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3 Content Strategy Lessons for Launching A Film (or Anything Else) Online

Remember that documentary project I mentioned, the one using cross-media platforms to amplify the stories of women activists of the Arab Spring? It launched! Six short films releases in partnership with the New York Times and 4 feature film screenings at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival later, it’s time to catch my breath and reflect. As I transition off the project, a few lessons stand out that I don’t want to forget.

1. Curation is the best learning tool.

In the months leading up to the launch, our content strategy centered around sharing stories of progress and injustice involving Arab women. This approach allowed us to start building a following, but more importantly, it gave us the opportunity to learn the cultural and media landscape surrounding women’s issues in the region.

I wasn’t an expert on Middle Eastern conflicts when we started the project. I’m still not. But, I learned so much by following and sharing content from people who were. That curation period made launch engagement and outreach more nuanced and authentic.

2. Original content is king.

As artist entrepreneurship extraordinaire Austin Kleon says, “If you want followers, be someone worth following.” Of all our tactics, nothing – outside of advertising – gave us a boost in followers like engaging and following viewers after they shared our films. I set alerts, searched for our URL on Twitter and Facebook, and did whatever I could to find and connect with people who thought enough of our client’s work to share it.

3. Visuals make a difference.

Visual snippets are a powerful way to stand out in a crowded landscape. I found that ad campaigns that used title cards (a film’s title against a black background) did not perform as well as those that featured the faces of subjects from the films. Video content outperformed posts that featured other types of media.

You can browse the pull-quote posters I designed for the project below to see what I mean. I’m super proud of these images and the integral role they played in conveying the themes of the overall project and its individual films.

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BONUS TIP (Because, I like you.): Offline outreach trumps social media asks.

High-profile accounts were more likely to share content following a personal request made off social media. Taking the time to make phone call or write an e-mail really resonates with people. Probably because influencers receive so many notifications on social media, a simple tweet is easy to miss.

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