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18 Marketing and Distribution Tactics for Documentary Film Makers

I decided to write this post after meeting a documentary film maker. I was learning from her how the film industry works. I know very little about it, but one thing I do know about is online distribution and marketing tactics, so I decided to put together a compilation of growth tactics that curates the best of Silicon Valley growth workflows for documentary film makers. Here, I assume you have a decent budget in the $10K-$100K area, but even then, some of these tactics are free and can be run for as little as $300.

  1. Choose a Viable Name for your Movie.
  2. Secure the brand – do it manually by hiring an outsourcer or pay KnowEm.
  3. Get everyone who supports the film, starred in the film, and funded the film to join a crewfire campaign before you launch. This increases the total reach on the day of launch and even otherwise. Thunderclap is also a great alternative.
  4. Make sure to have subtitles on all your content and especially for your trailers on facebook. Most videos on facebook are played without audio.
  5. Post your trailers to all the video networks with full descriptions.
    1. vimeo
    2. youtube
    3. dailymotion
    4. etc….
  6. Include plenty of contextual information and links to your site with bit.ly that will enable you to track everything in a clear way. If you observe Vice.com they actually include a really good structuring of links and descriptions in their content.
  7. Cut many different versions of your trailer. The more you cut, the more you can test the content on different social channels. I recommend using SocialChamp and their feature of recurring posts that will periodically repost the same content multiple times.
  8. Facebook Group Marketing
    1. Find all the relevant facebook groups for your niche of documentary video.
    2. Join them.
    3. Have a discussion, don’t be spammy, and ask questions.
      1. Example Text: “How many of you make trips to Lebanon? For the past year, I’ve been making a documentary film about it. I don’t want to spam this group so I’m including a link in the comments to the trailer. I’d love your feedback on it. Happy to be a member of this group. I’m a film-maker, if you think I can help you, please message me or comment here. 🙂 “
  9. Find Relevant People on Twitter to Engage
    1. Use ElectoralHQ.com to search lists on twitter of people who might find your film relevant. Use them to get feedback on your landing page and trailer.
  10. Facebook Page Marketing
    1. Make a list of all the facebook pages that you think your audience of customers like.
    2. Message those facebook pages and ask if you can cross promote their content to your following and vice versa.
    3. You can also message them with your content after it has a few thousand views so that way they’ll be more likely to share it with their audience.
    4. Note: You may want to obfuscate the fact that you’re the creator, cause then they’ll want to charge you for promoting it, whereas if it seems like an organic suggestion, they may just share it automatically.
  11. Recycle Audio into Sound Bytes
    1. Use OmnyStudio.com to cut the audio
    2. Put up the sound bytes and publish them and share them on twitter and facebook.
      1. twitter has rules about playable clips.
  12. Good Artwork
    1. Have good artwork on your facebook and twitter page.
    2. If you have no design background, you can outsource the logo and design to logojoy or Logoshi. 
  13. Good Social Content
    1. You should be pushing 1-2 pieces of content/clips/day for your facebook page. Have a different introduction each day with text. You can queue it all using SocialChamp
    2. On twitter, you should have a pinned post.
    3. Make sure your facebook page profile is completely filled out.
    4. After you publish your movie and it gets featured on different film festivals and more, you should apply to get a verified check from twitter for both your movie and yourself.
    5. You should also apply for the verified check with facebook too.
  14. Press and Content Promotion
    1. Promote any press articles about your documentary to http://quuu.co for cheap.
  15. Message twitter influencers
    1. You can create a free account on ElectoralHQ and find lists of twitter influencers by category/topic just by using the “find twitter lists” functionality.
    2. I recommend coming up with a list of 30-60 tweets that engage influencers and ask if they’d watch the beta, for their opinion on the trailer, or tell them about what you’re doing and ask if their audience might be relevant. … Build a relationship with influencers.
  16. Website Analytics
    1. Get your website analytics configured properly http://bit.ly/fullreferralurl 
    2. The most important thing is to know where customers are visiting from and how much time they’re spending on the site.
  17. Blog Fodder
    1. This one is really important and will save you time. Every new filmmaker has the same conversation over and over again with different people about their film. Write about these conversations and turn them into blog posts.
    2. You don’t have to become a content engine, but there’s probably 5-10 cornerstone foundational key points to your documentary that you want to spread the message about.
  18. Design
    1. As much as people think design matters, it doesn’t for film-making. You can have a barebones design as long as it’s functional. The story you capture is likely 100x more important than the aesthetic quality of the font. You should use Canva to design your facebook and twitter cover photo.

If you need to premarket your film in a kickstarter style fashion, it costs about $15K-$25K to do it properly depending on your needs. If you want to talk about that email me at kumar@engineersf.com or book a time with me at pick.co/kumar.

My background is mostly in running marketing blitzkriegs for Silicon Valley technology companies, but I find creative people refreshing. 🙂

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