Most filmmakers don’t launch their digital strategy until they begin to prep for their festival premiere, which is much too late for it to have any real impact. Savvy filmmakers get started in pre-production, and their strategy includes objectives and key metrics that connect their engagement efforts with their overall goals for the film, as well as those of their burgeoning filmmaking careers.

The feedback we received after publishing the first post in this series was both interesting and enlightening, and, if we could sum it up in one tweet, it would have to be this one, from Sheri Candler, the Director of Digital Marketing at The Film Collaborative:

If you're savvy enough to begin developing your film's digital strategy prior to entering production (looking at you, Kris and Lindy), you're already well ahead of the game. Your strategic objectives should include words like “increase,” “establish,” and “engage,” and your key metrics should focus as much as possible on rates, not raw numbers. For instance, engagement rate trumps post “likes,” and audience growth rate is a better indicator of success than total page likes.

And there’s a big difference between community management (which typically includes updating channels and responding to comments) and digital strategy, which connects your community management tactics with your overall film (and career) goals. One without the other can only get you so far; you need both to be successful.

With those points in mind, we'll now share with you the "top page" strategy we've initially developed for INDIE THRILLER, featuring a single goal supported by specific objectives which are, in turn, assessed via measurable key results. (p.s. For more on goals and objectives, see this post).

Overall goal: a profitable DIY distribution run for INDIE THRILLER.

Profitability, of course, will vary from film to film depending on its budget. In this specific case, we want to focus solely on distribution, so will proceed with the assumption (holla, MBAs!) that this particular independent filmmaker was initially given a cash "grant" from a rich aunt, meaning she has no investors to make whole. As such, profitability will be calculated simply by subtracting total costs from gross revenues. We have a small ($500) advertising budget to work with and whatever earned/social media support we can muster.

Objective #1: Build awareness for INDIE THRILLER across multiple online channels within the #indiefilm community:

  • Engage #indiefilm fans online in at least ten targeted markets between launch of campaign and December 1, 2014.
  • Build audience of “true fans” that will share updates and take ownership of promoting INDIE THRILLER as we build momentum both online and off;
  • Increase social engagement rates ( [shares + comments + RTs] / [total audience reach] ) across all channels;
  • Create original content, including interviews, film stills augmented with text, and teaser clips tailored to specific audiences in ten targeted markets to drive rentals and purchases of INDIE THRILLER;
  • Execute single “thunderclap”-style social blitz at mid-point of campaign, on or around October 30.

Objective #2: Drive at least 7500 rentals (avg. unit price $4.49) and 1000 sales (avg. unit price $9.99) of INDIE THRILLER for $43665 in gross revenues:

  • Acquire at least 20 4- and 5-star user reviews of INDIE THRILLER by 11/15/14;
  • Secure at least four reviews of INDIE THRILLER by online film critics by 11/15/14;
  • Double the number of links to INDIE THRILLER's Vimeo On Demand sales page in social content shared with #indiefilm community;
  • Perform weekly network analysis (using NodeXL) centered on specific keywords (including film title, director, etc.) and online influencer accounts to best target promotion and sales efforts;
  • Launch #indiefilm influencer word-of-mouth social campaign to drive potential customers to INDIE THRILLER's Vimeo On Demand sales page;
  • Launch holiday sale lasting from “Black Friday” through 12/15/14.

Objective 3: Drive Vimeo On Demand metrics that most positively influence sales: 

  • Develop and test hypotheses (via weekly regression analyses) to determine weekly marketing budget allocations and tactics based on increase in Vimeo On Demand metrics (independent variables) that most positively influence sales (dependent variable).

That last one's a doozy, but without data discipline, you can't say for sure what's working and what's not. It might seem painful at first, but once your team gets used to measuring your film's performance, you'll find it's a lot easier (and quicker) to make marketing and promotional decisions.

If you’re willing to take the time to build and execute a digital strategy that not only sells your film, but also builds your audience, you’ll find, over time, that you’ve created a sustainable base from which to launch new projects, monetize completed ones, and support the work of fellow filmmakers.

As we compile data and regression analysis results from the last few weeks, we welcome your thoughts and comments on digital strategy, especially what has and hasn't worked for you in the past, what tactics you're interested in exploring, and how you see social and earned (content-driven, as opposed to ad-driven) media influencing the modern indie film landscape.