The following outlines a process to build out a simple audience engagement strategy that can be included in funding applications and used to help get your film, web series, television show or story to an audience who will want to watch and experience it. This is then followed by an example strategy to help you build out your own. Also check out our additional list of digital marketing resources and some presentations about audience and digital engagement.
Step 1: Identify Your Audience (Who)
This is THE most important step for building out an audience engagement strategy. If you don't know who to target, how can you attract and engage them?
Because you cannot successfully target everyone within this broad demographic. The trick is to build a strategy around very specific niche audiences. This is not about demographics, but more about passions and interests. Brainstorm potential niche audiences around your story. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Who are your characters/subjects? Do they have jobs or interests that define them? Do they identify with specific cultural or under-represented groups (i.e. foodies, taxi cab drivers, Ukranians, LGBTQI2, people of colour, etc)?
- Are there themes or topics in your story people would care about (i.e. whales, addiction, the African diaspora, the Canadian north, Indigenous rights, etc)?
- Does your story fall into a specific genre/sub-genre (i.e. gothic horror, steampunk, film noir)?
- Do members of your cast attract a certain fanbase? Around certain issues, interests &/or demographics?
- Are there any similar kinds of stories that already exist and have a strong online following?
Once you have finished brainstorming, try to come up with at least three very specific niche audiences (the narrower the better).
Step 2: Find Your Audience Online (Where)
Once you have established the niche audience(s) you want to target, start plugging descriptive phrases into every search bar you can find: on Google, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Reddit, on Pinterest, on Instagram, etc, etc. Search for bloggers and vloggers who are passionate about this topic or interest. Search for forums and groups where they are gathering. Search for language and hashtags they are already using. (NB: Check out some of the recommended tools in our resource list. For example, an amazing tool for hashtag research is Hashtagify.me.)
This is the basis of your digital strategy. It will give you an idea of what platforms you need to use to reach your audience(s). It will not necessarily be a website, Facebook page and Twitter profile (which is what 95% of media storytellers will put down for their digital strategy). Look further afield and find the unexpected and completely relevant.
Step 3: Find Ways to Add Authentic & Relevant Value (How)
Once you have found the digital influencers, conversations and communities where your audience(s) are spending their time, get to know them. Observe and learn what gets them excited and engaged. What kinds of content do they respond to best? What do they like to share?
You need to add value to these influencers, conversations and communities. When you understand this, you will know what tactics you need to use to best exploit the platforms identified during the previous step.
Step 4: Build Your Digital Audience Engagement Strategy (Who + Where + How)
If you have followed the previous three steps, you should now have a very solid idea of WHO you need to reach, WHERE they are online and HOW you can engage them. This can be turned into an audience engagement strategy for your film, web series, TV show or other media story which will demonstrate your knowledge to potential funders and partners and help to focus a larger digital marketing and distribution plan. Below is a very simple version.
Example Audience Engagement Strategy
Project: season 1 of a modern, dark fairy tale web series
- Fanfiction writers & readers who love paranormal romance
- Fans of the actor playing the protagonist (who has a developed a strong online following through a minor role on the TV show Supernatural)
- Fans of similar kinds of stories (i.e. modern retellings of fairy tales such as the TV series Grimm & Once Upon a Time and Marissa Mayers Lunar Chronicles book series)
Preliminary market research has identified the following potential opportunities for a digital strategy for audience engagement:
- Relevant threads on FanFiction.net (such as those for the TV series Grimm) and GoodReads (such as those for fans of the Lunar Chronicles series aka the Lunartics)
- Online fan communities for the shows Supernatural (i.e. http://supernaturalfansonline.com & http://supernatural.wikia.com/wiki/Supernatural_Wiki), Once Upon a Time (i.e. https://www.onceuponafans.com/ & http://onceuponatime.wikia.com/wiki/Once_Upon_a_Time_Wiki) & Grimm (i.e. http://grimm-fan.com/ & http://grimm.wikia.com/wiki/Grimm_Wiki)
- Related hashtags on Twitter such as #Supernatural, #SPNfamily, #SPN, #OnceUponaTime, #Grimm (often used for live-tweeting when new episodes of these series are broadcast) and #lunartics, #LunarChronicles, #romance, #fairytale, #fantasy, #paranormalromance, #ASMSG (stands for Authors Social Media Support Group)
- #FairytaleFriday video memes on YouTube
Tactics & Strategies:
Based on the above research, the digital audience engagement strategy for this web series should include:
- Profiles for the web series on YouTube & Twitter, with strong, consistent & relevant use of fan related hashtags
- An online writing contest to engage the fanfic writers and readers (with an emphasis on romance) , with the winner contributing to an episode for the second season of the web series & a tangible prize (i.e. a Kindle ereader)
- Ongoing participation in & adding value to relevant fan communities and conversations around the TV shows Supernatural, Grimm & Once Upon a Time and the Lunar Chronicle books (including on Wikia, Fanfiction.net and GoodReads)
- Individual outreach and engagement with influencers and key superfans within the above fan communities and relevant YouTubers
- Small YouTube ad buys targeting relevant YouTuber channels & fan communities, especially highlighting our Supernatural actor in the lead
- Creating short supplemental videos to participate in #FairytaleFriday memes on YouTube