The idea of “crowdsourcing” has been around for about five years, since Jeff Howe coined the term in a Wired Magazine article. It basically means outsourcing to the crowd. Filmmakers like those behind the Finnish sci-fi comedy Iron Sky have found it possible to crowdsource such services as visual special effects through their Wreck a Movie platform to keep costs low. User generated content (UGC) has become key to many online business models where content of all sorts is essentially created for free by a motivated and involved community (such as the YouTube Life in a Day documentary film). And of course, everyone has heard of at least one successful crowdfunding story for film and online video through sites like Kickstarter and Sokap. It all sounds a little too good to be true, and a crowdsourcing backlash now decries it as “slave labour.” But whether it is exploitation or simply engaging your superfans effectively, crowdsourcing is becoming a necessity for many indie screen media creators. This week I explore how search marketing can help you connect with your potential superfan community and get them invested in generating content and cash for your project.
Seek & Ye Shall Find the Words
Yep, you guessed it; it all starts with keyword research. Look to your treatment and/or your script to find seed words. What are the big ideas, the major themes of your piece? What is the genre? Who is the talent? All of these things can be plugged into something like Google’s Keyword Tool to provide you with information about the relevant language being used and searched for already. Use Google Trends and Google Insights for further inspiration. This data is the breadcrumb trail to where your potential audience lives online.
Seek with the Words & Ye Shall Find Community
Now you know the language of your crowd, use that to find them. Search on Google, Bing, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for the phrases your discovered in your research; all these will turn up results that include potential advocates and superfans. Gather these, compile them in spreadsheets if you have to and look for opportunities to start conversations and become a valuable member of this community. This is not a short terms process. The sooner you can begin this (i.e. during development) the better your chances of finding and growing an effective presence in this community for yourself and your screen media project.
Reward the Community & Ye Shall Engage
Once you have found your community, listen, learn, and chime in with worthwhile insight and comments. As time passes you need to find ways to engage your fellow members to truly build a community who will be on your side and want to help you with your project. Think long and hard about the value you can provide. Do not expect them to want to be involved simply because you and your project are just so cool and/or inspiring (although that does help). For any effective crowdsourcing project, you need to give something back. Some ideas:
- Rewards like the ones for different pledge levels on Kickstarter;
- Encouragement and acknowledgment of crowd involvement – i.e. show how your story is changing or evolving because of feedback or contributions, make them feel like collaborators;
- Highlight your superfans in key places on your website and social media pages (a bit of ego boosting never hurt anyone);
- Make a home, a place where the community around your project can communicate and share with each other, a legacy that could potentially go beyond the project itself and be a gift to the community/superfans if you need to leave and go onto the next project.
According to a recent study I found about Understanding Crowdsourcing, intrinsic motivations (pleasure, challenge, and internal satisfaction) are much more fulfilling and successful for getting people to volunteer than extrinsic motivations (compensation, recognition, and external rewards). However, extrinsic rewards can be made more effective by directly relating them to a project and a members’ contribution as much as possible. Keep these tidbits in mind as you try to figure out the most effective way to crowdsource and build an involved community.
Engage the Community & Ye Shall be Rewarded (but don’t rest on your laurels)
You’ve done your keyword research; you’ve found the online community for your film, television show, web series, transmedia experience; you’ve become involved with that community; and you have developed an authentic engagement and reward strategy. These steps will provide you a very strong foundation to get your project made and the word out. However, as all of this takes time (like one fan at a time), there are repeated opportunities for you to revisit your search marketing (keyword research) and all the other steps. It is important to test, retest, respond to your audience, and make adjustments. The true power will come from an evolving and deeper form of engagement. When it comes to crowdsourcing, you can’t lose when you truly play to the crowd.
Do you have any other questions, resources, tips or insight into getting a community to volunteer talent, content and cash ? Please post below or send them via email to annelise(at)veria.ca or Twitter @veriatweet
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