you to connect with your audience through brief conversations. Twitter IS NOT a cheap way to advertise your movie or crowdfunding campaign.
Let me explain. When I first started using Twitter, I thought I could just blast my Twitter followers with my message, and they would knock down walls to buy my filmmaking stuff. I was wrong. The minute you disregard the conversation is the minute you alienate your fans. The thing to remember is ultivating genuine relationships with your audience cannot be forced.
Action: Set up a Twitter account, connect with me and then start having a conversation with your prospective audience.
While some of these tactics are new for filmmakers, building a strong online presence will help you succeed with all future movie projects. And in the event that you get confused about what to do, repeat after me: “My audience is my business. Without an audience, I have no movie business…”
If you like filmmaking for your audience, you’ll love some of my more advanced filmmaking guides.