What the film industry should think about when using social media to reach out to the audience
Does it matter to the film industry what you write on our blog? Can your angry rant reach further than to your regular 25 readers? Do they care when share your love for the movie you watched last night on Twitter or Facebook?
I think they might. At least they have started to take notice. Maybe they haven’t figured out what to make of us yet, but be sure: they’re out there, watching, listening.
Meeting the industry
I saw one example of this recently. Every year the Swedish Film Institute arranges a conference called Malmö Filmdagar, where producers and distributors of movies and other people with a professional interest in film get together for a few days. I’m not quite sure of what they’re doing, but I assume they make deals, watch a lot of movies, smalltalk and exchange business cards.
I don’t think it’s by hazard that the opening seminar this year is dedicate to social media, with the title “The power social media holds over film”. Moderated by the the CEO of the institute, Anna Serner, the panelists will talk about this from various points of view. There’s one director, one journalist and one PR specialist from a marketing bureau. The blogosphere is represented by by Åsa Fiffi Lund who runs the blog Fiffi’s Filmtajm.
What I would say
They’ve announced a few of the questions that will be discussed:
How big influence do bloggers have over film criticism?
How do you best use social media in the launching of a film?
Does the new media landscape hold any threat against our branch of business?
Seeing those questions I started to think about what I would say if I got the chance to speak to the film industry about social media.
What advice would I like to give them? Is there something I would like them to know in how to approach people like me? I also thought about my own role in the world of movies. Why are we doing this in the first place? Could you truthfully claim that the discussions in social media in the long run will contribute to the development of film, that it brings us better movies and helps good movies to find an audience?
A lot of questions have been tossed up in the air and I don’t plan to answer all of them. But here are a couple of thoughts and views that I’d like to share:
1. Social media matter.
It’s enough to look at your kids to see what influences them most in their choices of what clothes to wear, what books to read or what movies to see. They’re much more interested to hear what their friends and role models say about a certain film on their blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts than to follow the advice from some old fart who claims that he’s a professional film critic and hence an expert.
Blogging may be graffiti with punctuation. But written messages on a wall can start a revolution in a country. Don’t underestimate their power.
2. The smaller budget a movie has for traditional marketing and advertising, the more important do social media become for spreading the word and getting it out there.
Speaking for myself there are a lot of independent movies I wouldn’t have considered watching or even heard about it if it hadn’t been for the word of mouth in the blogosphere, on Twitter and on forums. When it comes to a big budget film like The Dark Knight Rises, I don’t think that the 1002nd raving review on my little blog makes any impact at the box office. But the opposite can happen. If there’s a lot of negativity about a certain film flowing through the feeds, I think it will affect the general idea about a film. I don’t think negative reviews from film critics was the only reason why John Carter didn’t make well in the box offices. We bloggers did our share of the work.
3. The unknown blogger of today may be the Roger Ebert of tomorrow.
The borders are dissolving, to the dismay and frustration of some of the established film critics who find it harder and harder to get paid for their job. There are amateur writers out there who do just as well as they do – or better for an audience that can anything from tiny to huge. And you never know: the blogger who has 100 readers can be a future Roger Ebert.
If an unknown blogger approaches you asking you nicely for an interview, don’t just dismiss them thinking they’re insignificant. See it as an investment.
4. Use social media to communicate – not to advertise.
Think of social media as a cocktail party. You don’t go in there talking loudly, bragging and selling yourself without paying any attention to those who are already there and involved in conversations. You sneak in, you listen to what they’re talking about and slowly you’re getting involved.
We want our virtual rooms to be places where we share ideas and meet people, not where we expose ourselves to marketing. That’s what advertising is for. Share something interesting and meaningful with us and engage yourself in discussions and we’ll be happen to listen. You might even be able to sneak in a little bit of marketing once in a while – but you need to earn it.
5. Be nice.
It’s a harsh world out there. If you start looking what people say about you in social media, you won’t have to look for long before you’ll find someone who hates your movie. You need to learn to cope with it. Always, always be nice – even when you’re not treated nicely. The damage you suffer from someone badmouthing your movie is nothing compared to the ridicule you’ll get if you go nuts about it. The rumor will spread instantly, like in a recent example when a Swedish blogger had given a book a bad review. The author took it very badly and started to write sexist comments suggesting that her negativity must be caused by a lack of access to male sex organs. This story is now in the biggest newspaper, spreading negativity around the book as well as the author and the publisher has declared that they never ever want anything to do with this writer again. Never ever put out words in social media in a state of affection. You can’t erase them, ever.
So, who is doing it right then? Are there any examples of people in the film industry who share and discuss rather than just blow their own trumpet? Here are a few that I come to think of.
Top on mind for me are Peter Jackson’s video diaries from the making of The Hobbit. There’s no writing on our noses that this is will be an awesome movie that we need to see. He makes us feel invited to share his world. When you watch those films you feel as if you’re a part of the making of the movie, not just an audience targeted for marketing. They’re so enjoyable that we’ll happily share them with our friends, making them go viral.
It’s a bad idea to hire someone to tweet in your name. We spot it easily and it’s frankly pretty off-putting. You want to sense that there’s a real person behind the handle, someone who feels present. An example of someone who does this is Duncan Jones @ManMadeMoon, the director of Moon and Source Code. He’s sometimes funny, always personal and has a ton of interaction with his followers, throwing out questions, answering to other people’s tweets and re-tweeting his own findings. When you’ve built that kind of relationship with your audience, we’re more willing to accept if sneak in a bit of marketing once in a while. As long as it doesn’t’ take over.
My third example is Sean Hood. He’s a screenwriter who runs a blog and tweets once in a while, but most of all engages in the social platform Quora, where he answers all sorts of questions about movies and screenwriting in particular. It’s popular to talk about the benefits of being transparent, but he does it for real.
What would you say?
And now it’s time to wrap up this post. I’ve have a few more things to say on the topic, but I’ll leave that for another day. I’m looking forward to see how the discussions will run at the seminar. Hopefully we’ll get to hear about it through social media, anything else would be a disappointment.
I’ll give the last word to you. If you were a panelist at a seminar for the film industry and they asked you to talk about the role of social media, what would you say?