GADZOOK FILMS Producing independent film in Seattle, Los Angeles and beyond.


Audience Involvement

In a recent Seattle Webseries Meetup (that's right! I started a webseries group in a city I don't live in anymore!) I was talking about audience engagement. This is really the best single marketing tool anyone can have. With an engaged audience nearly anything is possible. And with web production there's no excuse not to have all the tools you need to find and involve these power audiences!

What exactly is an engaged audience member? And how do you engage your audience?

Engaging your audience is, to put it simply, making friends with the people who support your work. After all, these folks are paying you - via DVD sales, website memberships, crowdfunding, ad clicks, whatever tool you use to monetize your project - to make good work. They want you to succeed because they want to see good stuff! The least you can do is reward them by not only producing great content but also giving them the knowledge that their voice matters to you.

Generally your audience doesn't come pre-engaged. If you're just starting out and have no cachet to call on, you'll need to spend some time building an audience. This is where social networking comes into play. It also means you'll need to create something to draw this audience in. As Robert Pratten said in his article on audience engagement, the first step is Discovery. Once they find your stuff you need to provide them with the avenues to give you feedback - Twitter, a Facebook group, a Google+ Page, a Tumblr account, etc. And then listen to them! Share with them, discuss with them. Tell them what you're trying to accomplish and ask what they'd like to see. One thing leads to another and it's these baby steps that lead to an active and engaged audience.

Crowdfunding has become a popular way of getting the word out in part because it's a new way to involve your audience. I would caution against crowdfunding an idea BEFORE you've sought the audience for it. You don't want to spend time finding the right people to fund your project while your campaign is running! Find the audience, engage them on some level with your idea, then start the campaign. I've seen many filmmakers go about this backwards and it usually amounts to campaigns where the discovery doesn't happen until the very end of the campaign and funding goals are not met.

There are tools to track engagement on sites like Twitter and Facebook. You can use Google Analytics or WordPress SiteStats to see just who is coming to your page and interacting with your content and you. I encourage people to be at least casually familiar with these systems so that you can better direct your marketing and engagement campaigns.

Indie filmmakers tend to stay closer to their indie filmmaker friends which creates a vortex of back-slapping but no real headway when butts need to fill seats. We're filmmakers. We're poor and we're hard to please. There are much better audiences out there - unless of course your show is all about indie filmmakers. Hmm... if so, please refer to my post on Why Most Webseries Suck and don't do that.

Webseries promotion often forgets about the audiences themselves. The truly successful shows out there have gone out of their way to network with fans, not just friends. You can begin the fan creation process before writing your first scene. As Captain Picard would say, "Engage!" *sorry*

Further reading:
Measuring Audience Engagement in Social Media by Nathan Linnell at Search Engine Watch.

Further viewing:
Matt Vancil (creator of JourneyQuest, The Gamers) speaking in February 2012 at the Film + Music + Interactive Happy Hour presented by the Seattle Office of Film and Music.

Posted by Dom

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I have left you a comment.

    Oh all right.

    With the yo-yo of television hits and the inclusion of the technology to watch anything anywhere at almost any time, webseries really have a leg up in becoming ‘more than just something you watch on the internet’.

    There are no boundaries anymore – and thus there are no excuses for creating ‘bad’ webseries.

    Webseries fills the yo-yo gap and can often become that ‘go to’ place for quality entertainment, less advertising monopolies, and the ability to create that loyal audience. Careful execution and production plays a huge role in gaining that audience that will spread the word about your series like wild-fire!


  2. I too have left you a comment. Mostly to say “I agree!”

    I wish I could say more…but my hands are literally “full of Skittles.”

  3. a third comment!

    great post. maybe this is the hardest part and why some webseries (or short films or whatEVER) don’t take off.

    we need an army of broadcasters. one person alone yelling a website in a forest does not make an audience (and that’s often how i feel)

  4. I know this is focused toward web series or indie projects, but also consider how it works on the macro scale-a problematic show like Walking Dead, which runs internet contests, has a huge Facebook page, and has actors and producers Tweeting like crazy, pulls huge numbers. However, an arguably better (or at least more consistent) show like Terriers gets canceled after 1 season due to the deafening silence. You can’t rely on people finding and recognizing your genius instantaneously-you have to work for it.

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