Sunday, December 16, 2012


It's funny how context and time changes things.

If you are in a doctor's office, or an inhabitant of Sub-Saharan Africa, the last words you want to hear are: "You have a viral hit".

If you are an internet marketer or a filmmaker trying to get word of their film out into the world, 'virality' is a big success.

The common thread between these negative and positive versions of "going viral" is that both are fairly dependent on luck.

Contemporary filmmakers often rely on the luck of social media, rather than marketing, to hope that they find an audience.

It is something I have noticed happening more and more frequently. A couple of weeks ago, I shared my radio interview with you where I mentioned that Australian Filmmakers' regular weakness was marketing.

My point was that, in a rapidly converging world, where Australian films will be up against international blockbusters in online catalogues, we need to respect marketing as a way to make Australian films stand out.

The challenge I see is that Australian filmmakers rely on social media to make up the difference when they have cut their marketing budget down to nothing.

By way of example, recently I was in contact with a pair of critically acclaimed Australian filmmakers who were about to release their latest feature film. These filmmakers wanted help raising awareness for the new film via social networks because they had little to no marketing budget. I spread the word as much as humanly possible, hoping for the best for them, but suspecting that they had a difficult road ahead. Sadly, despite the film winning major awards and, from all reports, receiving good reviews, at last check it has returned less than $50,000 at the box office.

The question all Australian filmmakers should be asking themselves at this point is: how can people see my film if they don't know it exists?

If your answer is 'virality' or social media, consider this...

Recent, very basic, case study analysis of social media has showed that, of your friends/followers on the social media platforms, approximately 30-40% are 'active' users of the social networking site (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc). 'Active' means using social networking every day.

So, your audience who are actually reading your regular Tweets or Facebook posts are far less than your actual number of followers.

Of your friends/followers, approximately 10-20% will be friends or followers of an excessively large group of people. On Twitter for example, one case study revealed that approximately 10% of followers also followed over 1000 other Twitter users.

The result of following large numbers of people on Twitter or Facebook is that individual Tweets or Facebook posts become a tiny drop in the ocean of information that user receives. This exponentially increases the chance that your Tweet or Facebook post will go unseen by that individual.

So, if you are expecting to use social media to plug the gaping whole in your marketing budget, think again.

Also, keep in mind that the Americans, in particular, go WAY overboard in their attempts to turn their films into viral hits. They are your competition in this area, and they are formidable.

To prove the point, I give you 'The Dark Knight Rises'. This film earned a mammoth $1.08 billion worldwide at the box office. What you may not have known, however, is that the film had an extensive viral marketing campaign in the lead up to the film's release.

Do you think no-one would have heard of the film, if not for the viral marketing?

That was rhetorical. I think this was overkill by the Americans on a film that had a massive built in audience.

But it also shows the lengths they will go to to ensure that the audience is aware and engaged with their film.

And this is what you are up against when you try to use nothing but social media to promote your film.

There has to be a middle ground between the Australian Filmmakers who don't take marketing seriously and the Americans who are so cashed up they take it to extremes.

Australian filmmakers have to get this right, for our own survival in the years to come. We need to embrace the regular use of hybrid marketing strategies combining traditional marketing and social media.

In short, we need to make sure we have done everything to ensure people have heard of our films.

Or, you can just rely on becoming a viral hit.

Assuming you feel lucky, of course.

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