By Mike Ambs, July 1st, 2010

Recently, I’ve been keeping a close eye on tools for audience building. Several months ago I was very excited about a project, being funding through Kickstarter, called Openindie – if you’re not following Kieran Masterton on twitter already, then you should be. The site is still in beta, and what is exciting about Openindie is that it’s still finding and building it’s community: it is open to ideas and able to adapt quickly to what the filmmaking community needs.

Request Tool Sketch

A few nights ago I was in night-owl mode, with a moleskine and pen in hand, as I was pouring over some of the most-requested films on Openindie. Among them: Heart of Now, We Live in Public, and What’s Up Lovely. I was sketching out site designs that made use of an integrated Openindie request button. Researching which of these top-requested films on Openindie were heavily using Openindie on their film’s main site, the answer: none of them.

Which, I found very strange. But I’ll get to that below.

What I mostly wanted to talk about is: better approaches for audience building. Either for the purpose of mapping out which zipcodes have enough support + demand to schedule screening events, or for other purposes. A question I kept coming back to was “is it necessary for the audience to actually sign-up?”. Openindie does make the process quick and painless by offering Twitter Oauth and Facebook Connect – but does this benefit Openindie more than it does the film?

For example: I’ve been very interested in using twitter as the main engine behind building audience interest – asking that someone interested in FToM simply twitter the hashtag #requestFToM (for those who do not have a twitter account already, they could simply text #requestFToM to 40404). If Openindie could make use of that kind of information, I think it would be a far more powerful tool then having people navigate to a specific URL, sign-up, and then click on the request button. Any #hashtag attributed with GEO information could be mapped immediately, and any #hashtag without could be @replied back to requesting a zipcode. There is no sign-up form, there is no Oauth or Connect needed. Anyone with a cell phone that walks past your flyer on the street could immediately voice their interest.

What I would most love to see from a site like Openindie is a request tool that is 100% flexible on the filmmaker’s end. By that I mean, the request button does not change, you can grab a short piece of code and embed it anywhere you like. But from within Openindie the tool can be scaled out and adjusted in reaction to what is working best and what isn’t. As a filmmaker, what would I like to happen when the request button is clicked?

I would like the visitor to never leave the film’s site. Or if they do leave, much like Paypal, they are returned right back to where they started after the request is finished.

I would like control over what the visitor sees. Have I turned on the options for both twitter and facebook? Or am I just asking them to provide an email? Am I offering all 3 or 4 or 5 options? Does it take them straight to a pre-written twitter with the #hashtag and other important info? These should be settings that can be controlled from the Openindie dashboard without having to replace any embed script.

Once a visitor clicks the request button, that same button then reads: promote. And, of course, have 100% control from within Openindie as to what exactly happens when that is clicked. Does it take the visitor to Openindie’s list of sharing options? Or point them to a site of sharing tools still under the film’s URL? Perhaps I’m running a campaign that involves real-world action like flyers or stickers in public places and want them taken to a page walking them through that idea.
Only a tool that is 100% flexible is going to be a perfect fit for each different filmmaker.

I’m really excited about where Openindie is heading – and I’ve already pestered Kieran about some of these ideas and he seems very open to them, even more so he seems excited about talking to filmmakers and getting feedback on what tools are going to take independent film the furthest.

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Posted in audience distribution promotion tools and services

Mike Ambs currently lives in Ypsilanti. He loves to film things and tell stories. And read on the subway. He's pretty sure blue whales are his power animal.

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