Event Recap: Does Anybody Even Go to Websites, and What are Impressions?
Create an effective digital engagement strategy for your film
Curious about how important an online presence is in promoting your film? To keep things short: it plays a significant role! More than just “digital engagement,” a strategic and dynamic online presence can expand your audience and get them out to see your film on the big screen.
As a follow-up to our March 30 event, “Does Anybody Even Go to Websites, and What are Impressions,” this article gathers insights shared by Darcy Heusel, Vice President of Audience Engagement and Impact at NEON, on creating a strategic online presence utilizing websites and social media. In her professional career, Heusel has helped launch national social action campaigns for narrative and documentary projects including The Zookeeper’s Wife, America Divided, and Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next.
When viewers see your trailer or hear about your film, one of the first ‘next steps’ for them is to Google your film. When will it be released in theaters? Who is the director? These answers all need to be presented in one convenient platform. You may be tempted to rely solely on a social media profile like Facebook, but consider launching a website dedicated to the specific film. Read on for guidance from Heusel on creating and utilizing a website.
What information should you include?
Keep your website simple. The goal is to have your audience see the film. Cut out extraneous information that distracts from that goal. Create your website so that it clearly addresses these four questions for your audience:
- How can I learn more?
- When can I see your film?
- Where can I see it?
- What is it about?
In addition, make sure you include contact information, such as an email address, so your audience or the press can connect with you.
Which website platforms should you use?
Assemble.me is a website recommended platform made specifically to showcase a film. An option with a $19 monthly fee, Assemble.me has built-in architecture that allows you to share screenings, a trailer, and press coverage, as well as utilize iTunes or Amazon buttons to sell your film directly from the website.Other recommended platforms include Squarespace, WIX, and VHX. In the worst case scenario, and if allocating money for your website is not in your budget, create a Facebook page. However, be aware that most funders expect your proposed budget to include funds set aside for a more robust digital engagement plan. Considering a real website and allocating approximately $500 – $2,000 to create one is recommended.
When should you launch a website?
Always have a website up for your audience. If you are still in pre-production and do not yet have material to share, create a straightforward webpage where your audience can subscribe to stay up-to-date with the project. That contact information is useful data for you, and will help you start getting your audience engaged and to determine the level of interest you are generating.
Is there a way to track data on your audience?
Google Analytics allows you to track clicks and traffic by providing a code that you can then insert into the back-end of your website.Data that can be collected from Google Analytics includes:
- Types of channels driving the traffic (e.g. did people search for your film organically or did they see it on social media?).
- Pages people choose to view.
- Top sources of website traffic that lead them to your website (e.g., Facebook, Google, Bing).
Assemble.me also has its own built-in capabilities for tracking traffic data.
Matching up the data collected from Google Analytics with the types of actions you took at a particular moment in time helps determine the strengths and weaknesses of your digital engagement plan. For instance, if there was a spike in views after releasing a trailer on Facebook or a lecture event, those may be actions to consider taking again to bring more traffic to your website. To learn more about Google Analytics, click on this link.
Social media and its advertisement tools can be extremely helpful in building your audience and generating excitement related to your project. Before initiating this kind of digital outreach, however, consider the following questions to determine if and how social media can be effective for you:
- Do you have time for it? If you do not have time to invest in social media, it is probably not a good idea. You will not see much of a return.
- Do you need to build your own audience? This decision is unique to each film and filmmaker. Not all films need to build an audience in the same way. If iTunes or an independent distributor is going to release your film, those distribution platforms may already be connected to an audience, and it may not be necessary to build your own.
- Do you want to engage or inform your audience? Engagement may be a strategic move for a film centered around a social issue. For instance, the film Bully asked its audience to contribute to the conversation and share personal experiences, developing a sense of community around the film. Sharing updates on the status of your film can be another important way to keep your audience informed, especially if they have helped with the project or supported it financially. They want to see how your film is developing.
- Do you want to capitalize on key moments such as the release of a film trailer or theatrical? This is useful if you have already begun developing your audience. If not, and if you have a film trailer or theatrical release you would want to share, first consider buying digital ads.
- Is your targeted audience on social media? If they are not, utilizing social media will not reach the audience you want. Read through this Sprout Social article on social media demographics for a more targeted segmentation strategy. Choose 1-3 of these social media platforms and tailor your content accordingly.
Tips to Build an Audience on Facebook
- People may not see your page until you pay for ads. Allocating $200-$300 for ads or to boost your post may make a big difference in finding the followers you need. Facebook gives you the capabilities to target the audience that you want. For instance, you can upload a list of 1,000 people in order to target those specific people. You can also target a specific group. For example, Facebook provides capabilities that target those who ‘like’ The Art Institute of Chicago or other public pages.
- When you use Facebook, prioritize video posts first, pictures second. Visuals capture the most attention.
- Post regularly and be direct in terms of your messaging. Keep each post under two or three sentences. Also, don’t be shy in terms of telling your audience what you want them to do with the post. For instance, if you want them to share it and help you reach 5,000 likes, say so!
- Browse through other films’ Facebook pages and consider what you like about what they are doing and incorporate their strategy into yours. Consider also how you can differentiate yourself from them.
- Utilize analytics provided on Facebook’s back-end, and match your actions with the data to strengthen and understand your digital strategy. Facebook provides data such as:
- Engagements: the total number of times a user interacted with your post, which includes clicks and likes.
- Impressions: the amount of times that your post was displayed. Due to Facebook’s algorithm, it is unlikely that all of your followers will see your post, but as more people engage with it by liking, commenting, or sharing it on their pages, the larger your reach will be.
Darcy Heusel is Vice President of Audience Engagement and Impact at NEON, a new distribution label founded in 2017. She has worked on the acquisitions, distribution, and traditional and social impact marketing for independent films for the last decade. Before joining NEON, Heusel was Senior Vice President of Impact at Picture Motion, a marketing and advocacy firm for social issue films. In this role, she built and executed national social action campaigns for narrative and documentary projects including The Zookeeper’s Wife, America Divided, Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next, FED UP, Fruitvale Station, and American Promise. Prior to Picture Motion, Heusel served as the Director of Programming and Marketing at Constellation.tv and the Director of Acquisitions and Marketing at Screen Media Films.
Heusel’s work in film and media has been driven by a passion for supporting independent films that provide diverse and unique vantage points from which to consider society, ourselves, and the ways in which audience members can make a difference when they’re equally passionate and provided with the tools to effect change.
– Priscilla Son, Program Assistant, Fiscal Sponsorship & Finance
This program was presented by NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship. NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship’s next quarterly no-fee application deadline is June 30, and you can learn more about NYFA’s Fiscal Sponsorship program here. Find more articles on the business side of your practice, visit NYFA’s Business of Art directory.
Image: Flavio Alves (Sponsored Project), The Garden Left Behind