So a couple of weeks back, I decided to do a little experiment and something that I had always wanted to do. I wanted to see if low resolution short films shot on mobile phones can go ‘viral’ if the right content is created for the right target audience using the right social media marketing strategies.
I guess the reason for wanting to do this small passion project stemmed from my desire to just create. Too many times, we have to wait for the ‘right’ project with the ‘right’ investor or the ‘right’ client. And also, too many people around me keep talking about wanting to shoot this thing and that thing and it’s all TALK TALK TALK, and no action. So I just didn’t wanna just talk but would rather have some action to show.
A side note to all creators: Truth of the matter is. You have a phone. You got friends. You got creativity. That’s really all you need. Don’t keep over thinking and stressing and trying to get the perfect scenario or the right amount of money. If you want to shoot a film, just do it. And don’t give me crap about how I always have a big crew, big equipment and many actor friends to help me. This time round, I did it with just a phone, almost zero budget, and with help from my friends who are equally passionate to create.
Just Do It
I think I literally had the idea to do this on a Saturday night while chilling out with a friend and in the next weekend, we were shooting at my house. That’s it. One bloody week. From the time the ideas were conceptualized to the shoot date was literally less than a week.
For me I thrive on momentum and deadlines, so by literally giving myself very little time, I force myself to be extra creative not just in thinking of the stories, but also in getting the right people to help out to execute the project. The videos didn’t have to be perfect, but they have to tell the story well. And I don’t mean that there is no place for stylish, very well lit and well shot video. Movies, branding videos or commercials that showcases beauty all require very high quality production. But don’t be crippled by it. Just cause you don’t have the best DSLR or a good sound recording device is not a good reason to procrastinate. Go and make your video or your film! NOW!
Creating content that fits the target audience / Evoke the right emotions
I wanted to create content that specifically target people who like horror. The game plan was to create 3 short videos, about 2 minutes long, with a sudden twist/jump scare at the end. For horror fans, it was important to evoke that sense of shock and fear which is best achieved by creating a jump scare.
People share something when a very strong feeling is elicited. Whether it is happiness (good comedy), or rage (real life bullying etc.), wonderment (those cute puppy videos) or shock/fear (horror films). If the right emotion is created, people will tend to share.
So I wrote 3 short stories. 2 are originals and 1 is based on an urban legend circulating on the internet, but I gave it a twist. All the 3 stories were shot within a day.
You can watch the 3 horror short films here.
Horror Short Film 1 – Ghost Festival
Horror Short Film 2 – Are you alone?
Horror Short Film 3 – Ma!
Shooting with whatever resources you have
I made a clear decision that I was going to shoot with a mobile phone and a relatively old one at that. I also made a conscious decision to not use any artificial lighting or rather use existing light. Basically I wanted to prove a point that if you have got good stories to tell, you don’t need fanciful equipment. You just need creativity and a relentless desire to tell stories. Oh, and a mobile phone.
So I literally shot with an iphone5, but I did purchase an app called filmic pro. This app allows me to control the focus, ISO, shutter speed etc. on the phone. Sound was also recorded on the camera in the phone. I tried to keep dialogue minimal but one of the shorts was in the open and had a lot more dialogue so I had to use a audio recording device, which my friend graciously loaned me.
The only thing that I spent on was on props for one of the scenes which involved burning ‘hell money’ for the ‘hungry ghosts’. I spent 60 dollars on that and oh, also on some drinks and a supper treat for all after the shoot. So all in, I spent probably about a hundred dollars.
Again, I want to stress. Don’t be hampered by a lack of resources. You are only limited by how resourceful you are.
Buying fb ads with the right target audience
Facebook has changed its algorithm and it will continue to change to ensure that the most relevant content will appear in the user’s feed. As a result, a lot of pages are not getting their content shown in their fans’s newsfeed. There are a lot of fb pages out there and every single day, it just keeps increasing so it is close to impossible that all the pages will be able to reach their fans organically.
So what happens is that facebook ad buying is increasingly important and the truth is, the cost of buying facebook ads now is still heavily underpriced for the kind of reach that it gets. If you have not tried facebook ads, please get into it! I promise you in another 3-5 years, the prices will sky rocket. Now is a time to get into it and get your hands dirty and understand the medium.
I am not going to go into the technical details of ad buying. Just understand that you need to write good copy, know how to target the right audience, and know what you want the user to do. Facebook is probably the best platform now with the best data on its users. You can laser target people based on their interests, hobbies, occupation or even their sexual orientation. The data is extremely powerful.
For the short films, I basically did a boosted post targeting horror fans. I spent about 50 dollars on each of the short films. So a total of 150 dollars. This paid reach will give your content the initial boost. Without it, you will need a much longer time and much more effort to promote it. If your content is very shareable, your paid reach will be totally eclipsed by the organic reach since people will start sharing and liking your content.
Such was the case with the film. The organic reach was almost five times more than the paid reach.
organic reach vs paid reach
Understanding the psychology of the user and writing the right copy
The copy writing for your ad is extremely important. To write it well, you have to obviously have some talent in writing. But more than that, you must understand the psychology of the person reading or watching your content.
So in this case, I am obviously targeting horror fans. And what better way to get their attention that to use the idea of a ‘chain letter’? Or in this case ‘chain video’. The concept that you have to share and send the video, or the ghost will come after you was quite possibly the most appropriate title for this content and for this target audience. My title of the post basically reads “Share and Tag 3 Friends. If not, something TERRIBLE will happen. Oh, and watch till the end. I dare you.”
Do notice that I was quite deliberate not to ‘curse’ anyone cause I said something terrible will happen but not something terrible will happen to you. I varied another copy to say “Something will happen to you” instead of “Something terrible will happen to you”.
I also added a frame to the video with the title at the top which basically says “I dare you to watch till the end”.
Specify what you want the viewer to do
It is important that you know what you want the user to do. Whether it is to share your post, like it, sign up for something, go to your website, comment, or whatever. You must be clear and normally, you only want them to do one thing. Don’t over complicate and tell your audience to do too many things.
For my case, I wanted them to share and tag 3 friends. Very clear instructions. I made sure they are reminded at the end of the video as well.
Responding and commenting with personality
One of the things that many page admin fails to do is to engage and interact with the fans on the page. And when they do, the comments or replies are boring and not engaging. As much as writing ‘thanks for the comment’ is a nice gesture, but it’s not going to get anyone excited or intrigued by your page or the brand.
In the case of the short films, within a day of posting, there were already hundreds of comments, ranging from “I got a shock” to “not scary at all”. But I made a decision to reply with the personality of a ‘ghost’. It was fun engaging and interacting with the comments. I even replied with pictures of the ghost that we took on set. Because of the high level of engagement, the fans were more willing to tell their friends about it and share the posts. Of course, a little scaring to make them share is kind of funny as well.
Patience and Hard Work
So after two weeks, for all the three shorts, I had a combined reach of 850,000 people. I had a total of 346,000 video views. The shares were pretty phenomenal. A total of close to 6,000 shares. A lot of people were commenting on the posts as well, generating a total of more than 2,000 comments. I also gained 2,000 followers during the two weeks’ window.
So what started as a small little experiment and a passion project taught me many valuable lessons. But the truth is, to grow a channel, or a page or your subscribers, you need patience and lot of hard work. You need to continue posting relevant and good content to engage your fans. Patience, hard work, and talent. If you have these 3, I guarantee you will succeed.
In the meantime, we are already planning a new series of videos which I feel will potentially be even more popular than the first. If you are a brand or a business and want to feature your products or services in the next series of video, drop me a DM. We are targeting a reach of at least one million and half a million views.
Or if you want to explore how we can help you with your digital and social media marketing, drop me an email as well. email@example.com