Five steps to build a Twitter distribution system for your indie film

Five steps to build a Twitter distribution system for your indie film

Twitter is a unique universe. 135,000 new users flock (bird-pun) to twitter everyday for different reasons. Some see it as a news source. Some are trying to network. Others are just trying to keep up with the Kardashians.

Why People Use Twitter.PNG

What you need to take away from this is that no one is coming to twitter for you. In fact, any of the social platforms have users thinking, “It’s about me, not you.” So don’t jump in trying to grab everyone’s attention. Instead, follow your target audience around and find out what it is that they want. Then provide that.

Who cares if that sounds creepy. Its a public forum. They’re offering for you and anyone to find out about what they like. So, lets talk about how to go about doing that.

1. Find your film’s niche attraction.


Identifying your unique attraction will help narrow what audience will want to visit.


What is your film about? What niche does it fit? Who will it speak to (besides you and the crew, or at least some of the crew)?

If you used analytics to help you generate the seed for your story then you are already ahead on this game. If not, it’s time to rev up your laptop and run a little analysis.

What you are looking for are the themes in your movie that will really speak to a niche audience. So what’s your film about? It’s a twist between When Harry Met Sally and World War Z on a $200.00 budget? Great. Let’s dissect that into some themes.

Just spit-balling here. Lets say the themes are: Relationships, Love, Zombies, Apocalypse. Now we have something to work with. But let’s pause for a second to run some film analytics. Why? Because you’re biased.

I like crowdsourcing analytics like with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. You can easily upload your script and request that the wise crowds categorize the themes and elements in your script or film. It’s relatively inexpensive and it might bring up concepts and themes that you never realized were in there (and if you’re really brave you could gather some feedback).

Once you’ve had unbiased eyes categorize your movie you could take it a step further and have the crowds weight how much of each element is in your film. What you’re trying to do is narrow down to the driving niche elements to what you created. When you know what the few key or really compelling elements are then you are ready to find the audience that wants what you’ve got.

2. Find your niche audience.

Once you know who your niche is you can track them down on Twitter. Twitter makes this relatively easy. Jumping back to our example film and example themes (Relationships, Love, Zombies, and Apocalypse) let’s find some followers!

The first thing to do is to search Twitter.Twitter advanced search

Advanced Twitter Search Results

Another great way is to target people using Twitter’s “people search” which is part of the advanced search. The difference here is using the keywords to find people that have listed those keywords in their bio, which means you know that they’re into those elements you identified in your film. Social Bro and FollowerWonk will help with the same thing.

Mana Ionescu (@manamica) laid out 6 great steps to targeting your audience on Twitter on that you should check out for a deeper dive into finding your niche audience.

3. Build a following.

Twitter is full of engaged users. Its also full of $#!&. By that I mean that there are a lot of users out there for the “look at me.” look at me.gif

Those users really won’t be worth having, except in terms of pretending to have clout (making people think by looking at your number of followers that you matter). While I can see this as an initial strategy for 100-200 new followers, I wouldn’t use it to pick up much more than that.

What you want to do is pick up followers that matter. You want followers that when new followers come along they feel that they belong with the crowd of other followers. In order to do that you should engage with your target audience (the ones you identified in step 2) and provide meaningful content for them.

Likes and retweets show that you have an interest in them. Mentions open a conversation as do direct messages. Adding users to a list lets them know that you are listening to them and that you consider them an important voice on a particular topic. Using relevant hashtags will help provide your audience with information on a subject that they are following.

Twitter is a patience game. If your just putting your idea to paper then you should start right away and build over the course of the film production. This allows you to generate interest and offer teasers about the movie along the way. If you already finished the cut then you should expect a few months of concerted effort to ensure that you have an engaged and interested following.

While numbers don’t count, they do. You want to aim for 1500+ followers that are engaged enough that they just might want to see your film. Anything less and you don’t have much credibility. I know its tempting because it seems elite, but don’t follow only 20-100 users. You see celebrities with these huge followings and they’re only following like 300 close friends. Well, you’re not them and when a user sees that you don’t follow back it just says, “I’m here for you to listen to me, not to have a conversation.” Try to keep your ratio of followers to following about 1-to-1.

There are a lot of great tools to generate engagement, find users, and keep up a good ratio. I like FollowerWonk (mentioned earlier), CrowdFire,, and WeFollow.

 Be engaging.


A general rule that I try to maintain is about 20% personal, normal, human type interactions, about 70% interesting and engaging content, and about 10% promotion.

Timing is another element of engagement. You need to be consistent. I have a friend that gained literally thousands of followers by posting and retweeting infographics and interesting blog articles every 2 hours for three weeks. To emphasize, he went from joining Twitter to having over 5,500 followers in three weeks! And those followers cared about what he cared about because it was all surrounding the content he wanted to share.

Twitter dashboards like Hootsuite and TweetDeck can help you keep track of Twitter feeds for retweets and likes. RSS feeds and subscribing to relevant blogs (like say, this one…) can also keep quality content within easy reach.  Services like Trendspottr and Nuzzle can help you curate from trending topics both broad and within your niche.

Promote your film and reap the rewards. Blank Screen.jpg

Once you build an engaged following then it’s time to sell your film. Use the 20, 70, 10 rule that I mentioned before to drop promotions for you movie. As you generate interest then you should start inviting your audience to view your film.

There are multiple ways to monetize your film:

You can post it on a video sharing site, like YouTube or Vimeo, where you are allowed to run ads to generate income. However, that income source may turn out to be too small if you aren’t able to drive near a million views or more.

You can create a website to host your film and ask for donations from viewers or have them buy the film directly from you. You can sell it through Amazon, iTunes, or other streaming pay-to-own services.

You could send your followers to a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter. Even if your movie is finished, there are always other campaigns that you can run for it. For instance, you could decide to submit your film to the festival circuit. By letting users view your film you generate a passionate following that might be happy to fund your efforts to increase distribution or find a studio buyer. I would suggest that you add into your overall fundraising goals the recovery of filming expenses and a profit (because you want to make another film don’t you?). This way you make money on your film and you generate a fund to go out an market it for sale.

Finally, when you do go market it to Netflix or some art-house studio you can take with you the analytics on how many followers have already seen and purchased your film and how well it was received. These statistics can be more powerful than you would think because they show the buyer that their is a desire for your film. That will reduce the perceived risk in taking on your movie and thereby give you more leverage in negotiating a price for the film.

Tell me what you do to build a twitter following? What kind of metrics are you getting when converting your following to viewing your movie(s)?


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