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Film Marketing: Your Every Web Page Is An Advertisement

Billboard with a sign that says Your Film

Advertising in the indie and underground film worlds doesn’t have to be an ugly concept.

When one thinks about film advertising, one usually thinks about set forms: Movie trailers, TV ads, newspaper ads, sidebar and banner ads on blogs. Most of these forms of ads are considered intrusive and, given the way that mainstream films are sold, can be on the crass side.

In that crowded — and expensive — marketplace, indie filmmakers are encouraged to “market” themselves online, especially using “free” tools. So, typically we see filmmakers with websites for their films, personal blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook profiles and pages, et. al.

It takes a lot for filmmakers to keep track of and — particularly painful for people who would rather be out, you know, making films — it’s a lot to keep constantly updating to remind the world that they and their films exist. And which concept is more dreadful: Advertising or marketing?

Advertising is considered the crass act of putting up an ad and then basically forgetting about it, except for maybe keeping track of impressions, click-throughs and interactions.

Marketing is considered a relentless, never-ending-until-you-get-sick-of-it slog. Both are, in their own ways, pesky and bothersome. In the online world, they’re also both one and the same concept. All web pages that filmmakers put up are basically advertisements.

However, we typically don’t think of them that way. We’ve been trained to consider that a web page is different than a blog post is different than a Tweet. Structurally, of course they are all different, conceptually they all share the same goal: To let an audience know you and your work exists.

So, the basic mistake that filmmakers make in online “marketing” is to treat each web page they create as an individual entity instead of part of an organic whole. (And, yes, I’m even considering an individual Tweet as a “web page” since they can be viewed as such and have their own unique URLs.)

One never knows the method an audience will use to find a web page. Certainly, one can make assumptions and plan for certain eventualities through proper keywording and such, but one should also plan for the unknown and unexpected methods a potential audience will use to stumble onto a web page.

Therefore, every web page should have as much info and links to all of a filmmaker’s projects and web pages as possible — and direct visitors to check out that info and click those links.

For example, many default settings for blogs include a date-based archive of links to display on the sidebar. This is, for all intents and purposes, useless data. Most visitors who land on a web page are looking for one specific piece of information, then navigate away as fast as possible. They aren’t going to be interested in what you blogged about four months ago. That archive data, which can get quite extensive if one has been blogging for any length of time, becomes visual data to be ignored, making the sidebar seem like an area of a web page that can be ignored overall.

Blog sidebars should be viewed as marketing areas, with visual links to films that are available to be viewed or purchased. Plus, there should be links to other important marking tools, such as Facebook pages and/or profiles, a Twitter feed and an RSS feed. (Tip: Check out the Underground Film Journal’s sidebar for an idea of what I mean.)

Facebook and Twitter are harder to cram a lot of info onto that’s not found in the content feeds. But, in both cases, make sure that the “About” fields have as much relevant info for visitors who don’t know you can quickly figure out who you are and what you’ve done. For example, don’t just write “Filmmaker.” Actually list what films you’ve made and be sure you’ve input at least one important link, either to a film website or to a blog.

Also, while it’s not a good idea to have status updates on Facebook and Twitter to be all “me, me, me” — e.g. you should also help promote friends’ work, share links and info that are interesting, etc., with your followers — but it’s good to have a few blatant self-promotions regularly for the random visitors who are trying to dig up info on you.

To sum up, just keep in mind that web visitors can stumble onto any web page you’ve created for any reason whatsoever. So, if somebody randomly lands on one of your blog posts — and most random visitors will most likely land on one of your individual posts, not on your homepage — don’t make it difficult for that visitor to click on a link to one of your films. Or, if they land on the cast list page for one of your films, make it easy for visitors to navigate to your blog, or Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

Visitors to your web pages may not be looking for your films specifically, but like a good advertisement, help those visitors find them as easily as possible. You might make a sale or a fan you weren’t expecting.