As filmmakers, we need to grasp how to reach our audience and let them know our film exists, and communicate how the film might interest them. This used to be the jurisdiction of distributors, but that old world is in turmoil and may be dead. With filmmakers scrambling to figure out the theoretical pathways of DIY, DIWO, rent-a-distributors, four-walling, etc., they find themselves needing to grasp some basic marketing concepts.
Studies show that most consumers prefer Email for communication.
Yes, social media is the elephant-in-the-room now, and the indie film biz is absorbing the possibility that Twitter has accelerated, and maybe even replaced, word-of-mouth.
But if you want to reach your potential audience and communicate with them, your audience still wants you to communicate with Email. For now.
There is a lot to learn about communicating with Email, just as there is a lot to learn about any element of marketing (or human interaction of any kind, for that matter).
But right now, here’s the primary information filmmakers should grasp:
Most consumers prefer communications by email, and here’s a recent study: [“Email Still Driving Shopping over Social”]
“Do you really prefer to ‘communicate’ with brands via email blasts or do you prefer that communication in some other way online?”
Sheri makes the distinction about “communicate” because one of the most important marketing aspects that indie filmmakers need to grasp is to engage your potential audience rather than blare at every possible passer-by. Shouting is not communicating, unless you’re in a crowded theater and there’s a fire. (Even then, you’re reaching the correct specific audience.)
Sheri and others, including me, who have a marketing and communications technology focus, live in a world of more forward-acting high-level interaction, since that’s where our goals are and that’s where we push the people around us.
But that’s not the world where most people dwell. My experience has shown that Email is still alive and vital regardless of my own personal preferences.
My experience has been this: several times over the past couple decades, I have headed geographically-dispersed teams for various business development strategies. In these cases, we did not have a central physical location. We worked from our own homes and offices separate from each other.
In one instance, at the beginning of the millennium, a group of a dozen of us were trying to develop a new housing paradigm to partner with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and everyone involved was in a different city throughout the country.
In another instance a year ago, while trying to build a small strategy team for my now-defunct indie feature film project A FATHER AND SON, a half-dozen of us were in various cities.
In these and other cases, I was far out ahead of most others regarding cutting-edge technology, comfort level, awareness, and willingness to adapt. This says nothing negative about the level of intelligence or capability of the groups, because all of these people were very sharp, very smart, very involved people.
Yet, in all cases over many years, even though there were numerous better options for collaboration, brainstorming, information sharing, etc., NOBODY WANTED TO USE ANY TOOL OTHER THAN EMAIL.
They did not want to use MS Whiteboard, they did not want to use Google Wave, they did not want to use Yahoo IM, etc.; they wanted to use Email.
The youngest people I know are embracing text messaging on their phones over every other alternative. Text messaging is incredibly cumbersome, archaic, and limited, yet that’s the method of choice for almost anyone who can’t yet drink legally. [“Four times as many teens choose SMS over Facebook”]
Fortunately, texting can be incorporated into Email communication methods.
In my contacts of friends, family, and several hundred acquaintances, regarding any information I want to share, both personal and about my projects, many are familiar with Facebook but few are very active on it. Most still ask “What is Twitter?” Many are just now noticing that MySpace is dying, but they are not yet moving on to anything new. And, as another hint about the durability of social media sites, teens are beginning to move on from Facebook. They find it boring. [“Why Many Teens Are Moving on from Facebook”]
The lock-out of Email access is a drawback of social media. We do not get direct Email contact with our “friends,” we cannot access them through any method other than the very limited messaging allowance (e.g., Twitter allows 140 character text-only DMs), and we cannot access them across the various social media networks. There is no reliable, robust messaging between one’s Twitter followers and one’s Facebook “friends.” There is no efficient way to manage, massage, and provide “list hygiene” for our social media contacts. This will be confounded when, as with Friendster and MySpace, we begin to lose our contact base built upon decaying social media sites and their protected proprietary contact lists.
A recent report details the overlap between Email, Twitter, and Facebook. [“How Are Email, Facebook and Twitter Audiences Different?”] It shows that the vast majority of social media fans or followers are also Email subscribers. While your efforts to reach Twitter followers or Facebook “friends” excludes huge chunks of your potential audience, your efforts to use Email will include almost all of them plus a huge universe of people who are not your social media connections.
As of August 2011, only half of adults are using social media to some degree. [”Only 50% of U.S. Adults Use Social Media”] This report also states, “Email is still the most popular online activity among Internet users.”
So, at this moment, and for the foreseeable future, Email is the universal medium for communication with your potential audience. It is also the method over which you have the most control, with the least likelihood of having the contacts you developed disappear if a social site deteriorates or “goes down.”
What to watch out for: Here is a recent assessment of Email usage from the report, “E-Mail Usage Plummets as Teens Turn to Mobile, Social Networking” It shows a dramatic change is coming: in February 2011, total Web-based Email use was down eight percent last year, led by a walloping 59 percent drop among 12 to 17 year olds.
Note that this report specifically tracks Web-based Email. The implication about youth and the outlook for the future is impossible to ignore, however.
Studies show your potential audience is most comfortable with Email, they prefer receiving it, they respond to it, they check it frequently, they have universal access to it, they routinely process it according to their needs and desires, and it crosses all boundaries imposed by the “walled gardens” of social media networks. It is more robust, allows more response and tracking, and provides flexibility.
Learn the best practices for use of Email as a marketing tool and you will have a better chance of success building your audience. But, be aware that the audience that is coming up, those who are teens today, is going to require changes to this strategy.