Twitter for filmmakers

Yes, I know, you’re are probably rolling your eyes and thinking ‘Oh, not another post on how to use a twitter. Why all the fuss about it? All I need to do is sign up and followers will come my way’.
Well, sorry, but I’ll have to disappoint you. First, this is not just another useless post about twitter thingy (later on you’ll see why).
Secondly, the reality is a bit different from what you’re thinking as people are not ready to blindly follow you, especially if you’re a documentary filmmaker (sad, I know).

10 rules listed below are great way for you to get those followers back (and hopefully will change the way you’ve been perceiving twitter so far).
Let’s start!

Rule #1: Username, your selling card

First things first. Choosing the right username is a must for every twitter account.

Whether you’ll be making your personal account or the account for your film (preferably the second one), you sure don’t want to be user: @insertyournamehere1. Avoid using numbers in your username, because they’re first association for spammers.

Don’t rush and think it through. Have in mind that it has to be uniqueeasy to memorize and as short as possible. (@docuphile is a perfect example, don’t you think? :)

Don’t worry if the username you want is already taken. You can easily solve the problem by adding doc/movie to it (of course if you plan to have twitter account for your film).

So, instead of having @pinhole2/3/4 etc, you can have @pinholedoc. It’s short, easy to remember and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out it’s the account for a documentary film.

Rule #2: Follow to be followed (aka follow codex)

Ask yourself: if you don’t follow people how in the world they will know you’re on twitter? (I doubt there are many of us out there, who will spend minutes/hours/days searching for new doc people)

Now that we’ve established you need to follow people in order to be followed, although it’s probably the most easiest thing in twitter universe, I notice that most filmmakers don’t know whom to follow and therefore make mistakes by following no one or a lots of random people.

Solution for this ‘problem’ is quite simple: follow people that share the same interest as you do or are related to the subject of your film. Because you share mutual interests, they will most probably follow you back (In case you were wondering why I’m not following you back, well, now you know).

Example 1: if your film is about modeling, follow people in model industry, non-profit organisations, fans of fashion, etc. plus the people from documentary world (you don’t want to exclude them. This is a very nice list);

Example 2: if your film is about AIDS follow: health-care organisations, HIV non-profit organisations, documentary people,…

I’m sure you get the point.

Following people with the same interests not only gets you more followers, but is also a nice way for you to

be up-to-date with the latest news on topics that are related to your film. In other words, you can use those news to promote your film in a smart way, not just by trying to sell it. Not sure what I’m writing about? Check rule #5.

Tip: It’s most likely that people with disproportionate numbers (more friends then followers) will follow you back.

Tip 2: Don’t follow a bunch of people at once as your account might be deleted by twitter. Plus it also might have a psychological effect on your future followers (following 400 people, and having zero to twenty followers…warning sign…looks like not so interesting person.).

Rule #3: Less is more

I’m sure by now you’ve realised that twitter has 140 characters limitation. However, that doesn’t mean you have to use every single one.

Short and sweet is a recipe for success on twitter.

Take the time to really craft your tweets. If YOU can’t be bothered, why would you expect anybody else to care? (Now you know why no one retweets your ‘novel’)

Plus, by limiting your tweet to 100 characters (max), you’re making it easy for people who are willing to retweet you.

While writing those awesome tweets please be aware CAPITALS=YELLING. I could close an eye if your film just won the award at some festival, but having your every single tweet like that, well,…

Flawless grammar, perfect spelling and correct (and acceptable) punctuation is something that must imply.

Rule #4: Be active

Keep people informed all the time, especially if you’re in a process of making a film. But, be careful not to overwhelm them with your tweets. Tweeting 10 times in less than 5 minutes, and then be inactive for the rest of the day is something you must avoid.

There are various tools out there that can help you having your tweets nicely distributed during the day (more into this in rule #10).

Rule #5: You’re here to spread the word, not to sell.

In other words it’s not about you or your film. It’s about me, your follower.

This is something you always have to have in mind. People on twitter are there to have fun and spread the word about something that interests them, hopefully that will be your new film. (Sorry, we are not so interested in what you’ve just ate, or what you saw on the street).

No one wants to read: ‘Please like us on fb’, ‘Please support us on indiegogo/kickstarter’, ‘This is a trailer of my new film, please RT’ etc. It doesn’t sound very amusing, don’t you think?

After all, you have to ask yourself why would someone want to do that (especially) if he/she doesn’t know you.

BUT, ‘We’re working very hard on our new film. Why not check out what we’ve been up to so far (here goes the link to your facebook page or website/blog)’. You’ll agree this sounds much better. I’m sure you can think of even better examples.

Your headline is critical, both for clicks and retweets. If you lie or try to trick people, most won’t click on anything you say ever again. A little spit and polish goes a long way. Humour works brilliantly.

Rule #6: Join twitter, yesterday 

The ideal time for starting with your social media campaign (including joining twitter) is before your film is even made or you’re in the process of making it.

This way, by the time your film is out, you’ll already have a big number of fans (who will hopefully be anxious to buy your DVD or a ticket to see it in theaters).

Perfect example for this is ‘Champ of the camp’, the latest documentary by Mahmoud Kaabour (the guy behind acclaimed doc ‘Grandma, a Thousand Times’ / Teta, Alf Marra). Just take a look at the number of the film fans on facebook (I’m pretty sure the situation will be the same with film’s twitter account)

Rule #7: Say no to auto-posts from Facebook


It’s sloppy, it’s essentially spam, and you’re almost guaranteed to not find a sizable number of followers (plus some of us are too lazy to click on a facebook link to see the meaning of that ‘sentence’)

Each Tweet you write is a standalone update. Don’t think of it as a status at all. It’s called micro-blogging for a reason.

Update each platform separately, by hand – and your followers will thank you for it.

Rule #8: Be aggressive (at some point)

Retweeting is a key to success on Twitter (This is when you send someone else’s tweet along to your followers).

You will want to do this for your friends when a tweet is particularly interesting, but also do this strategically.

Do it for influencers. Do it for people you want to get to know. You can build retweeting relationships and reach more people this way.

Be consistent though, don’t re/tweet things not related to your account – if people don’t know what to expect from you, they won’t feel comfortable sharing your content with their own network.

Even if you don’t have much followers at the beginning you can spread the word about your film by using hashtags ( #).They can be very useful, but some people tend to use them for whimsical effect too. That is, #TheyCreateEntireSetencesOutOfTags! There’s little point in creating a hashtag that will only ever be used once.

Don’t be shy or afraid of sending direct tweet to a people from the previously mentioned list. This way you’ll get their attention and who knows some of them might retweet it to their followers (or if you’re lucky enough, might get interested in reviewing your film).

Tip: Avoid sending direct messages (DM)!* Think about it this way: If I just followed you it doesn’t mean I’m willing to like your facebook page or check your website. Why would I do that, when I don’t know you?

Why not instead tweet it to me (respecting the rule #5), and possible get a retweet or at least my attention.

*I’m talking about those promotional DM’s. Of course it’s allowed to send ones that are not for a wider audience.

Rule #9: Constructed twitter bio=more followers

Be clever, be witty, or just be yourself! In a few words, sum up who you are and make it sound interesting. Since that’s what twitter is all about, writing an intriguing bio in such a small space shouldn’t be hard.

Here’s also the opportunity for you to point your audience somewhere by including the link of your blog or website in your bio, by using the entire URL (instead of putting it into web link which gets cut off). Transparency is always best.

If your potential follower is still on your profile page, and they’re not yet convinced about following you, they are going to check what you’ve been tweeting recently (I admit, I’m one of them). Hopefully, they won’t see a sea of @ replies, which might insinuate that you spend a lot of time in micro-conversations that they may be left out of if they follow you.

Rule #10: Tools make your life easier

By now you’re probably thinking when will I find the time for all of this, when I have something better to do. Well, luckily for you there are a bunch of tools out there that will make this twitter thing easy for you. I personally use TweetDeck and Buffer, which I highly recommend (well, I guess my ‘secret’ is now revealed and  now you know I’m not on twitter all the time, as some of you might be thinking ;)

Tips that didn’t make it into top 10:

- Latest research shows that tweets with picture or video have more engagements

- If you start your tweet with a username (e.g. @docuphile) this means only those following both you and the user you’re mentioning (in this case me) will see the post.

As long as there is a character in front of @username (e.g. .@docuphile), anyone is able to see the tweet.

- Don’t be afraid of tweeting same tweets several times a day (make sure there’s at least 2-3 hours difference between them)

- Always use to shorten your links and no other URL shortener. Why? Because nobody clicks on anything else (relatively). If you’re still using TinyURL, this is why nobody is reading your stuff. Plus, gives you some fantastic stats that allow you to really work on optimising your content.

- Abbreviations are very useful on twitter (gr8 stuff, don’t U think? ;)

With 35% of English speaking users (of 200+ million), I wouldn’t think twice on posting my tweets in English.

Wow! There you go. I hope it’s been enjoyable and that we learned some things ;). Now, go ahead and practically implement these rules.

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