by Ben Rapson
At its core, film promotion is like film production: the art is what’s important, but it all comes down to time and money. Success depends on how well we can use every minute of our work and every dollar of our budget. At Thin Pig Media, we know this kind of hustle well. So when we met the filmmakers behind SADIE, we jumped at the chance to join their creative distribution team.
Social media offers myriad techniques for finding new audiences and driving website clicks. In fact we keep learning new ones every day. But let’s face it: they all require either our attention, our resources, or both. It’s imperative that we discover all the best techniques and then prioritize them.
That’s why we chose to focus our social efforts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And it’s also why our action plan is based on a master calendar with a constantly shifting task list. You could say we have that in common with film production as well: lots and lots of spreadsheets.
We’re right smack in the middle of our marketing campaign for SADIE, but already we’ve seen immense growth in our fans, followers, impressions (below), reach, engagement, website clicks, and video views. So what are we learning?
Content is Still Crucial
Content is how we refer to the photos, videos, copywriting and links that eventually get whittled down into a social media post. And the reason we say ‘content is crucial’ is that bad content goes nowhere. The people we’re trying to reach need to see things they care about, and it won’t work to simply share the official poster again and again. In other words, the “how” of what we post online will never be as important as the “what” and “why.”
From the beginning of our collaboration with SADIE’s team, we knew we had hit the content jackpot. They came to the table with ten behind-the-scenes videos featuring their cast, composer, and the powerful themes of the film. In addition, they gave us branding assets, dozens of print quality stills from the movie, behind-the-scenes photos, links to their positive early reviews, and a calendar of all their film festival appearances. As clients go, they’re a dream.
Of course the filmmakers weren’t alone in the content creation process. Distribution Strategist Mia Bruno and Academic Consultant Anna Feder have worked hard to book theatrical & academic screenings and worked with SADIE's intern Bobbin Ramsey to connect with organizations whose missions are aligned with the film's themes, giving us frequent, relevant updates to share with our growing fan base. Adam Kersh and his team at Brigade are helping the film garner reviews from news outlets and bloggers. And the SADIE team worked with an editor to deliver a top notch trailer, which has become the primary content piece for growing our audience.
Organic (Unpaid) Growth
Yes, social media has transformed in recent years into a pay-to-play advertising market. But we don’t overlook the free methods and tools that each social channel offers. There are dozens of ways to establish and grow our brand that don’t cost a dime—they only cost our time.
The most obvious example is posting publicly. We have enough good content that we can post about SADIE multiple times every day on all our channels. This way, as our audience grows, we’re giving them consistent news and info to get them more interested in the movie. Certain types of content work better on each channel, whether it’s longer stories and videos on Facebook, bite size moments on Instagram, or articles and GIFs on Twitter.
Beyond that, we Like and Share the Facebook posts of media outlets and organizations that are related to the themes of the film. On Twitter, we Retweet good content about women in film, gun violence, and the opioid crisis. We find indie film influencers to engage with. On Instagram, we can scour hashtags to diversify the kinds of users we target, and build our brand by sharing things we like onto our IG Stories. And on all three channels, we manually mine for new fans and followers. It can be a rabbit hole, so again, it’s important to prioritize the methods and tasks that show us the best results.
Of course, the best free way to get our content into more users’ feeds is to have it shared by others—especially the well-known members of our cast. We’re lucky to have co-stars that are recognizable from popular shows like Orange Is The New Black and Arrested Development. Since their audiences are much larger than ours, our numbers spike whenever they post about us or share our content. Sometimes it really is about who you know.
Advertised (Paid) Growth
For all the groaning about advertising being necessary on social media, we have to admit that there are some extremely effective tools available on each network. Facebook and Instagram Advertising allow for robust targeting and many visual options. Twitter is great at seamlessly integrating brand Tweets into users’ feeds to avoid annoyance. After surveying the field of choices, we organized our campaign into three phases:
Building Our Audience
Prospecting for Website Clicks
Retargeting for Purchases
To build our audience, we used Page Likes ads and post “Boosts” on Facebook, as well as Post Engagement ads on Instagram. We used geo-targeting to limit our reach to those cities where the film would be screening theatrically. We also zoomed in on users with interests like ‘independent film’ and ‘Cannes Film Festival’, because we knew that our movie would appeal to lovers of films that strike the heart and challenge the mind. We also ran a few A/B campaigns to test our content with military families and school safety activists.
As our fans and followers continue increasing, we’ve started running Prospecting campaigns, which deliver the SADIE trailer to our newest target audiences. Facebook’s technology is so effective that our trailers on Facebook and Instagram are being seen at a mere $0.02 per 10-second view. These ‘video views’ ads also include a Get Showtimes button that drives website clicks to SADIE’s Upcoming Screenings webpage.
Lastly we retarget. Retargeting is when we serve our ads to people who have already seen our content or visited our website. Using Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool, we retarget our most engaged users with a stronger call-to-action about buying tickets ASAP. What’s more, Facebook allows us to create Lookalike Audiences, which give us lists of new users who are most similar to the people that have watched our trailer.
OUR BOTTOM LINE
After all this wonky internet speak, it still comes down to this: our effort on social media is only one arm of a larger Creative Distribution strategy. Every member of our team is working their butt off, doing what they specifically excel at. There are movie lovers out there looking for the powerful and gripping cinematic experience that SADIE promises. Our whole team depends on one another to find those people who are already looking for us.
Speaking of, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and at our website. And join our newsletter list to have the news delivered right to your inbox! Thanks for taking this journey with us!