As 2017 winds to a close, I wanted to take some time to evaluate what I’ve learned in the social media space this year, both in my work with independent filmmakers and working for public media.
Between those two endeavors, I have helped to create, test and connect audiences to over 350 short videos made specifically for social media. The vast majority of those were less than one minute in length, included captions burned into each video, and used a paid social approach to ensure that the videos were seen by a highly targeted audience who would be most likely to share them.
Here are the main things I want to share with you as you contemplate your use of social media in 2018:
- Cardinal rule on social: The content you post must be interesting and relevant to motivate a reaction from the viewer. Boring links, boring videos, boring images, boring calls to action that clearly only benefit you WILL BE IGNORED. The videos that performed the best for me were a story in themselves. They weren’t trailers, they weren’t promo videos, they didn’t often include a call to action on the video, and they weren’t random behind the scenes footage. The stories took one main idea and presented it first, then explained the idea, then sometimes ended with a question to encourage people to comment. The more shares and comments the videos received, the more views it got. But why am I mainly talking about videos? Because…
- By 2021, 82% of global internet traffic will be attributed to video. As more and more newsfeeds are filled with short video content, your account will need to compete. You’re a filmmaker so generating quality video content should be easy for you. But remember, 90% of the videos people see in their feeds are watched with the sound off. Better to make a video that is not audio driven, but rather driven by images that can tell a story on its own. Also, remember vertical vs horizontal video and length of run time per platform. One piece of video does not fit all platforms or all devices. As more and more people watch social media videos on their mobile devices, a vertical video fills the screen and is much more captivating.
- Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Live Story for Snapchat, Periscope for Twitter, Youtube Live. Live or near live experiences will continue to proliferate on social. Some of this may be ephemeral content, that lives for only 24 hours. If you have an exciting event happening or you have access to a person with a large following, you should be utilizing live sessions on social media. If you want to see a comparison between Youtube Live and Facebook Live, CLICK HERE.
- Influencer marketing is a thing, but it isn’t free. It is awesome to think that if you tag a celebrity, they will share your tweet, but the real impact comes from those who have an engaged following instead of a vague, large number. Look toward influencers that have a niche following and are more willing to get excited about your project than a tweet from a celeb who has little connection to your project. Another idea could be to utilize influencers as social media content creators for your project. Rather than hoping to access their network, perhaps you can pay them to create for yours. Be advised, the Federal Trade Commission is now cracking down on sponsored posts that do not publicly disclose a paid sponsorship arrangement. It is better to work with companies that specialize in bringing influencers and brands together, like MediaKix Mostly Sunny and Heartbeat as they are usually up to date on the regulations and how to negotiate deals. For an idea on pricing for working with influencers, see this Digiday report.
- While this isn’t news, many filmmakers still haven’t heard the message. You MUST invest in social advertising. You need a monthly budget to spend. Anyone who has tried to build up a following or reach their following on social will know the time of reliable, free, organic reach has passed, and it isn’t going to return since social media platforms have shareholders who want to see revenue. The good news is this allows for smarter advertising spend for a trackable return than publicity or more traditional methods of advertising (posters, postcards, flyers, TV/radio/outdoor/print). While a marketing mix is important and if you can spend to hire a publicist for earned media, and place media buys in as many outlets as possible, then by all means do it. But try tracking that write up in the New York Times or Variety to any kind of monetary return outside of an ego boost or calls from your friends to say they saw it. It is nearly impossible unless you run a survey at the theater or on a digital VOD service. There is so much proof of awareness and actual revenue tied to a digital advertising effort, even over the number of Likes/Retweets/Favorites and “Impressions.” Added bonus for Facebook advertising, you can create Custom Audiences to keep remarketing to those who have shown an interest in your posts rather than spending to hit the disinterested. You’ll just need to install the Facebook pixel on your website, store, Eventbrite etc in order to track properly and accumulate that audience for later targeting. Also, if you are going to be setting a monthly budget, you need to be setting monthly goals for growth. How do you know if what you are doing is working if you don’t measure? I wrote a piece on tracking social media earlier this year.
- Twitter growth is the slowest of all the major social media platforms. If you are building up a big following on Twitter, you may want to quickly branch out. Twitter is great for breaking news stories, but rather sucks for self promotional tweets.
- This year, Facebook introduced Watch and rumor has it that they will start prioritizing shows rather than only short content in their newsfeed. With this knowledge (and the vast audience that Facebook reaches), have you considered turning that feature script into a series instead? A series of content with an ongoing narrative between episodes provides many benefits: increased audience retention, strict production schedule and time management, sponsorship opportunities, and being able to create a loyal community over the long run instead of starting over with each new project. Social media is a great place to ensure distribution of said series. It is also a low cost place to test out plots, characters, flow, audience reactions etc. without having to gather heavy investment for a feature that is untested and has no clear path distribution.
For everyone here at The Film Collaborative, I wish you a happy, creative, industrious, and prosperous new year. Look for members of The Film Collaborative at Sundance 2018 and at many other film festivals and events in the coming year.
Sheri Candler December 17th, 2017