Social Media and Sangria Panel

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending a very enjoyable panel, presented by Women in Film and Video and hosted by Interface Media Group, that was all about taking the plunge into social media and how to fully utilize it. Here at Word Wizards Inc., we know that getting the word out about your film can be just as daunting as making it, hence the need for great events like this one. The 3 presenters were Regina MeeksRana Koll-Mandel and Karen Whitehead who all brought very different perspectives. Regina is a communications and social media professional with several years experience who has also worked in website editing with control management systems. Rana is the founder of We R 1 Communications, which specializes in PR and public affairs for film festivals filmmakers and authors. Karen is a filmmaker and producer who has been busy making the independent documentary her aim is true, a film about Jill Dellaccio, a largely unknown but important photographer of the 1960’s music scene.

What’s the big deal about social media?

One of the first questions answered was why people should care about social media in the first place, and why it matters so much as a communications and marketing medium. Just looking at some quick numbers shows how many people are on it and why you’re missing out by not. On Facebook alone there are 1.15 billion registered users, roughly 1/10 of the planet. Twitter has 500 million registered users, LinkedIn has 238 million and Goggle+ is high on the list with 343 million users. Furthermore social media should be thought of as an important marketing toolbox. As Rana pointed out, there should always be a line in your budget made specifically for social media and marketing.

As for those who are intimidated by the seemingly complex nature of working in the medium, Regina has a great little story for that. There once were two different groups who were asked to make clay pots. One group took lots of time draw up possible designs, create illustrations and even make measurements while the other simply started making the pots. At the end of the exercise, the first group had one or two perfect looking pots while the other group had a variety pots with some better than others. The morale of this little tale is the second group overall had better and more varied results because they dived right in and put forth the effort right away, which is the approach you should take with social media.

How Social Media can be a filmmakers best friend.

Karen Whitehead had some great advice for filmmakers and is a great example of someone using social media effectively. She went from working in the BBC, where she never dealt with social media, to becoming a social media powerhouse while making her film her aim is true. Her first piece of advice was about investing time into social media, saying the earlier you can get into it the better. Karen also recommended Pinterest, a site that’s great for filmmakers initially dealing with social media.  She has a process called the five stages that have helped her build up the social media for her film: Having a simple site, branding, bargaining, unique partnerships and finally make a plan.

1. Making a simple site is where you build the online home for your film or project. The personal publishing site that Karen used is Cargo Collective.

2. Branding and making sure that all your social media accounts are using the same title and are in sync with each other content wise.

3. Bargaining, one of the most important stages and is all about realizing that it takes time to build a following and that you really need more than likes to reach people, you want to try and initiate a conversation. You may even have to beg or grumble to get people to notice your work, but it can make a big difference. A prime example would be getting a popular blogger to write about your work and then sending it out to their many followers.

4. The fourth step is all about building those strategic partnerships that can really pay off. Karen created a partnership with a famous camera company called Hasselblad who wanted to work with her since the film is about an unknown music photographer and helped her get 10,000 hits.

5. The final step, making a plan is all about taking all the resources you have gathered, all the partnerships you have created and laying them out in the best possible way to generate visibility for your project.

Tools of the Trade and Getting Started

So now that you’ve learned why you should be on social media and just how helpful it can be to a filmmaker, you’re all ready to jump in. But how do you get started? Start off with one site and use that for a while until you get comfortable with using it. At the same time, check out what your competitors are doing on their social media sites so you can try to stay ahead of the competition. Also, never be afraid to switch to another social media channel if the one you’re using doesn’t seem to suit your personality. One of the big things that was stressed in the panel was using the type of social media that best suits you. You also want to look at the type of audiences you’re trying to reach. Instagram is good for the teen audience, business folk are more heavily found on LinkedIn and TwitterFacebook is good for a general audience and a large female audience can be found on Pinterest although it is good for directing traffic to blogs as well. The timing of your postings is another aspect to keep in mind since afternoon hours and the weekend are best times to tweet and Facebook postings are most shared during the weekend.

If you’re a filmmaker these channels take on a slightly different meaning, as they are used to help your project or films grow. WordPress is a good site that can be used as the base for your main website, while Facebook should be looked at as your fan base. A good YouTube channel extends how you engage with them and gives you a place share your work. Using Twitter to live tweet during screenings and press events is a great way to get coverage out, while Pinterest is a good tool for filmmakers since it’s such a visually oriented site and the perfect place to share images. Tumblr is a great way to reach across to different networks and is a favorite site of bloggers. A great asset for anyone on social media is Tweriod, a site that analyzes your Twitter account and its followers, then will tell you the best time to tweet for the most impact. The panelists also agreed that you should take a little bit of time each day to read up on social media and stay current since it changes so rapidly. Some sites that are good to follow are Hubspot, Social Media Examiner, and finally Mashable which is a personal favorite of mine.




Marketing Documentaries to Academia: The Perfect Recipe

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One of the obvious reasons why Word Wizards, Inc. loves Docs in Progress (DIP) http://docsinprogress.org/ is that they coach for projects with tons of interview footage.  We at “The Wiz” thrive on transcribing dozens of hours of talking head interviews per week. Transcription is very important to any documentary film maker, whether they use Word Wizards, some other company or (in most cases for people on a tight budget,) do it themselves.  Therefore Word Wizards is proud to sponsor DIP and we attend many of their meetings. Last weeks meeting on marketing to academia was a special treat.

Judith Dancoff

The guest speaker was film marketing Coach Judith Dancoff of New Film Marketing http://www.newfilmmarketing.com/about.php  She spoke about distribution of educational Docs using a strategy called “Distribute It Yourself” (or DIY).  Her strategy is applied specifically to marketing educational documentaries, but can be used to market and sell any Doc.  DIY takes a little bit of extra work but you get to keep all the money as a payoff.  Dancoff wants you to think of the documentary producer as a business person marketing and selling a valuable product to people who need it.

She says to plan two marketing campaigns a year, one early in the fall semester and another in early winter but never Xmas or Spring breaks. The easiest way to break down her strategy is into an easy to follow 3 step recipe:

Step 1: Buy lists of potential academic buyers such as librarians and school content providers from private list providers like R.J. Dill.  rjdill@gmail.com or to reach out to the American Library Association: Contact Personal and Organizational Members using http://bit.ly/Z01rBy 

Step 2: Put together a simple website to market to these people via email blast followed up by personal phone calls.  Academics hate flash so keep your site simple. You can build a very simple Doc site yourself for free using http://www.wix.com.  Or, Word Wizards can design the shell and you fill in the text. For those that want customization, Word Wizards can design a template using a content management system such as WordPress. Your budget will drive the bells and whistles of your website. Check out our portfolio page at https://www.wordwizardsinc.com/design/our-work/.

Step 3: State right at the beginning, both in the subject line of your email blasts; and at the top of your web site what is different, educational and compelling about your film.  Why is your film especially relevant to the academic types that you are trying to sell to?   Review issues of Public Use Doctrine at http://www.movlic.com/k12/faq.html.  Set your price by seeing what other people charge, www.bullfrogfilms.com/

 

 Tom Dziedzic

The fascinating thing about Docs in Progress is that professional film makers like Tom Dziedzic use DIP for coaching (see his award winning Redemption Stone at http://www.redemptionstone.net/ ) as well as want-to-be Doc makers from every walk of life.  With the upcoming tenth anniversary of DIP coming up next year expect to see a lot more about them in our upcoming blog articles.




The Art of Reviewing Film Festivals

 

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We’re all used to seeing movie and film reviews but reviews for film festivals are not quite as

frequent. What if your a die hard movie junkie who needs their fix of fresh indie cinema but

don’t know just where to turn? Well film festival maven Christina Kotlar has got you covered.

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Her blog Film Festival reViews, http://www.filmfestivalreviews.com/, fills this niche by examining

all that is indie in films, filmmakers and film festival’s the world over. Mrs. Kotlar, a jersey native who

received her masters in Producing Film and Video from American University in Washington D.C. founded

the site in 2006.  One of her main goals was to give some insight in to the film industry as a viable means of

economic development in the film festival circuit.

 

One of her passions is the work of early women film makers, more specifically Alice Guy Blache, the first woman

film director.

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While most would shrug their shoulders and say “Alice who?”, Blache was an important

figure in the then burgeoning industry as she was making fiction films before women could even vote in this country.

Even more impressive, she built, owned and operated Solax Studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey which did work such

as special effets, super imposition, sound synchronization and colorization. Mrs. Kotlar has actually written a story  and screenplay

about Alice Guy Blache titled Madame Director who’s website can be found herehttp://madamedirector.com/   

 

Some other unique features on the Film Festival reViews blog include  the Backstage Pass which looks at unique and rare events

happening at different film festivals. Examples include an in depth look at the eagles in honor of their documentary History of the Eagles

Part 1 which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. There are of course the reviews of films and film festivals such as the recent Athena

Film Festival which are told from a woman’s point of view. Lastly, there is also the Media Madness Workshop which strives to develop leader

ship capacity in the media community.

 

For all this and so much more  check out her website at

http://www.filmfestivalreviews.com/

 




WordPress Development: WordPress SEO Plug-In One Month Later

After a month of using the “WordPress SEO Plug-In” by Yoast, I am happy to say that we have had some very positive results. In this article, I just wanted to elaborate on why I think this plug-in does such a good job. Now let me just clarify, we have had some progress, but we have done a lot of work to achieve it. The positive results we have seen are subtle and gradual, but the effects we are noticing definitely reflect an improvement in SEO performance.

Packed with features, and they work!

When I first wrote on our blog that we were exploring this plug-in, I was a bit skeptical of how functional the features would be.

WordPress SEO by Yoast First Look (You can read the original post here)

Specifically, I was concerned that this new plug-in would be a repeat of many “too good to be true” SEO solutions that I have found around the web. WordPress SEO seems to be written with some very solid code. All of the features work beautifully, except for one which conflicts with some custom code we wrote for our site, but that one was our fault.

A method to the madness

WordPress SEO doesn’t do anything spectacular when you turn it on. On the contrary, there is lots of work to be done once you install this baby. Yoast says on his website that the key to SEO is hard work and constant improvement, trial and error, yada yada.

Work Hard, Play Hard!

WordPress SEO gives you an easy to follow method of making your site as good as it can be. Furthermore, once you take care of the basics, you can analyse your pages in-depth, and get recommendations on what to do next. Paying an outside SEO consultant for all of this information would cost an arm and a leg. What I am trying to say is that if your not a professional SEO specialist, you can still make some big improvements to your site without getting too technical. If you ARE technical though, you can go really deep and get some good results.

For my technical SEO’s out there make sure to read Yoast’s WordPress SEO definative guide, it really does a good job of explaining things that you can do with the plug-in.

Don’t Be a Stranger

If you like this article or want to share your opinion, please leave us a comment. Also sign up for our newsletter to stay on top of all our industry blog posts, special promotions, and much more.

 




WordPress Development – WordPress SEO Plug-in First Look

Another week, another experiment in the latest SEO technology. Yesterday, we installed the WordPress SEO Plug-in by Yoast and began to use it to help optimize our website and blog. In the past, we have tried playing with some other SEO plug-ins but have never been completely satisfied. It seems that this plug-in is different that many of the others, in the fact that it doesn’t, for lack of better terms, suck…

Nice logo for WordPress SEO
WordPress SEO by Yoast – Logo

Looking For Answers – Enter Yoast

For a long time we have been trying to use a classic formula with our blog to attract business. The concept is clear, if your an expert, you can write a blog that answers someone’s question, if you do that, they will be more likely to sing your praises and possibly turn from reader to customer.

Last Friday I was searching around for blogs specifically about SEO for WordPress. I found a post by Yoast about optimizing the slugs (also know as URLs) for your posts and pages. Yoast recommended that you change to a specific setting and redirect all old links using his easy redirect algorithm. I took the code to our lead developer and she plugged it in. To our surprise, it actually worked!

Here is the extensive article that won us over and lead us to use his plug-in.

http://yoast.com/articles/wordpress-seo/

I can’t get no…

We have tried many “easy fixes” and SEO plug-ins over the years and have been thoroughly disappointed. There is a lot of out dated, unsupported, flat out miserable code out there. What won us over? His bug fix worked, and with good instructions at that! I am paraphrasing here, but in the article explaining how to use WordPress SEO, Yoast says something that rings very true; “There are no easy fixes in WordPress, anyone who offers an instant SEO solution should not be trusted. SEO takes work, its not easy, but this plugin makes doing that work faster and more efficient.” (Paraphrased)

Drink the powerful SEO Cool-Aid! Brought to you by Yoast.

The Test of Time

We started implementing yesterday, and will be using his optimization strategy for the next few weeks to see if it makes an impact. We will keep track of the progress with our web analytics looking to see if the plug-in starts to make a difference in our traffic and conversions.

If you wish to see the results of our experiment, check back to this blog in a few weeks. Or even better, sign up for our newsletter by leaving a comment below or using the sign up form in our sidebar.




Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center: New Custom Calendar

One of our favorite web clients, the Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center, LLC, has become very creative with the WordPress Ajax Event Calendar plugin.  This plugin is beautifully written and allows detailed entry of color-coded events.  It allows links, images, and maps in the event detail, which show in a modal window.   But because the Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center’s calendar is jam-packed, they needed an adjustment for their clientele.

 

Test Link

Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center using Ajax Event Calendar
hollywoodballroomDC.com uses Ajax Event Calendar

There is always something happening at the Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center.  On any particular day, the calendar may have six or seven entries.  That means that their calendar extends far down on the web page.   And when you are in the middle of the calendar, it’s easy to lose track of where you are.

To improve their user experience, Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center has created a header category to show the day of the week as well as the day number. We suppressed the date numbers that would show in the grid by default to avoid redundancy.  The result is a kinder cleaner experience for their dancers.

Take a glace at this Ajax Event Calendar.  With the color-coded categories, the extensive detail available for each event, and the clarity of presentation, the calendar is working well for the  Hollywood Ballroom Dance Center.  And their customers are so pleased they are doing the happy dance.