Ask Not What Your Audience Can Do For You – But What You Can Do For Your Audience
Part 2 of How to Make Money in the Age of Abundance
When I wrote the first post in this series, I thought this would only be a two-parter, but I decided to expand this to a 4-part series because of a little voice in my head that said I needed to talk about audience engagement more.
Yes, I said in Part 1 that I wasn’t going to address it in this series because I had addressed it before – sue me. The truth is, audience engagement is so central to this whole process that I needed to add my evolving thoughts on it. I think you’ll appreciate my change of heart.
Audience engagement is a term that I have recently come to use interchangeably with “distribution and marketing.” What else is distribution and marketing – if not enticing, conversing with, and ultimately wooing your audience?
Up until a year ago my marketing and distro presentations had a 3-step process for audience engagement. Each step could reasonably comprise a blog post in its own.
1. Who is your audience?
What niche audiences does your film appeal to? What are the core audiences within these niches? What secondary and tertiary audiences might there be that this core can expand out to?
2. Where does your audience receive information and recommendations?
I examine this by looking at various channels of communication that audiences rely on, such as influencers, social media, traditional media, organizations, etc.
3. How does your audience engage with media?
In other words, how does your audience consume media? Do they download? Do they pay for media? Do they go to the theaters?
Every film, artist, creative project is different because their audiences are different. There is no cookie cutter audience engagement shortcut. You have to figure out who your audience is, what they’re doing, and where they are before you figure out how to approach them, get them on your side, and get them to see (and champion) your film.
However, in the last year I have added a fourth step in this process:
4. What value can you provide your audience?
After identifying your audience, this is actually the most important action to consider – and it will be different for every audience. It forms the basis for engaging with your audience as well as the products you offer them.
You can’t just think about what you want them to do for you; you truly have to assess what you’re doing for them.
What Do You Have to Offer:
1. Your film/creative project.
Most people say that if you don’t make a something great – then nothing else matters. I don’t know if that is precisely true anymore (since people are investing in people – eg you – not as much your project anymore) – but as a purest and as an idealist – I will put this first. Your value to your audience is to provide them with a great film – or creative project. Perhaps you can boil it down even to a great story – either fictional or dramatic – which could play out in a variety of forms.
What is the audience of your film interested in? 90% of what you communicate (at least) should be information that your audience is interested in – and not promotional. If your audience is interested in your life and your thoughts – great – all the better. But there are other non-personal issues, ideas, tidbits that I bet they are perhaps more interested in. Most of all – save the promotional part for your communication for your crowdfund campaigns and releases – and even then you should be providing content – not just “give me, pay me, buy from me.”
This can range from online interaction with audiences – real give and take on social media channels where your audience feels that they are engaging with you. Or it can be live – hanging around after a screening talking to people one on one.
My monthly conference call in my Kickstarter campaign is a way to achieve 2&3.
4. An Experience.
I will discuss this more in the next part of this series – but at its most simple it involves getting beyond the notion of theatrical screenings as the epitome of the way film is to be experienced. What kind of events can you provide with your film? What kind of experiences can you provide around your film? What kind of experiences can you provide around yourself as an artist? Again – crowdfunding has been great to get filmmakers and all artists to think creatively about creating exclusive experiences with their audiences – one to one conversations – year long group projects – etc.
5. Content Part 2 – Other Assets.
You don’t need to create a full blown transmedia experience to create other assets that engage people in your project. Braden King’s Postcards From Here are an elegant, simple, compelling example. Showing me your vision on Instagram everyday makes me see your evolution as an artist. Perhaps there is something else you can offer that I could never even imagine. I hope so. I want to see it.
I am currently running a Kickstarter campaign, so you can see how I am utilizing scarcity, membership, and digital exclusivity to raise funds for my latest film, Bomb It 2, here:bombit2Kickstarter.com.
We have met our goal – but have added a stretch goal of $20K to help cover all of our expenses. More important than the stretch goal, though, is our goal to create a community of 300 backers for BOMB IT 2. As of this moment, as I am writing this for you, I have 286 dedicated backers who have not only pledged money but most of whom have dedicated time and effort toward spreading the word about the campaign. Yes, I’ll give them the movie and other perks, such as consultations, posters, original art, etc. in exchange for their contribution, but they’re giving me much more. Please check it out, contribute if you’re moved, and – no matter what – stay tuned for the final part of this series on “How to Make Money in a Time of Abundance.”