This is intended to provide basic principles and practical tips for making the best use of social media, as an independent film exhibitor. It’s not intended to be definitive, or a magic wand to conjure likes, shares and follows. Different things will work for different exhibitors and different events. If you have any tips or advice to add, please let us know!
Basic Social Media Dos
- Have a clear identity for your page
- Have a clear idea who you want to appeal to
- Be concise – keep it short and economical
- Be as visual as possible
- Be discoverable – use hashtags (appropriately)
- Be responsive – if people engage with your posts, engage with them – and reply to queries ASAP.
- Be a real person – e.g. post a picture of you putting up a poster, rather than the poster itself
- Use active language and calls-to-arms (Buy, try, “get tickets”, “check this out”)
- Post regularly (keeping in mind the requirements of each platform)
- Tailor/adapt your content and tone for different platforms
- Pay attention to what works well for you, your page and your events
- Research – see what other exhibitors, venues, platforms are doing that works and suits you
- Experiment – most platforms share information with you so you can easily find what works and what doesn’t
- Develop a strategy based on all of the above
- Plan and schedule posts
- Ask people or accounts to share your content and share theirs
Basic Social Media Don’ts
- Post/talk only about yourself/your event(s)
- Panic cluster-post at the last minute
- Tag random (or friendly but not immediately relevant) people or accounts in tweets and/or pictures
- Re-use (i.e. steal) content without attribution
- Overuse hashtags, especially “comedy” hashtags
Content | Always ask the distributor if they have marketing material available. This can include stills, posters, trailers, press releases which you can draw quotes and/or additional information from, and also any guidance to follow, especially if it’s a new or recent release – much better to adhere to their release campaign strategy, if there is one. If it’s an older film, you should still ask if there’s material available. There are also various resources online. Look for the website of the marketing team company, if there is one, which often will host marketing materials for download. For posters in particular, try wrongsideoftheart.com, impawards.com or cinematerial.com (the latter requires a small subscription fee). Don’t use images or material from other people’s screenings, at least without permission.
Presentation | You can optimise your images for presentation on the various platforms (i.e. a portrait-oriented poster won’t display fully on Twitter). Twitter now offers automatic cropping of your images in three styles on its new desktop version. Otherwise, you can make reference to the Always Up-To-Date spreadsheet for social media image sizes, which will give you the right sizes for various uses across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and Tumblr. There’s also a free-to-use online re-sizing tool, Landscape, which you can instruct to automatically resize and download images you upload to whatever specifications you need. Sprout Social have produced guides on presentation for images (here) and videos (here).
Any links you use, you can trim so that they don’t display all the unnecessary detail and they will still work. E.g. “https:// matchboxcineclub.com/weird-weekend” can become “matchboxcineclub.com/weird-weekend” and still work as a hot link on all social media platforms. Better yet, you can sign up for a free bitly.com account and, if they’re not already taken, create shortened links, with customised back-halfs, for free. E.g. bit.ly/WEIRDWEEKEND. On Facebook, you can also tag your events in posts the way you would a person, typing @ followed with the event name to find it.
Finally, you know how sometimes a link from another website won’t present properly, i.e. with no image, or the wrong image? That’s often because it’s never been shared before, and you can get around that by testing the link with Facebook’s debugger or Twitter’s card validator.
Timing/frequency | To boil it right down – post once or twice a day on Facebook, a similar frequency for Instagram and as often as you like on Twitter. Facebook in particular would like to encourage you to pay to boost posts or create sponsored posts, so it’s designed to discourage a wide audience for anything you share that involves a ticket link or an event page. You’re less restricted in posting Stories. Likewise, you have freer rein when posting in Facebook event pages – and it’s a good way to keep people interested between announcing your event and it happening. Beware over-posting, though, because non-stop notifications for attendees can be a drag. Getting the best from Twitter requires investment of your time above all else. A tweet has a half-life of about 30 minutes and to get people to engage with your posts, you also need to engage with theirs. In all cases, its good to share content that isn’t about you or (directly) about your event.
You can also use some statistical information to guide when to get the best response from your posts – Sprout Social (NB otherwise a subscription service) offers some insights for the various platforms. Read their “Best times to post on Social Media for 2019” post here.
Subtitles/Captions | Providing these is necessary to make your posts accessible. It’s also a very basic way to increase engagement, since videos are automatically muted on most platforms. Subtitles draw people in. Facebook and YouTube will auto-generate subtitles which you can then edit, or you can upload them as a separate file. There are also ways to create subtitle files separately and burn them into the video. For more advice on any of that, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Free subtitling software includes: Aegisub, Amara, Belle Nuit Subtitler and Subtitle Edit (Windows only).
NB “Subtitles” describe what’s spoken, while “Captions” also include sound and music labels and speech identifiers, etc.
Alt-text for images | This is a very straightforward way to make your posts accessible for the visually impaired – you add text separately describing the images (but not GIFs or videos) you post. On Twitter, you have to enable the feature via Settings and Privacy > Accessibility. On Facebook, it’s a universal feature, although the alt-text is extremely limited in terms of character count. Read Twitter’s guide here. Read Facebook’s guide here. Read Instagram’s guide here.
How alt-text works on Facebook, preparing to post an image:
How alt-text works on Facebook, after you’ve posted an image:
How alt-text works on Twitter (NB you can’t edit after posting):
Sponsored posts | These can be extremely effective compared to print marketing, especially for independent exhibitors who can’t rely on the same reach, footfall or press attention as venues, festivals or bigger exhibitors. Facebook and Twitter are both very good at targeting to specific people, whether it’s people who already follow your page (and may miss your posts due to the algorithm or the speed of constantly unravelling newsfeeds), or a particular demographic, e.g. people who live near your event, young people, or people who like horror films. Facebook is a lot more user friendly than Twitter, though both require experimentation and attention to get the best results. Some reluctance to engage with this aspect of social media is understandable, but keep in mind, if you’re doing it right, you’re showing people something they want to see.
NB If you’re participating in Scalarama Glasgow/West, Edinburgh/East, or Highlands and Islands, and you’re making Facebook events for September, please make your local Scalarama page a co-host. You can also add something along the lines of “Screening as part of Scalarama 2019” to your event description, and make sure to tag Scalarama in your relevant posts, tweets, etc, using the hashtag #Scalarama or #Scalarama2019.
Always Up-To-Date Social Media Image Sizes Cheat Sheet
Social Media Image Re-sizing Tool
Twitter Card Validator
Bitly URL Shortener + Custom Links
This guide was made for Scalarama Glasgow’s July 2019 meeting, presented by Sean Welsh. Sean is responsible for Matchbox Cineclub and Scalarama Glasgow’s social media. He also planned and operated social media for Document International Human Rights Film Festival as Production Coordinator in 2016 and 2017.