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Bums on seats – part two

This is the second part of a two part article. Part one is here.

Jiwi's Machines

Jiwi’s Machines

As well as using a crowdfunding campaign as a way of building an audience for a project, Gracewood shared her opinions on other approaches, discussing the pros and cons of online and offline options.

For social media, one of the issues oft debated is whether or not one should create new identities (on facebook, twitter, YouTube and other social media) for new projects. The brand identity might be valuable, but…

Gracewood leaned away from creating enw identities if there were other options. As a producer or director, one’s own brand has value and a following (of whatever size). Why start from scratch again every time? Why build an audience from zero when you’ve got a potential audience already connecting with you?

One option is to use both a brand identity and a project identity, and to feed material to each – an easily-automated task these days. Gracewood also recommended that piggybacking on an existing online presence, especially one which you had control over, was particularly useful on YouTube, as it would give you a stronger presence among the recommended content listings down the side of the page. All those other videos on offer can keep someone engaged with your project, or take them a long way away in just a few clicks.

Partly for that reason, and whether or not one’s project is intended to be a transmedia project, Gracewood recommended that there should be a planned roll-out of addtitional content supporting the project.

That content might be behind-the-scenes footage, making of, bloopers, cast interviews, deleted scenes, almost anything that didn’t make it to the final cut. There should be planning behind it, Gracewood said: a plan of what would be released, how and when to capture it, how and when to edit it, and when to release it. For a webseries that released episodes on, say, Fridays, a weekly Tuesday release of other material would help keep viewers engaged.

Without being cynical about the quality of that additional material, Gracewood was clear that – for a primarily video project, it made sense to create enough separate videos to fill every recommeded video slot on a YouTube page and keep viewers looking at your content.

To that end, but equally applicable for postings elsewhere online, she also recommeded tagging every post comprehensively – including with common misspellings.

Covering off the other big two social media portals, Gracewood shared some strengths and weaknesses.

“You have to feed the SM channels at times that work for the audiences,” said Gracewood. “At certain times of day you’re just tweeting into an echo chamber.”

As the twitter stream can move very quickly, don’t assume any of your followers will see a tweet later on. Time your tweets at more user-friendly times. Also, if you have access to other accounts or account-holders, organise for key tweets to be retweeted.

Facebook delivers higher engagement returns than twitter, which might be a surprise to some since twitter’s shorter form content is supposed to encourage engagement with the attention span-challenged audiences of today. However, on facebook is where people spend more time and their level of interaction with individual pieces of content is greater.

(SCREENZ’s limited experience using social media bears that out. SCREENZ has c1.5 times as many twitter followers as Facebook friends. However, with the exception of a couple of articles that were retweeted by key influencers internationally, four times as many visitors arrive on the SCREENZ website from a facebook post than from a tweet. So, facebook is six times more effective than twitter at driving website traffic, for SCREENZ at least. I didn’t expect that!)

For a project like Gracewood’s in-production Jiwi’s Machines the social media game isvery different from a project for an adult audience. Kids generally don’t use twitter. In Asia WhatsApp is a very viable marketing tool for teen-skewing projects, but not so much in NZ. Legally speaking, the 7 – 12 year-old target age group for Jiwi’s is younger than the 13 years required for a facebook account, so the project’s facebook presence is very much directed at engaging with parents as (hopefully) the target kids’ primary influencers.

There are, however, far too many social media options to keep track of, let alone maintain a presence on and that – along with some real world connections and expertise – was one reason Gracewood recommended using a publicist if possible, “But only one who likes your project. And who understands how to tell stories.”

Apart from avoiding reinventing the wheel, it’s good to have someone who’s passionate about your work but still has a clear understanding of the likely results of specific actions on social media channels.

“Don’t use an intern to manage your social media presence,” Gracewood said, before adding, “Let them learn how to do it on their own projects.”

As she had done earlier, Gracewood closed stressing the importance of the story at the heart of all the promotion, and of having an effective strategy to drive results.

Jiwi’s Machines’ is currently in production at Auckalnd’s MOTAT. Its release date is yet to be set but, given the school age target audience, is likely to be either November 2015 or February 2016.

Joseph Gets Dressed, Gracewood’s short doco featuring Jiwi’s Machines’ Joseph Herscher, has one more NZIFF screening in Auckland on Sunday 26, playing with Leah Wolchok’s Very Semi-Serious. It screens in the Wellington leg of the NZIFF on 29 July, and 2, 4 and 6 August.

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