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So, You’ve Uploaded Your Underground Film Online: Now What?

Let’s say you’ve just uploaded your latest underground film — either a feature or a short — to Vimeo or YouTube. Next, you update your Facebook status and send out a Tweet to let people know it’s there for their viewing pleasure.

Next thing you know, your video is lying there inert. Your view count stuck in single or low double digits. Your so-called friends on Facebook and your followers on Twitter: They all totally suck. Nobody can be bothered to watch your film.

So, now you’re stuck, right? No film sites are going to embed or write about your film. And that lame ass who runs the Underground Film Journal claims he’s “too busy” to embed a simple video. What’s your recourse? You can’t spend all your time “social networking” to keep begging people to watch your film. You have a new film to make!

That balance between continuing to make new work and networking online is a tough one lots of people are trying to navigate these days.  There’s an audience out there for every film — I believe so anyway — but convincing people to carve out even just a couple minutes of their day to spend time with your creative vision is a challenging one.

Most online “marketing” talks about putting your film in front of your potential audience, e.g. updating Facebook and Twitter. But, the real secret to the Internet is figuring out how to make it easy for your audience to come to you! You need that random stranger who is surfing the Internet to find the links that lead them to your video. It’s not about you putting your links in front of their face.

You need to drop a breadcrumb trail that will lead viewers to your gingerbread house. I think I’m mixing up some fairy tales there, but there’s no way for you to know what path your potential audience is going to take to get to your video. So, you have to set up a couple of paths.

This is what’s most important to keep in mind: An audience is not going to find your film because of your film. They’re going to find your film by the words you write surrounding your film. So, it’s extremely important — if you want to build an audience, anyway — to be very aware of what words you are using to surround your film on Vimeo and YouTube. Some things to keep in mind:

  1. Write a detailed, keyword-heavy description for your film using words that you think people searching on Google might use to find your video. For example, let’s say you upload a film about crazy teenage girls who make a pact to get pregnant together. Make sure your description actually includes words like “teenage girl” and “pregnant” or “pregnancy.” Words like that. Search engines catalog those descriptions and will link to your video if it feels it’s appropriate.
  2. Even more important than your film description is the use of properly tagging your video with as many appropriate keywords as possible that people might use to find your video. Many people who visit Vimeo and YouTube are just randomly looking for videos on a particular topic. Again, using my above example, some people may not think they want to watch a movie about a teen pregnancy pact, but what if they just want to look at teenage girls? If you have “teen girls” and other similar phrases tagged for your video, then that will draw your audience in. Well, in that example, it might be the WRONG kind of audience, but I think you get the idea. So, watch your video carefully and think of all the keywords that might draw people in.

Doing those two things is extremely crucial for getting your potential audience to find you without having to bother with icky social networking. But, if you want some extra social networking work, here’s two more ideas:

  1. I really highly recommend signing up for the video sharing site Vodpod. I use Vodpod to collect films and videos I promote on the Underground Film Journal. For the most part, I get nothing out of this. I really only use Vodpod because I truly want people to watch the films I write about on the Underground Film Journal, but may not ever visit this site. You don’t have to do much on Vodpod, so the social networking aspect is minimal, but the rewards can be decent. Just after you upload your film to Vimeo or YouTube, you can “share” your video on Vodpod. Just when you do that, make sure you follow my above two suggestions: Write a good, detailed, keyword-rich description and tag your film with lots of appropriate keywords.
  2. Even if you’re just uploading videos and have no interest in any other writing, it might be worth it to start your own blog to embed your own videos into. Even if you end up giving up the blog, the Abandoned Blog Police aren’t going to arrest you. But, as you probably know, most film websites aren’t going to be interested in embedding your film, so just do it yourself. Embed your own films in your own blog and — you know what I’m going to say — write detailed descriptions and properly tag your blog posts so that search engines can find them.
  3. If you’ve uploaded your own films to Vimeo and YouTube, watch other people’s films on those sites and make sure you “like” or “favorite” the ones you enjoy. Plus, add other filmmakers or other film lovers — like me — as your contacts. If you do that, these sites send notices to your contacts that you’ve added them. That might then make those contacts curious to come check out your work. I have loads of contacts on Vimeo and YouTube whom I don’t know personally nor have I ever corresponded with them, but through those connections — since I get to see what videos THEY “like” and “favorite” — I’ve discovered just tons of great new filmmakers.
  4. Lastly, yes, you should always use Facebook and Twitter — and MySpace if that’s your thing — to promote your films.

I’m thinking this was maybe too basic of an article to write, but I see lots of films online that aren’t tagged, either at all or enough, or the descriptions don’t seem appropriate. But I think especially those two things are key to developing an audience. And I say that from my own experience. Trust me, I’ve written this article keeping very well in mind what keywords and phrases I think will draw readers to it from search engines.

So, don’t bust your brain about all the social networking you have to do get an audience for your films. That’s only part of the game. Remember, you want your audience to come to you on their own volition, not just because you held their hand on the way across the Internet.


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