Friday, September 25, 2009

Viral Marketing for Filmmakers

GEORGIA BIG PICTURE CONFERENCE PRESENTS: Get Online! Viral & E-Marketing for Filmmakers & Creative Artists

by Amani Channel


Amani Channel is the founder of Visual Eye Media, and the vlog MyUrbanReport. He is a veteran broadcast journalist and a social media professional. In addition, Channel is a Telly award-winning writer and producer. He's appeared on Fox News Channel, CNN, and has been a featured guest commentator on NPR. He is often asked to present at conferences, guest lecture at universities, lead panel discussions, and training sessions about journalism, new media, and video production. He is available for media interviews, he can emcee, or speak at your next event. Call (404) 213-2121 for availability and booking. Twitter @urbanreporter @visualeyemedia

Workshop Outline


Viral Video Overview
Social Media 101
Video on the Web
Viral Videos
Utilizing Social Networks
Open Discussion

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about how social media and digital marketing can be integrated into your film production and publicity process.

Viral marketing and social media are buzzwords these days, but it takes influence, time, experience, creativity, a strong network, and sometimes luck to develop as strong following and yield the desired results.

Over the next four hours or so, you'll learn some basic and intermediate techniques that will enable you to leverage social networking to promote, market, and hopefully monetize your content.

I don't claim to have all the answers.
I'm assuming that you all have information to share that will advance this conversation.
This should be an interactive conversation.

First a little about me:

Started my video blog & posting video the web in 2006 (created and posted my first vlog on Nov 3).

Original Site:


Using my documentary "My Boys" to raise money for the March of Dimes
Travel the country speaking, training, and teaching digital media; produce award-winning videos
Personal branding - Video production jobs
iReport featured on CNN & Headline News
BET's Hot Ghetto Mess purchased a clip for TV Show
Featured as a guest commentator on NPR


What examples come to mind when I say the word viral video?

Happy World Dance 23.5 millon + views

Wedding Thriller Dance 10.5 million views

Will It Blend? Iphone 7-Million + views

Viral Marketing for Film
Blair Witch

Popular Web Video Series
Happy Slip
#24 - Most Subscribed (All Time)
#7 - Most Subscribed (All Time) - Directors
#22 - Most Subscribed (All Time) - Partners

Can You Make Money???
YouTube Video Pulls in Real Money

Social Media 101

Social media enables content creators to inexpensively distribute, drive traffic, share content, and build a fan base.

What is social media?

Social media is the collaborative community of people who share information, & media through links that usually involves blogs, networks and communities. It's a way to engage in conversations, update and add content, build a community around your brand, and hopefully increase sales.

How Do You Get Video on the Web?
1. Video File .AVI or .MOV
2. Convert the DVD to a digital media file. (.mpeg4, H.264)
3. Compress Video for the Web
4. Upload to video community
5. Promote/Distribute

Free Compression/Conversion Software
Mpegstream Clip (

Compression Tutorial:

Once your video is compressed, it's time to upload it.

Popular communities:

Video Mass Distribution:

TubeMogul: One upload - send to multiple video communities.

How to Use TubeMogul Online Video Distribution

Tagging Your Video (SEO)
Tags are keywords that are used to identify content. Anytime you add content on the web you should tag it with appropriate keywords. Videos can improve search engine rank, and can be an effective way to drive traffic to your website or brand.
You want your video to be discoverable. The great thing about uploading your video online is that it is there forever, and anyone can find it through search engines & keywords.

Google search CNN's TJ Holmes



Viral Marketing - Wikipedia
The buzzwords viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet.

Blair Witch - Movie Viral
A year before they started filming, they introduce the Blair Witch in to local folklore. A website was carefully constructed informing the casual user all about this folklore. And by the time filming had began, the Blair Witch was a well known story. It was so convincing, that even the local town believed it, and even embraced it, as the DVD extras show.

Viral Marketing the New Word of Mouth Hot Mail Example
In an effort to maximize each and every marketing dollar, Hotmail added a small bit of text at the end of every e-mail that was sent through their free service: “Get your private, free e-mail at” Through this succinct message, each customer became a representative for Hotmail and subscriptions skyrocketed. In just a year-and-a-half, Hotmail was able to sign up 12 million members. Even more impressive: the cost per subscriber was just over 4 cents. Hotmail’s results provided the catalyst for the eventual explosion of viral marketing, and other successes soon followed.

Wall Street Journal Article: Recipe for a Successful Viral Video

Secret Strategies Behind Many Viral Videos
So how do we get the first 50,000 views we need to get our videos onto the Most Viewed list?

Blogs: We reach out to individuals who run relevant blogs and actually pay them to post our embedded videos. Sounds a little bit like cheating/PayPerPost, but it’s effective and it’s not against any rules.

Forums: We start new threads and embed our videos. Sometimes, this means kickstarting the conversations by setting up multiple accounts on each forum and posting back and forth between a few different users. Yes, it’s tedious and time-consuming, but if we get enough people working on it, it can have a tremendous effect.

MySpace: Plenty of users allow you to embed YouTube videos right in the comments section of their MySpace pages. We take advantage of this.

Facebook: Share, share, share. We’ve taken Dave McClure’s advice and built a sizeable presence on Facebook, so sharing a video with our entire friends list can have a real impact. Other ideas include creating an event that announces the video launch and inviting friends, writing a note and tagging friends, or posting the video on Facebook Video with a link back to the original YouTube video.

Email lists: Send the video to an email list. Depending on the size of the list (and the recipients’ willingness to receive links to YouTube videos), this can be a very effective strategy.

Friends: Make sure everyone we know watches the video and try to get them to email it out to their friends, or at least share it on Facebook.

Viral Marketing Success Stories

Film Marketing Case Studies



Though social media is quickly evolving, a blog, video blog (vlog), or website should be a core part of you marketing strategy.

7 Blogging Tips for Filmmakers

Keep it Short
250 words is enough. It’s enough for you to write and it’s enough for us to read.

Post Frequently
Make up for your short posts by writing more often. Blog about everything related to production. Interesting connections, things you’ve learned, production tips, successes, failures.

Stay focused
One post for each idea. If you have two topics, then make two posts; don’t try to cram them into one post. Keep your posts focused on one subject, it will make your blog more searchable, better indexed and more usable in the long run.

Blog the whole production cycle
A lot of filmmakers start a blog just to market their film. But blogs take a lot of time to gain any real momentum. In a lull between films? Blog it. Got writer’s block? Blog it. Trying to drum up some funding? Blog it. Other filmmakers may find your tips and tricks useful – or at least appreciate your sharing. And don’t stop once you start work on the next film. Check out Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified) for a great example of how to use blogging throughout the whole production cycle. Hustwit’s blogs create conversation during preproduction and then publicity during festival season.

Make the blog part of your routine
A common complaint from filmmakers is that they just don’t have time to blog. Especially during production, filmmakers work long hours and can’t find the time to write anything down. If time is short, get someone else to write with you. Or use Twitter to make a small update. If you take your blog seriously, your readers are more likely to take it seriously too.

Teach your readers how to make films
People are looking for answers. Our research shows that more people search for the term “How to make documentary films” than the term, “Watch documentary films”. So if you want to create a blog that has value to readers, you need to share your knowledge with them. Teach them something new and useful and they might come back.

Link to everything
Use links everywhere. Link to other filmmakers websites wherever you mention them. If they don’t have a website, link to their IMDB profile. Links add context and network your site with other relevant sites.

Popular Blogging Platforms

*You can also buy a .com url, pay for hosting and install the WordPress platform for your domain.

Create a Facebook Fan Page for your film.

Facebook allows you to create pages to market and promote your brand, film, etc.

Atlanta Film Festival

You can also upload videos to your main FB profile account and tag individuals in your network to share your content.

Twitter has become a mainstream social network. It allow you to follow messages from other users, and send "tweets" which are 140 character messages from your phone, computer, or desktop application.

Twitter is great for short conversations, sharing links, and blog updates.
Use @username to direct a public message to another user.
Use a direct message to send Twitter e-mail (140 characters long)
You can link your Twitter updates to your FB status updates.

11Marketing Blog

Using Twitter, we see film & television developers & promoters coming up with new ways to reach their targeted audiences that include:

providing insight and commentary in real time (ie on location during shooting)
promoting special contests, sneak previews
facilitating collaborative video production experience
building conversation about the movie or television season or individual episodes
opening dialogue between promoter and promotion participants
movie & television website traffic generation
promoting events such as movie premiers
posting press releases
If, for example, during the making of a film a well known actor, actress or director posted regular Tweets via Twitter via their mobile phone it’s conceivable that hundreds if not thousands would follow and engage these immediate, seemingly intimate, “insider” posts.

7 Fascinating Filmmakers to Follow on Twitter

1. Errol Morris @errolmorris
The Oscar-winning director of ‘Fog of War” often tweets zen-like koans. Witty and always thought-provoking.

2. Michael Moore @MMFlint
Yes- the Academy-Award winning filmmaker is on Twitter. Currently promoting his new documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

3. David Lynch @David_Lynch
Mixes “transcendental” tweets with updates about his new storytelling project, @InterviewProj. Pioneering personal stories for the web.

4. Bluedot Productions @bluedot_
Game changers. Really. These “quantum activist” filmmakers are creating “quantum leaps” in documentary films.

5. PBS Point of View @povdocs
Beyond promoting POV documentaries, watch for tweets on interviews and educational resources.

6. Frank Kelly @frankwkelly
The filmmaker behind the “140 Project.” 140 filmmakers from 140 countries captured 140 seconds of unedited footage. Truly fascinating.

7. Peter Marshall @bcfilmmaker
Veteran filmmaker/workshop teacher/social media proponent. Tweets often & covers the intersection of traditional filmmaking with new media.

BONUS #1: The Documentary Blog @DocumentaryBlog
A great place to keep up with the latest documentary news. Thoughtful, in-depth reviews.

BONUS #2: National Film Board of Canada @thenfb
Awesome resource for all things documentary. Tweets a wide variety of topics. Highly interactive and engaging.

Want to discover more filmmakers and conversations? Follow the #documentary trend on Twitter.


LinkedIn is the premier professional network for professionals. It's great for expanding and maximizing your professional netowrk, asking questions to the community, and participating in the groups.

LinkedIn has a number of groups that are geared towards media, and film professionals.

MySpace for Filmmakers

Cell phones are now a common way to gather content, and thought sites like Qik, and Kyte, you can easily shoot upload and share webisodes.

Independent cable network that features independent shorts, documentaries, and citizen journalism.

Popular online community for digital content producers.

Top Social Media Websites for Filmmakers


Q&A with an indy filmmaker:

William C. Wilson Jr.

1. How long have you been producing films and why did you start using social media?

I have been producing films since I was a teenager. The first film I ever Produced/Directed was Attack of The Killer Booger and with any luck- it will never see the light of day. I started using Social Media during the height of, remember that? It is to myspace what myspace has become to facebook. I used it originally to keep in touch with friends and even make new ones. However technology has grown to a point where social media is now the best way to promote your films and various indie projects. I now use it to promote my work, my friends work and as a way to keep in touch with friends.

2. Share your thoughts on viral marketing. What sites are best? Do e-newsletters play a role? What is your strategy?

I think the power of Twitter is the best form of Viral Marketing. I created a couple of hash tags that are used as a way for filmmakers to promote their films. #IndieMM (originally #IndieMovieMonday) is a hashtag created to be used a tool so filmmakers can share their work online. It started on Twitter as a simple way to link and promote your film and is slowly spreading to Facebook. I suggest you use #IndieMM as a tag in any type of post that has to do with your film- from on set pictures to blogs to video uploads. Then on Mondays, take a few moments to link the sites on Twitter and Facebook. #Webserieswed (once #webserieswednesday) is used in a similar fashion for web series. In fact, I am in the beginning stages of a brainstorming session on growing the movement- possibly into a website.

3. Why should filmmakers learn how to leverage social networks?

Social Networks are the most powerful tool they have. The audience potential is immense and worldwide. It is well worth the time spent to learn the best practices of social network marketing. There is no better tool for the indie filmmaker.

4. What sites do you use and why?

Honestly, while I have a ton of profiles- I tend to stick to most essential sites like Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and Blogspot. I do this because practically everyone is already familiar with the sites, not to mention they already spend part of their time on these sites. I don't have to promote my profile to them when they are already friends or have a profile and with an easy click of the mouse they can become friends.

5. Share a success story.

My best success story with Social Media is probably the growing popularity of the use of #indieMM and #Webserieswed. I have been able to strengthen my fans, friends and followers. My reach has become of such where people ofter retweet or even share my content (with out a push or prod from me- admittedly I do ask people to rt or share). I love when I post something and someone else shares the info on their own. It helps to spread the word easily.

6. How can people find you online?

Well the best places to find me are on Twitter @mentaleclectic, Facebook:, You Tube:, my blog: and participate in the making of my first feature film:
Yahoo IM: mental_spaceboy


This is a time of transition for filmmakers. The Internet is not only democratizing the media, it is also enabling the free sharing of copyrighted works.

Content producers, & filmmakers must be innovative, creative, and use guerilla marketing tactics to gain exposure, create a buzz, and drive viewers to their work.

The information I shared in this workshop should be used as a guide as you develop your marketing strategy. If you figure out something that works, in the spirit of collaboration, share it. That's how we will all learn and succeed.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Amani Channel