Indie producer and editor Joel Heller ran a great lunch discussion at last month's Distribution U. event in Los Angeles, focused on developing a powerful online outreach strategy. Joel worked on the digital marketing strategy for the excellent doc "Winnebago Man," which premiered at South by Southwest in 2009 and was recently released on DVD and on iTunes.
Joel was nice enough to share the notes from his session, along with a collection of links that'll benefit anyone planning an Internet marketing campaign for a forthcoming film, especially as you think about finding existing sites and communities that are likely to be aligned with your theme — what I call "going where your audience is." (I learned a lot from Joel's notes; who knew it was possible to search people's Facebook walls?)
FINDING GROUPS & DISCUSSION FORUMS
Begin to identify your film's potential "ecosystem" by searching these websites that host groups & discussion forums.
Tip: Keep an open mind when brainstorming groups that might be interested in your film. We discovered late in our release that pit bull owners were interested in WINNEBAGO MAN. The main character has a pit bull, but we didn't think to reach out to pit bull owners until someone asked us for a flyer to promote the film to her local pit bull club. After that, we reached out to pit bull clubs in other cities and offered free tickets to the group leaders to come to see the film on opening night.
Tip: When approaching group leaders to work with you, be prepared with ideas of what your can offer them of value. Can you promote their cause? A joint fundraising screening? A poster giveaway or passes to see the movie?
GOOGLE'S "ALERTS MANAGER"
It's easy to monitor who's talking about your film and what they're saying. Google Alerts can be set up to monitor everything from mainstream newspaper sources to blogs and websites.
Tip: Set up Google Alerts, not only to monitor your movie, but for other recently released movies (with similar genre or subject matter). This will help you identify reviewers, bloggers, websites and groups that might also be interested in your film.
Tip: You can configure Google Alert Manager to deliver the results as an RSS newsfeed. I prefer this to getting a deluge of emails. (You must be signed into your Google account to access the alerts manager) My settings are: Everything / As-It-Happens / All Results / RSS Feed
SEARCHING FACEBOOK WALLS
Facebook allows you to search the wall posts of anyone who has not set up their wall to be private. It's the online equivalent of standing outside a movie theater and listening to how people talk about your movie to their friends.
While Twitter's search function is limited to recent tweets, Google offers a robust historical Twitter search.
Enter your search term, click search, then select on left side: More > Realtime
Tip: Use the the timeline tool in the upper right corner to go back in time.
CAPTURING ONLINE WORD-OF-MOUTH
Row Feeder is a great tool to automatically archive Twitter and FB wall posts. For each search term you choose, Row Feeder will archive every related tweet and wall post, and save it into a Google Docs Spreadsheet.
Tip: If you find yourself addicted to searching Twitter every hour, this is a great way to unplug - and know that you won't miss anything. Google Doc spreadsheets can be shared, so your whole team can privately access the spreadsheet online.
Tip: You can sort the spreadsheet by any field, so for example, you can easily identify Twitter users with the largest number of followers.
WEBSITE REACH & INFLUENCE
With limited time and resources, how do you decide where to focus your online marketing efforts? These tools show you estimated website traffic. (But traffic should not be your only consideration... Most importantly, how good a fit is your film for a website's audience?)
TWITTERER REACH & INFLUENCE
Tools to make sense of who's who on Twitter.
KEYWORD REACH & INFLUENCE
Popular key words and trends can provide a window into how people think - and what they're looking for online. How can you make it easier for them to stumble upon your film?
http://youtube.com Enter search term, click search, then select: Search Options > Upload Date
Tip: You can send a private message to any YouTube user by clicking on their username and then "send message".
ANALYZING YOUR WEBSITE'S TRAFFIC
Google Analytics offers a wealth of data to help you identify how people are using your website, and how they found you.
Tip: Here are the analytics I find most useful:
Visitors > Map Overlay
Visitors broken down by their geographic location. You can drill down by country, state and city.
Content > Top Content
What pages are popular on your site and what is the average time visitors spend on each page?