In order to get people to see your film, you need to have a target audience and know how to reach (and how to talk to) them.
There are two paths to reach your audience, both of which have a proven track record:
You can study, research and intimately understand your target audience.
- or -
You can just copy what works from people who've already done it.
I recommend number two: copy what works from people who already know how to reach the same audience.
Who has the time and money to do the type of research needed to fully understand a given audience? Who even among us DIY filmmakers has this training to be a market researcher? (Okay, okay, you should try to do the research nonetheless. It's good for you to learn the marketing skills.)
But, the easiest way to tell your target audience about your film is to copy from the masters.
It's a pretty straight-forward approach. First, you find out what movies (and other stuff) that your audience likes already. Second, you look up these projects and take notes on what works and just do something similar.
Remember, it's not stealing if you don't use their footage, logos, images or text. All you need to do is find out what other films that your audience already likes (and tv shows, and books, and music, etc.).
Most likely, you already are a member of your film's target audience (after all, why go through the painful experience of making a film you're not passionate about?), so you can probably make some good guesses about favorite films for your audience. These are the ones you like most. Easy.
If you're not a member of that audience, or if you just want to go the extra mile (highly recommended) to discover what films your target audience likes, Facebook is your friend.
Here are two tricks on how to use Facebook to do market research on your target audience. It assumes you have at least a few hundred friends on your own personal Facebook page and/or at least a few hundred fans on your film's Facebook page.
Option 1: Your Facebook friends
Use your own circle of friends as a free market research bank.
Since like attracts like, you probably have Facebook friends that are in your target audience too. (If not, well, this won't work.)
- Click on Friends
- Click on Edit Friends (don't worry, we won't be editing anything)
- Click on Recently Interacted to see the other options...
- Click on Search by Interest
- Enter the name of a (major) film that you already know appeals to the same target audience
- You'll get a result of people who say they like that film and are your friends
- See what other films come up often in those people's interests
Now that you have a list of film, check out those trailers (even if the film is old -- see if you can find the trailer online somewhere). Study how they convey the story, the feel of the film and how the marketing for the movie says "hey target audience, this film is for YOU."
Option 2: Your film's Facebook page
If you already have a Facebook page for your film (with a minimum of 100+ fans -- and ideally not just your own friends and family only), you can do this separate cool trick.
- Go to your film's page, logged in as one of the admins.
- Click on Use Facebook as Your Film Name (where "Your Film Name" is, um, your film's name).
- You are now logged in as if you were your film, rather than your own personal account.
- Click on News Feed.
- See the section called "Recommended Pages" on the right of the page? It will tell you a list of other movies, TV shows and other fan pages that your fans like. (Don't bother clicking on "See All" though -- it's best to see the info about how many of your fans like each recommended page -- and you can't see that on the "See All" page unfortunately.)
- Additinally, you should be able to reload the page and different "Recommended Pages" should come up, with the specific number of fans that like those things too.
Keep notes with the films, TV shows and other fan pages that people Like. Obviously, you're more interested in those with highest number of Likes amongst your fans.
Now that you have a list of what your target audience is into, go to these other films' Facebook pages and visit their actual websites -- and study them. Look at how the film sites talk about their projects, the style of design/art they use, and basically how they present themselves to the world.
You'll also want to research HOW these films reached the audience. This will be tougher, but perhaps you can dig around online for articles and discussions about how a film marketed itself (an easy search via Google: "movie name" marketing). Did they just buy ads or did they do local events or did they print up temporary tattoos and hand them out at Comic-Con? See if you can find out more about their marketing and outreach and PR plans.
For films, definitely take a look at their trailers and the posters -- see what elements they use and try to emulate the look. People have one second to make up their mind about a project when they see a poster or in the first few seconds of a trailer. Help them by being similar to what they like already.
And then take your notes and use similar strategies for your film. Basically, create a DIY and cheap version of their marketing plan for your film. Don't steal taglines or images -- just the underlying ideas and strategies: you're not trying to copy WHAT they say, but HOW they say it.
Why does it matter how other films are marketed?
These films (from your Facebook research) have attracted people who are interested in your film (or in things like your film) and if you learn their tricks, you can better attract to your film an audience composed of like-minded people.
While you're at it, why don't you check out the Facebook page for our indie sci-fi film, In-World War, and become a fan by clicking "Like" on our page. Seriously, look at all this free stuff I write for you: my gentle, good-looking, highly-intelligent reader. The least you can do is Like our film's Facebook page. Think of the children.