Digital Networking – the Essential Way to Do Business

At the recent Discuss and do event in Frome, Somerset, I talked about the digital game changer and how essential it is for today’s  business people to use digital networking to succeed.

Discussing the concept of Me-Branding,  I interviewed via Skype LA-based  Indie film Marketing pioneer Sheri Candler.  The transcript of that interview is as follows.

Q. How have you positioned yourself in the market?

My early positioning was meant just to raise up my profile in order to gain employment. I thought if I could bring attention to myself as a knowledgeable person, providing value to an audience, then it would make me stand apart from other candidates. What I found out was I was a pioneer in this field for indie films. Most employers (distributors and studios who are typically in charge of marketing films) were not paying attention to social networking and its power when I was starting to gather attention. Truth be told, they still really don’t. They see it as just another outlet for advertising.

So I really started thinking about what I could do if I my enthusiasm wasn’t interesting to employers. I could work for myself and I could work directly with filmmakers who started not seeing distribution outlets for their films. Many indie distributors were closing down but video on the internet was coming up as a real possibility of distribution to a global audience. So how do  you tell a global audience about your work if you don’t have large sums of advertising money to blanket the market? Well, that’s where marketing strategy comes in and being able to make connections with people is what social media is about. I show I can do that every day by actually connecting with people in social media.

My positioning came then from being a helper. If you share your knowledge in this space, you attract people and it is a much stronger lead generator because they are specifically looking for a knowledgeable person. This mindset is the absolute antithesis of the competitive and greedy nature of business where it is the norm to hide information, to make it proprietary and one must pay in order to access someone with it. The way I felt about it was I can show information and if someone takes it and does their own work, then they didn’t need me. But if they agree they need it and they can’t handle the job on their own or they don’t have time or they just don’t want to, they can hire me and they know what I do and that others recommend me.

Q. What part did social media play in helping to achieve success

My original platform was just my blog, my own website. I knew that it would be very difficult for me to espouse best practices for internet marketing and not have my own presence. I am astounded at people who say they work in marketing or public relations and do not even have their own website or blog.  They might have a Linkedin page or a Twitter account. You can’t work in marketing today not have accounts on all the major sites, you just look like a fool. And if you do have accounts, you have to maintain them regularly.

I started out with a Myspace account and Linkedin. I quickly moved to Facebook when it was becoming more known and also started up a Twitter account. And when I started I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it. On my blog, I knew I wanted to share the information I was learning about social networking, about online platforms for selling films, about how sales agents worked and how distribution works. I was very curious because I had never worked in film before and I wanted to know how it was different from working in other industries. The 2 previous marketing jobs I had were business to business marketing jobs. Social media can be both B2B and B2C. Film sales and distribution is really B2B, but most people don’t realize that.  So whatever I wanted to find out, I did, and then I wrote about it. Once you start writing, little search bots visit your site and start ranking you under terms and I started being found by independent filmmakers and facilities teaching filmmaking under the term Independent Film Marketing or Independent Film Publicity or Independent Film Distribution.

With Facebook and Twitter I just continued to do what I was doing on my blog. I shared useful links on Twitter. I contextualized those links on Facebook. I separated my personal profile on Facebook and built a business page (or fan page when that first started) because I was starting to bore my personal friends and family with too much talk about indie film business.

I started researching influential people and people whose mindset I was closely aligned with in the film business. There weren’t that many really. Everyone then, this was 2008, was very much in the old way of doing things. And that was an advantage to me. I purposely connected with those people on Twitter and Linkedin, mostly Twitter. I sent them emails mostly saying what I liked about their approach, never asking them for anything. But when you show someone you are listening and you like what they have to say, they are naturally curious about you. I tried to meet these people in real life whenever I could. Face to face is still important, but it is made easier by starting the dialog online. It lessens the awkwardness, you feel like you already know each other somewhat.  Same thing happens when I go to film festivals or other film events, I see people sometimes for the first time, but I have been conversing with them for months online.

Q. Did you have a plan or did a plan emerge or did it just happen

A plan emerged. I started with a blank sheet of paper, marketing knowledge and an internet connection. I had no connections in the film business at all. I started working at a local film festival which put me back in touch with filmmakers and I learned of their concerns and I started talking to them about what their options were now. I read every day, mostly about what people are doing with marketing in other industries, and I adapt that to the independent film industry and show how it is relevant.

I decided that since I was a pioneer in this new thinking, I couldn’t align myself with those who didn’t have that mindset. It is easy  and for some people preferable to go with the herd, not stand out. Standing out takes courage and you will be ridiculed. I had to not care about that because I strongly believed that the age of the artist being responsible for their own career, not dependent on a system to give them breaks or make things happen for them, is here. I have to live what I preach and it has worked for me.  It doesn’t appeal to everyone, and that’s ok with me. I am not trying to please everyone, I won’t reach everyone. Marketing strategy is not about reaching everyone, it is about reaching the right people at the right time. I was a little early, but not too early and so it was the right time.

My plan organically changes as I go though. No plan should be set in stone, you have to adapt to changes. When I started, I never thought I would write a book or write journalistically for industry publications or be a public speaker or teach courses. I thought I would only work with filmmakers and my writing would just be on the blog. And as I have worked more with film, I have changed my mind on how some things should be done. I have learned it through experience of my own and also by talking to other people. Guess how I find those other people? Via social networking and from reading other blogs and from interviewing people for my own blog. I can’t tell you how useful it is to get to know someone you want to know by asking to interview them for your blog or to include them in an industry article. When I was first starting, that is how I got to know many influential people.

Q. 3 pieces of advice to those looking to achieve success

-perseverance. When I started out and became more vocal, I began to see a little bandwagon jumping from some people, people who didn’t have marketing backgrounds but saw there was opportunity in selling social media services to the film industry. Those people flamed out pretty quickly because they really didn’t know what they were talking about, or it took a lot longer to be known for those skills than they were willing to wait. If you can keep plugging for the long run, you’ll see your competition halve just because you kept going and they gave up.

-always keep up with emerging trends. You must read, read, read from different sources to know what is happening with your industry. There is absolutely no excuse now that anyone in business has access to Google not to know anything. If you don’t know it, Google it! If you don’t know a term or how to do something, google it! Someone has made a tutorial video, written a blog post about whatever it is you want to know. Make that research a habit. Also share your knowledge, don’t horde it. Being a genius in silence is not helping you. People won’t just find you. You have to speak up and the best way to do that is to share what you know.

-Have a clear voice and make it unique. Don’t go with the crowd, you’ll never be found. You all have something to offer that is unique to you. You should share that in everything you do online. It is no different than you would be in the real world. A brand is not a logo. That is just a visual representation of what you are about. Your brand is what you believe and how you represent that in your actions. If it is for a company, what is the company ethos? What do they stand for? If it is yourself, you must show the world what you believe in for every part of your work. Social media is a way to show it, that’s all it is. There are many tools to do that with (Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) but those don’t work if you have not determined what you stand for.

About Sheri:

Sheri Candler is a digital marketing strategist. Through the use of content marketing tools such as social networking, podcasts, blogs, and online media publications, as well as relationship building with organizations & influencers, she assists filmmakers in building an engaged & robust online community for their work that will help develop and sustain their careers.

Sheri has been involved in many indie film campaigns including “YELLOWBRICKROAD” (Slamdance 2010); “The High Level Bridge” (Sundance 2011); “Ride The Divide” (2011); “Undertow (Contracorriente)” (2011). In 2012, she helped to distribute the feature documentary “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” which screened theatrically in over 90 venues, is available on DVD/digital and was broadcast nationally on PBS American Masters series. Through her work, the production was able to connect with the ballet audience worldwide.

You can find Sheri:



About Claire Sully

Claire has been a strategic marketing professional for the arts and creative industry for 15 years. She is MD of Bristol-based digital marketing agency Tickbox Marketing, working for local authorities, creative businesses and major charities, including Creative England, international charity The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), St Peter’s Hospice, Bristol City Council and Luton Culture.

For the last 6 years, Claire has also championed digital creative arts in the South West working with leading companies such as Aardman, Icon Film, Grace Productions and BBC Natural History (and other major creative businesses and networks in the region), running industry showcase and training events with a focus on inspiring the next generation and opening up access to jobs and skills for new talent.

Claire’s recent training programme for children, digiKids, attracted hundreds of children over a two day period from Cornwall, Somerset to Bristol. This programme saw children experiencing: Cool Coding for Kids, Get Animated, model making with Aardman, pinhole photography and master classes with leading documentary makers.

You can find Claire @clairedesully & claires@tickboxmarketing.co.uk

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