Social media is not rocket science, but it takes time to build a broad, dynamic, engaged community. Attracting the right audience takes patience, tenacity and a whole lot of authenticity.
Photo courtesy Jason Howie, Creative Commons
Community building and awareness are the key tenets of any marketing plan -- and if you're crowdfunding, that means social media should represent a healthy percentage of your efforts. If you want your voice on social networks to have an impact, the work can be time-intensive. But the rewards are many: ad budgets aside, the platforms are still free (snazzy websites are not), and if you play your cards right, you can expand your reach beyond friends and family, connecting with the right affinity groups, dedicated film fans, and perhaps, that very special donor (or 100).
Because platforms change constantly, no one knows everything about social media. But I've spent the last six years digging in and figuring out best practices, working with film festivals and individual film clients. Being a curious and often fearless person means that I've learned best by doing, and so can you.
As old platforms change and new ones emerge, strategies evolve and adapt. For that reason, the Seed & Spark Social Media Handbook has been updated for 2014. We hope you'll read through the whole thing, but in the meantime, here are 11 things to keep in mind:
1. Create a voice. Decide on a personality for your social media, similar to the tone of your film. Is it serious? Comedic? Irreverent? No matter what it is, you want the voice to be informative, insightful, smart, and feedback-friendly. And -- this is important -- snark-free.
2. Pick a handle. Whenever possible, keep the account names consistent across platforms. (It's best to use the movie title without spaces.) If your title is a common phrase, you can add Film or Movie to the end (ex: @LincolnMovie).
3. Fish where the fish are. You may be dazzled by Vimeo's shiny optics, but YouTube is still the second-largest search engine behind Google. You can't afford to ignore it. (And use Vimeo for sharing amongst the production team.)
4. If you want the guppies, know where to look. Films are gaining traction on Instagram, which is an ideal place to connect with a younger audience. On the flip side, if you know your fans will not be found on Twitter, don't bother.
5. It takes a village. How many friends do you have on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Factoring in your production team -- director, producer, cast, DP, editor, sound mixer, etc. -- your community should start with your already-established social circle. Tell them you expect them to share and promote with friends and family, and give them clear instructions on how to do so.
6. Keep it fresh. If you create an account and tell people about it, you have to keep it updated, even if it's only once or twice a week. Think about the assets you have to work with, and space them out accordingly.
7. Don't spread yourself too thin. Being ambitious is fine, but start small and grow. Make sure you have the bandwidth to cover your bases. If you need to delegate to someone (you trust) on your team, be explicit about expectations. There are also specialists you can hire, if you have the budget. (Good ones can work with you to keep the voice authentic.)
8. Sometimes you have to pay to play. For a small but well-allocated ad budget, and just the right keywords, you can reach new audiences through advertising. Strategically boosting selected posts (even for just $5) can increase your visibility when you need it most.
9. Don't get greedy. Don't be bamboozled by how cheap and easy it can be to attract fans in other countries; some regions are known as "click farms" for a reason. Instead, spend your money on an authentic audience that makes sense for you; 100 real fans > 1000 fake ones who will never buy your movie. Slow and steady wins the race.
10. Stay focused. Create an editorial calendar to organize and plot your attack. Google Docs can be an ideal way to monitor key dates, schedule posts, track your goals and communicate with your team.
(Sample doc: http://bit.ly/SampleCalendar)
And you're off and running... Follow these steps -- and be creative! add your own! -- on your way to a successful campaign. Good luck.
Note: A version of this article first appeared on SeedandSpark.com, a film site that offers a unique crowdfunding platform for those interested in fair trade filmmaking.
Follow Kristin McCracken on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kmc1213