Digital Marketing has completely reshaped the landscape for film distribution and when coupled with increased competition and an endless array of tools at your disposal, it can be quite a daunting task.
Making the movie itself is typically a long and arduous journey, hence why we see more and more filmmakers and producers unprepared (and overwhelmed) when it comes to bringing their film to market. In other cases, it’s a matter of not knowing where to begin and a reliance on ‘traditional’ tactics that simply don’t pay dividends in a crowded digital marketplace.
This all becomes even more complicated with an overwhelming array of media vying for your audience’s attention at every turn… from mobile, to streaming, VOD, theatrical, and beyond. If you are looking to stand out from the crowd and break through the white-noise, there are more accessible tools and platforms at your disposal than ever before – you’ve just got to identify the right mix to achieve your goals.
14 Tips on Film Marketing in the Digital Age
Developing an efficient strategy and marketing toolkit is absolutely crucial for independent filmmakers and distributors to compete with the mega budgets doled out by major studios. Unless you have a vast in-house marketing team at your disposal allocating countless hours and capital to running sophisticated campaigns (been there, done that), you may feel over-matched, but fear not, there is hope!
Instead of the shotgun approach, be surgical in your approach only focusing on the efforts that can maximize results with minimal spend. Utilizing the most popular trends in digital marketing can help you penetrate broad and niche markets while generating incredible audience engagement and actualized ROI (return on investment) for your project.
With several hundred film, TV, and media marketing campaigns under our belt, we’ve curated the following battle-tested tips to help you build, develop, or optimize your project’s go-to-market strategy.
14 Film Marketing tips
1. Know Your audience
Developing a deep understanding of your core audience is absolutely crucial towards embarking on an effective and efficient marketing campaign. When you are limited by time and resources, you can’t afford to waste precious time and money (especially at the forefront) on audiences who are going to be a tough sell – for example, you don’t want to be targeting a rom-com audience with your low-budget horror flick.
Start by identifying your core, who will most likely engage with your film and then work your way outwards. There is no one-size-fits all demo for marketing and you’ll want to create multiple personas based on your objective, platform, and available budget. When you have nearly unlimited options for custom targeting (see Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads) from placement, to demo, to interest-based, and more, you owe it to yourself to dive in head first.
2. compare films
Start with the obvious… Take an honest look at the landscape of films, television, and media that are in close comparison with your project’s tone, style, genre, and even cast. We are all creatures of habit and you can use that to your advantage when building the initial foundation for your targeted audience.
3. listen to social media
Check out the conversations and talking points being exchanged on message boards and social pages from such aforementioned ‘lookalike’ films. This will give you more insight in to the interests and engagement behaviors of your intended demos. What type of posts resonate the most? What type of content compels audiences to take a vested interest in your film – in the best of cases becoming an ambassador for your film via social sharing (aka the digital grapevine).
4. Dive deeper
Beyond film & tv comparables, what other media outlets is your audience interested in? This could include press and editorial sites, interest-based organizations, issue-based causes and much more… These can be easily extrapolated based on some diligent social-listening as well as indexing profile pages from your core audience to determine what engages them beyond the content space. It may feel a bit like stalking at first, but who isn’t guilty of wanting to get to know someone a bit more intimately 😉
5. split test
Once you have identified a slate of audience personas and demos, you’ll want to put them to the test. Deploy some of of your first campaigns by split (A/B) testing the creative, copy, and most importantly the audience groups. Let the analytics help guide and optimize your approach based on which audiences are engaging and converting the best… The more you test, the more effective and efficient your ads will perform. Lower CPC (cost-per-click), higher CTR (click-through-rate) and ultimately more bang for your buck!
6. manage social media
If you believe that films are about bringing people together and sharing ideas then developing a robust (and consistent!) presence on social media can arguably be the single most important ingredient in your marketing strategy. Since it’s cheap and accessible for anyone, it’s often the foundation to a great campaign. You can launch well before your film ever goes in to production and steadily build and nurture an audience with exclusive BTS of your filmmaking journey.
7. create awarenesss
Social media is designed to elevate the experience of entertainment… we watch trailers, connect with our social circles, and then share the cinematic experience – in this case to an audience in the hundreds of millions. At its core, it’s quite simple — connect to your audience and provide compelling content for them to share. If you are fortunate enough to have the support and engagement of your cast, get them on board to help spread the word by creating ‘Social Toolkits’ for them that make sharing and posting a breeze.
Feel like rolling up your sleeves? You can exercise a whole range of growth and engagement efforts through custom content and giveaways (see Woobox), geo-target specific audiences in cities you’ll be screening, and even create ‘lookalike’ audiences that extrapolate the core personas of your audience and help you reach other like-minded cinephiles. The great news for the indie folks is that this reach is just as accessible to you as it is to the big studios. Here’s your chance to win the day with a more hand-on, responsive approach. Savvy independent filmmakers that build up a large social media presence can promote their own films and projects.
Not all indie filmmakers will have an audience of thousands or millions, but even a grassroots marketing campaign can spread like wildfire if the right group catches wind. Social media is a vital part of engaging film-going audiences. The business has always been about who you know and who you can reach, and social media expands your capability to build connections and motivate audiences to watch, buy, or share your film far beyond traditional print & advertising.
10. create content
Think beyond trailers. Yes, they are a core piece of content you’ll use time and again, but what other engaging content can be extrapolated from your film? Think memes, gifs, cinemagraphs, exclusive BTS, etc. Audiences revel in the ability to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the filmmaking journey, so start early by capturing on-set photography, interviews and more. It’ll pay huge dividends in the long-run!
11. collaborate with influencers
When looking to ‘growth-hack’ mass exposure to engaged audiences, consider investing in an influencer strategy. Influencers are your way into the communities (and likely buyers) that you’re not reaching today. The golden-rule to this approach is authenticity and on-brand messaging. Just because an influencer promises you millions of impressions, doesn’t mean it will necessarily resonate with your intended demo. Make sure you partner with an influencer who aligns with your core audience interests and define expectations for how you want your project to be featured and evaluated.
12. grassroots outreach
This can be especially effective for documentaries, garnering free exposure and cross-promotion on social any insider newsletters from aligned organizations and communities. Many of these entities are craving new content and what is sexier than being able to feature an exclusive clip or filmmaker insight from a feature film?!
13. build a website or landing page
This is the central hub for all things (insert your film here). With a diverse array of social platforms and media outlets featuring your film, you’ll want to streamline the engagement funnel and drive traffic to a site you own and operate. The benefits include a better user experience for the consumer, controlled messaging and branding that speaks to your film, and the ability to capture and retarget new leads using tools like Privy or Mailchimp.
14. build a website or landing page
Now you’re capturing all these leads and not quite sure what do with them. From social, to site, to grassroots and beyond… Be prepared to nurture and engage these interested consumers on a regular basis. Email marketing campaigns are an easy and efficient way to round-up a variety of content, press, and key insights to share with your growing audience. Furthermore, it keeps them in the funnel for multiple windows of release from theatrical to VOD to BluRay and leveraging this ever-expanding rolodex will certainly come in handy when you are gearing up to promote your next film 😉