Whether you spend all day mesmerized by a glowing screen or would rather chuck your smartphone off of a cliff, social media is here to stay – and it’s an essential tool for modern filmmakers. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat offer not just a way to promote yourself and your work, but also an opportunity to participate in the greater filmmaking community, connect with your audience, and find potential creative or business partners. Sure, social media can be a real time drain, but when it’s used effectively, it can actually help you build meaningful connections. Here are some tips to help you harness the power of social media for good.
ASSESS YOUR NEEDS
It’s important to assess the tools you’re already using, the tools you might like to use, and your overall goals for digital media use. Here are some questions to ask as you begin this process:
- What platforms are you already using and how are they performing? Take an inventory of which social media sites you already use and which ones typically offer the most “return on investment” – i.e., where do you see the most engagement per post? Are there certain types of posts (videos, images, humor) that seem to garner more responses? Are there certain times of day that churn up the most interest? You can take a simple measure by looking at follower counts and “likes,” but to gain a more accurate read, consider using tools like Facebook Audience Insights (if you manage a Page), Google Analytics, and Sprout Social to track more detailed statistics.
- What platforms might you want to explore? Ask friends and colleagues which ones they’re enjoying, and which seem to offer the highest level of audience engagement. Compile a list of platforms that you’re interested in, then spend some time exploring each to determine if you want to invest energy into developing a presence. Remember that it’s not necessary – or even advisable – to use them all. Pick and choose what works best for the kind of content you want to share and what will help you work toward your goals.
- Speaking of – what is your goal? Think carefully about what you want to achieve with your social media strategy. Are you looking to build an audience from scratch, or nurture one that already exists? Are you interested in finding collaborators and funders? Do you simply want to keep up-to-date on film festival submissions and industry news? Do you want to promote a single project, or share your ongoing body of work? Let this guide your platform choice and overall strategy.
DEVELOP A STRATEGY
Once you’ve answered the questions above, it’s time to think more critically about an allover social media strategy. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Time and energy: Be realistic about how much time you really want to spend in front of the screen. For some people, devoting attention to a single social media platform is all they can (or want to) manage; for others, juggling several pays off in a multitude of ways. Come up with what feels like a realistic schedule, or block off a manageable chunk of time every week to devote to your social media presence – but do devote some time to it. As with anything else, the more you put in, the more you get out.
- Voice: Consider adopting a unified voice across your social media channels. On one hand, this might mean posting similar items (or even the same items) on various platforms; it can also mean simply maintaining your personal “brand” from one site to the next. Some people are skilled at one-liners; others enjoy waxing philosophical; whatever your personal message or voice happens to be, it should remain consistent across all of your channels – and it should be 110% authentically you.
- Content: Decide what kinds of content you’d like to share via social media: writing, photos, videos, etc. While it’s great to share original content, it does require an extra time investment; a mix of vlogs, writing, and photos can keep things fresh and allow you to present the same kinds of information in a variety of ways.
- Limitations: Understand not only the advantages of each platform, but also their limitations, especially if you’re using a professional or “business” account. Organic reach has all but dwindled for Facebook Pages over the years (unless you drop some money on advertising with them), while other platforms like Twitter and Snapchat offer a much higher engagement rate.
MANAGE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA
You’ve assessed your needs, decided which platforms to use, and have a general idea of your goals, voice, and time commitment – now it’s time to get down to business! Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind no matter which platforms you’re using:
- Consistency is important: The key to building an audience and making meaningful connections is consistency – in your voice, as well as in your frequency of posts and interactions. Whether you decide to post once a day or twice a week, it’s important to pick a schedule and stick to it (at least as far as posting original content goes).
- Use productivity tools: One of the best ways to ensure consistency of social media use is to plan your main posts ahead of time by using productivity tools like HootSuite, Sprout Social, and the Facebook Pages scheduling tool. Even though these programs help automate your posts, you’ll still want to ensure the outcome feels organic. Check to see that photos display properly in post previews, and consider varying your content, even slightly, between different platforms, so it doesn’t feel like you’re simply regurgitating the same thing across the board.
- Participate in community: The “social” in social media? That’s where community comes in, and it’s what moves these platforms beyond static PR tools. Community takes a lot of forms – Facebook groups, Twitter chats, even Instagram “pods,” where you commit to interacting with a group of users over time to help boost one another’s profile and reach. Use hashtags to help people connect with your content, or to find discussions and topics you want to explore. Tag people and companies that you want to engage with, and leave comments to participate in discussion.
- Share your work – but go beyond: Social media offers a multitude of ways to share your work – from posting trailers to sharing behind-the-scenes vlogs. You can consider it a form of mini storytelling – and, of course, a form of PR. On that note, remember to mix things up – while you’ll draw an audience for your voice and your work, you also want to use your platform to elevate others when possible – retweets and shares go a long, long way to building relationships and community.
top photo by Jamie Street