Big events advertising smaller events
My primary focus in going to the festival was to see the European premiere of Terry George's new film Whole Lotta Sole, which was showing on a Sunday evening. Obviously I'm going to make a weekend of it so I had a scour through the programme to see what else might be on. I was delighted and surprised to find that Terry the director was going to be 'talking film' on the Friday evening and that the film's editor Nick Emerson was going to be talking about film editing on the Saturday afternoon. I love hearing people talking about 'the making of' process and really enjoyed hearing from music composer Harry Gregson-Williams recently at the Sundance Greenwich festival in London. As I bought my tickets for Terry's and Nick's events I wondered why the ticketing website hadn't suggested these additional, relevant options to me when buying the tickets for Whole Lotta Sole.
It's true that it can be a bit annoying when websites try and promote other events to you so I suppose it has to be handled carefully but Amazon manages this quite effectively with its 'other customers bought this' while suggesting alternatives. It seems a shame not to let someone buying tickets for a film know that the people behind the film are also doing other events. Nick had two films in the festival (Good Vibrations opened the festival on 31 May) so his film editing event could have been linked to both. On the plus side the festival managed to get another booking fee out of me and I do not begrudge them it :)
After I dropped off my bags at my hotel I went for a walk and tripped over the the Waterfront Hall where the Whole Lotta Sole premiere was taking place. I had a look round and was puzzled that there were no posters advertising either the film event, or the Belfast Film Festival as a whole. When it was open I popped in and asked if there were any posters for the film going up. The pleasant staff member pointed out that they had other events going on before it took place (true) but I could see that they also had posters up for events happening in the future. I spotted only one official Belfast Film Festival poster up but it was pointing inwards. I've seen (online only) the poster for Whole Lotta Sole and it might well be a temporary one - I think it was put together to take the film round the festival circuit but it's absolutely gorgeous and it would have been lovely to have had a few dotted around. I was half tempted to get some printed up and sneak back late at night with some blue tack ;) I think it would have been nice for the people involved in the film to have seen their own poster up, and it might have made for a nice photo opportunity too.
I knew that the film was being shown in the 2,000 seater auditorium and hoped that lots of people had heard about the event - I needn't have worried though because as I got chatting to people in the Belfast (and explaining why I was in the city) it became pretty clear that EVERYONE knew about the film, and about Terry George, and most of them seemed to be coming along to the premiere. As it happens the event was sold out and there was some very good advertising via TV and newspapers, even without any film posters - hooray.
Other ways of advertising smaller events
Terry's talk on the Friday was excellent and interesting and even though the venue and time changed (it had been 7pm at the Black Box but became 8pm in a cinema theatre on Donegall Street) the co-ordination of the change of venue was really good. I had a telephone call from the organisers letting me know it had been shifted and all went well and I got there in plenty of time. There were helpful posters up outside telling venue goers what was going on at each venue which was a nice touch, however they only really emitted information to people already attending an event and perhaps looking at the posters just to check where they were going.
But I think they missed a trick in not using these posters to promote the various different events to passersby though, not just the people who'd already bought tickets or knew about the events.
Pretty much everyone in Belfast already knows exactly who Terry George is - he and his daughter Oorlagh have just won an Academy Award (Oscar) for their Belfast-based short film The Shore, and they were congratulated in the Northern Ireland assembly - but people might not know that he was speaking at an event before the premiere of his film. Might as well add something to the poster that makes it really clear.
Also, the festival had a fantastic logo that looked a bit like an owl made out of film reels - helpful to add it too, even if only in black and white. Doing so would also mean that the event's other details could be more prominent and the information about the event 'packaging' (12th Belfast Film Festival) could be further down the page.
Possibly you can't really add other's logos (eg Academy Award / Oscar is probably a protected term) but I'd have mentioned some of his other films... perhaps including the one that's having its premiere in a couple of days (the film showing apparently sold out on Sunday morning but there were some left on Fri / Sat). Possibly there wasn't much room though! Anyway Terry was hilarious and he took us through The Shore while explaining how scenes were written and filmed and a little of the behind-the-scenes stuff. Great fun.
When I arrived near the venue for Nick Emerson's talk the guidance A4 print-out poster helped orient me which I assume was its main intention, but why not stick a logo on it and draw attention to the fact that he has two films in the festival. To be fair his poster was directly below a large official poster for the festival so they were a bit more obviously linked (possibly Terry's poster was beneath a film poster but I don't remember). His talk was also fascinating and he showed a variety of clips and explained what was going on. He also showed stills from the studio where he and colleagues assemble films from the raw material and explained that they post pictures on their wall of an image that evokes a scene and this helps them see the order of things and what needs to be done etc. The nature of this event - it's probably quite niche - meant that it was hosted in a small venue, and it was packed so probably didn't need that much advertising anyway.
While I was in Belfast another event was announced that I didn't want to miss either. Brendan Fraser (starring in Whole Lotta Sole and in Belfast for the premiere) was going to introduce Gods and Monsters, one of his films from 1997 starring Sir Ian McKellen and Lynn Redgrave. I found out about it late on the Friday evening after Terry's talk when I got back to my hotel and caught up with the festival tweets. The information was also posted to the official Facebook site.
|The tweet announcing a new event (click link to view original tweet)|
Tweeting from official accounts and posting messages to official Facebook pages is all very well but it can be a little bit 'if you build it they will come' - yes and no. It depends who's online and who's looking at your page. Someone retweeted @jasonalba's tweet the other day "If you build it they will come... WRONG. Build it, then go find them, and bring them to it" and I'd agree with that. (Incidentally in searching for that tweet on Google I came across this lovely example of involving film fans in promoting a film and getting it into local theatres.)
After blogging about Brendan's Gods and Monsters event a few of his fans got in touch to let me know that they'd missed it, but were actually in Belfast and could have come along had they known about it. It turns out that his fans tend to be on Facebook (where I don't go very often) and not so much on Twitter and IMDb which is where I posted info about the event. So that advice is for me too because once I had secured my own ticket I wanted to let anyone else that might want to go know about it. If you're a fan of Brendan Fraser and / or Gods and Monsters and you happen to be in the same city it's a bit disheartening to realise you were that close but ultimately missed the opportunity to sit in a small theatre and hear him talk about making films and working with Ian McKellen and Lynn Redgrave.
For official tweets (and possibly even Facebook updates), I think they need to be posted more than once, a few hours apart, so that a different audience is reached - the tweet needs to be varied of course otherwise it's spammy. Bloggers often use phrases like "for the morning crowd" to acknowledge that they're republishing information but for a different audience who may not have seen it the first time and confirming to people who did see it the first time that it's the same info (they don't need to click again).
The person that accompanied me to Whole Lotta Sole (she saw my Sunday afternoon tweet offering my spare ticket to the premiere) mentioned that she'd been keeping an eye on Twitter for mentions of the film's name as she'd been trying to get a ticket but it was now sold out. She'd have liked to have gone to the Gods and Monsters event but didn't know about it and unfortunately I didn't send my tweet on the 'right channel' for her to see it. I did retweet a couple of variations of the QFT's tweet but failed to include a mention of Whole Lotta Sole which would have waved it under the eyeballs of other people too who might be looking out for that.
@miabo6190 tweeted "Just found out brendan fraser was at the premiere of whole lotta sole on sunday at the waterfront...going to cry!" - she also thought that the film festival wasn't very well promoted. I'm not sure I'd agree with that at all - Whole Lotta Sole was sold out to an enthusiastic, packed audience. While there didn't seem to be any bunting going up for for the festival or anything like that (plenty for the Olympics) plenty of people seemed to be going to the events and as mentioned they all knew about the premiere. However I still think that social media could be exploited and co-ordinated for the overall festival a bit more.
It's just not possible to reach everyone of course. Plus it can be difficult to know how to measure the success of a social media 'campaign' and someone's time may well be better spent co-ordinating interviews with TV and newspaper channels so I'm really trying not to sound critical. I didn't know until after the event that there are several Facebook groups of Brendan Fraser's fans where I could have pinged the information myself so I don't come out of this particularly well either ;-)
Here are some suggestions, humbly offered by someone who knows full well that she doesn't have to pay for someone's time to do any of this...!
Twitter hashtag - there were some tweets with #belfastfilmfestival (it's a great tag, a little long but absolutely clear... could also investigate #bff2012, #bffest, #belfastfilmfest etc) but venues didn't seem to be using them consistently, or retweeting festival-goers tweets (and reciprocal retweeting by different venues of each others' tweets) while adding the hashtag.
Retweeting others' tweets is a very good way to engage with an audience, and bunging a hashtag on it might encourage its wider use. It can be really helpful for venue websites and festival websites to have the hashtag displayed prominently - even better if an official tweet feed is fed onto the homepage via a Twitter widget. This lets site visitors know that they'll be able to pick up updates on Twitter. This doesn't work in all settings as it will definitely depend on the demographic of the festivalgoers, of course some won't have any interest in Twitter.
Posters - of different sizes, everywhere. Well, costs permitting! I didn't find any festival booklets in my hotel although there may have been some in other hotels and B&Bs. If printing out a bit of A4 details with an event on it, exploit the lovely logo and bung that on. Having posters up acts as ambient advertising - sneaking an event or product into people's consciousness. I think people probably have to see two or three posters before they'll even really notice what they are or what they're for.
There actually were some nice film festival banners in the part of Belfast that I wasn't staying in (near the Crown bar) - that was cool to see.
Emails - I supplied my email address to the festival so that I could receive a copy of my ticketing info. I'd have been happy to be on a mailing list telling me of new additions to the programme or any changes. Obviously they'd have to ask my permission to use my information in this way, but I don't remember being asked.
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Use of bit.ly URLs - create an account or shorten without one at http://bit.ly
Unless your web address is very brief you might want to shorten it whenever it appears on something where the reader will manually type it in - it's quicker to type. If it's in an email, Facebook or Twitter you can just want to use your regular URL (Twitter will use its own shorterner anyway to ensure the URL takes up no more than 18 characters) because people can just click on it. But even in these situations you might want to use bit.ly because of the information you get from that site about how many clicks have come via that route.
For example if you wanted to find out if you got more clicks from Facebook or Twitter you could post the same message on both but use a different bit.ly URL and then compare - this is pretty crude (there are plenty of reasons why the click rate is different). For any bit.ly link just add the + symbol right at the end of the URL and press enter and you'll see how often it's been accessed.
If you've got Google Analytics and other 'webmaster tools' from Google you'll probably get all sorts of information but bit.ly can be helpful too. It also lets you create a QR code for any website address URL.
QR codes - people with smartphones can download a free app and 'snap' to your site
These are still a bit of a gimmick I think, but unless you've used a bit.ly url on your poster (see above) it's probably quicker to get out my phone, fire up the scanning app and take a picture of your QR code which will immediately take me to your website. You can even use bit.ly to create yourself a free QR code for any page, each page on your website can have its own QR image. Each page can have more than one QR code / bit.ly URL too (see above).
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Slightly more random thoughts
Post adverts about events on other sites and pages and get people (however peripherally) involved with events to share it with their own networks. Almost every time the concept of advertising or marketing comes up I suggest postcards in newsagents' windows as a cheap way to reach lots of people (everyone goes into a newsagents don't they?). Having said that I've never tested this theory so it might be a really crap idea.
Local DVD shops - no idea if this'll work but it seems to me that people who go to films might also buy films. Possibly they'll buy them online but they might buy them from local DVD shops (I see Belfast has an HMV and another DVD shop) - how about offering £1 off a DVD with a festival ticket. I didn't go to any of the DVD shops so I don't know if they sold film events tickets in there but that would seem sensible and probably not, as one might first think, putting sellers of films in competition with one another. However I'm really not an expert.
See also Is there a Songkick for films?
It's very easy to find out when your favourite band is on tour, less so for films or directors etc giving talks.