Your digital story requires you to implement a social media strategy for a small production project, based on all the social media you have experimented with during the earlier phases of the course.
From the perspective of the media production discipline, social media is ‘triple-aspected’:
- a professional networking tool. It establishes your credibility within a specific range of expertise, and it builds up a network of contacts within that professional field.
- a tool to market media projects.
- an emerging platform in which media projects, or aspects of cross-platform media projects, natively reside.
Ideally, your use of social media will represent a cross-fertilisation of all these ambitions. Media is convergent – by using social media you market yourself and the project, while also presenting the project (linking or embedding it).
Some approaches to social media by professional media productions:
Some inter-related decisions
Hopefully, you have already established your use of social media on a more professional footing. No more silly facebook party shots, or meaningless tweets. The next phase of your increasing sophistication is to be more holistic and consistent about your communications strategy. Decide your areas of interest, and develop a mode of expression. Jokey and informal is fine – it’s the fastest way to get retweeted. Good tweets aren’t dashed off, they are crafted.
- What is your content area? social media content
- Design decisions are an important part of some forms of social media, such as a blog social media design tools
- What stylistic devices will you employ? (Writing style, use of imagery or other rich media such as podcasting) writing for social media
- How do you make your social media ‘interoperable’, searchable and hypertextual, to take advantage of the programmed and networked affordances of the Web? Hootsuite interoperability
Social media is authored.
The authorship of social media is more direct and obvious than any other form of media. Impersonal, ‘branded’ tweets and blogs are not, in my opinion, as powerful as ones which are owned by named, concrete individuals. That is why your every tweet is self-promotional, regardless of what it is about. So while we can separate various ambitions, it is more successful if you keep your social media personal.
Your personal approach needs to be balanced with privacy concerns. Don’t publish your address online – nowhere! But more subtly, carefully consider what you are comfortable with strangers knowing about you. Be wary of responding to emails, etc, if you don’t know where they come from. Your LinkedIn cv may not contain every little thing you’ve done – be judicous. On the other hand, if it is too ‘bare’ it will not be impressive. You need to balance the need to communicate authentically and interestingly with your audience and protection of your privacy.
So… where are you at?
You are hopefully now quite advanced with your own personal social media ‘brand’. You should be extending your existing networks into professional or academic areas. You should be developing strategies concerning the content, style, and timing of various social media activities. You should be developing a ‘voice’ or persona which aims to attract a specific networked cohort. You will know how to build network via targeted Tweets, joining interest groups, etc (eg, surrounding an Instagram hashtag, or a Pinterest curation). You should be integrating your social media so it cross-populates, include social media it in your email signature, and understand how to use it efficiently (for example, using scheduling in Hootsuite). You are developing a public professional cv (LinkedIn) and show reel (flavors.me).
Social media is, ultimately, a life-style choice. It cannot be ‘set and forget’.
Social media and media productions
In order to develop a social media strategy for a media production, you need to:
- Research – use your RSS feeds and hashtags to find out what is already going on about the topic of your production. This could be discussion themes, or user groups surrounding your theme, or fan fiction sites. Develop a tagging strategy – making your social media searchable through the use of hashtags (Twitter, Instagram) and tags (blog). Work out pre-existing tags and make use of them.
- Establish interoperability – the use of blog widgets, an aggregator tool such as Hootsuite, visual organisers such as flavors.me, to interconnect all your social media activity, and make it accessible
- Practice networked creativity – experiment with social platforms that encourage creative expression and the development of an audience (Cowbird, Instagram, SoundCloud – depending on your medium)
- Audience / peer development – find contacts through social media, for example via more sophisticated use of Twitter. Work out who the ‘opinion leaders’ are for specific hashtags and @tweet them.
- understand the politics of social media – issues of copyright, privacy and data
- Synchronous versus asynchronous communication – different strategies and appropriate for different types of communications and audiences.
So… what are the implications for your digital story social media strategy?
Ultimately, you should not try to separate it from your online presence. ‘Own’ it as your work. You need your friends to get involved. Consider:
- What is the relationship between the social media and the other media you have created for the project?
- How are they interconnected (can audiences progress from one to the other)?
- What is the purpose of the social media (is it marketing, or does the other media natively reside within the social media, or – ideally – both?)
- How does your social media campaign unfold over time? (are you using a scheduling tool?)
- How significant are your networks within social media?
- Are you using tags or hashtag to build the networks, and attract ‘randoms’?
- Does the project have a clear visual design?
- Does the project have a taglines, hooks, or other clever textual strategies to attract an audience?
- Can audiences ‘join in’ through social media?
Answers to these questions should be part of your digital story proposal.
Some take-home messages about social media
From 10 Social Media Do’s and Don’ts for Filmmakers by Kristin McCracken:
- give people insider access
- DON’T be a narcissist
- take your time
- DON’T overthink
- “commune” with your fans
- DON’T assume people will visit your website
- try to create viral content
- DON’T be lazy
- join the conversation
- DON’T forget to say thank you
- be creative
From 10 Social Media Tips for Filmmakers (Especially When Crowdfunding) by Kristin McCracken:
- Create a voice
- Pick a handle
- Fish where the fish are
- your community should start with your already-established social circle
- Keep it fresh
- Don’t spread yourself too thin
- you can reach new audiences through advertising
- spend your money on an authentic audience that makes sense for you
- Stay focused
- “Rather than trying to make the audience come to us, we needed to go to the audience, and Vimeo offered the best vehicle to get us there.”
- “While the films could have been distributed across other video platforms, most obviously YouTube, there are also advantages to being focused. Vimeo is a platform with a strong following of filmmakers and offered a more targeted pathway to reaching tastemakers and influencers – the curators and community managers who would share the films with documentary and short film fans.”
- “filmmakers need to be not just present, but actively marketing themselves online. Even filmmakers pursuing traditional distribution pathways need to demonstrate that they have a social media following. The golden rule, according to Jason Sondhi, is to be great, to be free and to be frequent.”
- “Whether on Facebook Twitter, TradeMe, Instagram or FindSomeone, What We Do in the Shadows offers an experience that is genuinely entertaining, funny and situated entirely within the storyworld of the film. “
- “…event-driven ‘day and date’ film releases are becoming more common and allow filmmakers to capitalise on the immediate promotion associated with a festival or cinema release and may also help to minimise the impact of piracy.”
- you need to level the playing field by making the first offering – a gift to your community. And that gift is more content.
- Storyworlds create exponentially more access points to your content. The more access points there are, the more chances I have to discover your story. Remember, every viewer is a curator now, so give them more content to share.
- make a series of shorts. Prequels, side stories – unburden yourself from linear storytelling. Think laterally. Think non-linear. What about interactive storytelling? Can you manifest your storyworld online somehow? An immersive website to offer storyworld context and new narratives in visually arresting ways? Can your characters engage with your community on social platforms?
- if you can implement it early on in your process, is that it allows you to speed test your ideas in the marketplace, with real people.
- allocate a marketing budget specifically for social media.
- “The key should be quality over quantity. If you can’t compete on a paid level, then you should focus on building the right audience on social-— this means getting your most avid customers to become a part of your social media audience and providing value for them once they’re there…
- take advantage of as many avenues as possible — add social media widgets to your company’s website, put Facebook URLs or Twitter handles on business cards and email signatures and post flyers in-store that clearly direct customers to your social pages.
- Not every business needs a presence on every social platform. Certain businesses will flourish on visually rich sites such as Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, while others may have more success with Twitter’s 140-character format (though it’s important to note that visuals generally perform better than text-only posts, regardless of the platform on which they’re posted).
- Create a Community of ‘Insiders’
- it’s important to listen to the fans and followers who take the time to find you online, and take their suggestions or feedback to heart
- Social channels are not the place to force your brand messaging on unsuspecting fans. Online audiences are particularly wary of thinly veiled advertising labeled as “content.”
- there’s a fine line between sincerity and smugness. Your social audience knows the difference.
- adopt a content strategy that appeals to audiences’ emotions: “It’s a balance. Focus on emotional analytics as well as numerical ones. Pushing out content that is strong, conversational, and that especially evokes an emotional response will build stronger engagement and audience growth.”
- And it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it — delivery is key.
- your customers are likely going to be online during off-hours (nights and weekends), and the ideal social strategy doesn’t shut off completely for hours or days on end.
- Sweepstakes and contests are a great way to generate leads and build your CRM database
- Companies attempting to organize a contest for the first time should conduct research on successful examples and best practices before jumping in head-first.
- Writing is paramount — don’t force it. “Without an outline or a basic idea that you’re passionate about, there’s really no point to creating a web series in the first place.”
- It doesn’t have to be short, but short helps
- Stay a few episodes ahead of your production schedule
- creators shouldn’t focus too much on length, as having a specific limit can put unnecessary strain on a script.