Once you have identified your audience segments and internalized that it’s important for the success of your series that you do so, you need to actually start your outreach. But link-spamming subreddits and incessantly harassing influencers on Twitter isn’t the way to go, something I’ve talked briefly about in the past in my article about how to authentically engage with online communities. The best way to go, though, in my opinion, is finding fandom leaders.
DEFINED: “Fandom leaders” are preexisting prolific posters, preexisting community moderators, and community users with preexisting community trust. Example: a subreddit moderator, a frequent community poster who gets engagement from fellow users
Engaging with fandom leaders rather than trying to engage with a community unprompted, even authentically, is going to build trust between you and the community far faster, because you’ll essentially recruit a promotional partner who has already built trust with the larger community and thus will have a lot more clout when it comes to recommending your content. I’d far rather have a trusted friend (online or off) recommend a new piece of media to me than have the creator themselves walk up to me on the street and hand me their mix CD. Are mix CDs still a thing? Question for another time.
I want to clarify that fandom leaders are different from journalists and news outlets- if you want to know how to reach out to a blogger or reviewer or entertainment reporter, head over to my press release article. This article is explicitly about identifying those on social media who already hold credibility in communities who you think would enjoy your work. They are rarely, if ever, professional “leaders” in these fandoms. They’re just people who love stuff and take that stuff seriously online.
Finding Reddit leaders
Finding fandom leaders on Reddit is easiest, so that’s where we’ll start. Every “subreddit” on Reddit, or the actual places you can post/engage, has set moderators. Sometimes, these moderators are also the original creators of the subreddit community. Sometimes, they’re just users who started as members and through engagement and dedication were “promoted” to moderator status (aka “leadership”) by the creators. If you have a Reddit account, you can private message these moderators to ask permission to share your content on the public community page, or even to ask THEM to share it if they deem it good enough. Most of the time promoting on Reddit is immediately taken down by moderators, so if you go to them first, you won’t waste your time. Later in this article I’ll share some templates you can use for outreach.
These moderators can be discovered by going to a subreddit and scrolling down, keeping an eye on the right sidebar until you see:
Finding Facebook leaders
Similar to Reddit, Facebook groups have fairly prominent “group admin” modules. Simply join (or ask to join) a group you wish to connect with, click “Members” from the left sidebar, then scroll to the “Admins and Moderators” panel where you can easily direct-message the leaders themselves. From there, follow the same instructions I laid out in the Reddit section.
Finding Twitter Leaders
Twitter leaders are a bit more complicated to find, because Twitter often isn’t organized into neat interest group communities. Identify leaders by starting to discover where conversations about your topic (zombies, actors, roommates), genre (horror, comedy, science fiction), or format (web series, TV pilots, short films, feature films) are taking place. It might be in hashtags- filmmakers tend to flock to weekly conversations in the #WebSeriesChat and #ScriptChat hashtags, for example. It might also be in the mentions of a prominent person in that community- director Lexi Alexander has a lot of conversations about gender and racial underrepresentation in Hollywood and frequently hosts informal conversations on those topics with fellow creators and advocates of more diverse media.
Twitter may seem like a place that’s perfectly built for one-off announcements and @ replies of links to your show, but it’s best built as a place to have conversations with people who have similar interests or goals.
Once you find where those conversations are taking place, it’ll become immediately obvious which users have the most respected voices and are most influential in recommending people and content. One way to ingratiate yourself with them is to, at first, hold back on promoting. Counterintuitive, I know. But it’s a bad first impression to come into a conversation asking for something instead of adding something. Once you’ve proven you’re not crazy, reaching out to community leaders to help get the word out will be far easier.
Finding Tumblr Leaders
Tumblr, like Twitter, is tricky, because communities are built indirectly and through conversation and interaction rather than by organized groupings. Still, finding community leaders is possible. Start by tracking tags that you think are aligned with your content (based on the questions you’ve asked yourself in defining your audience). Things like “zombies,” “love,” “relationship goals,” “asexuality,” etc. To track a tag, simply search for the tag you wish to track in the search field at the top of Tumblr:
Then, click the light blue “follow” prompt that appears within the search bar:
Bonus: click the “related tags” that resonate with you and your content to follow those as well. Also, consider following the blogs themselves that come up after search- you may immediately find users who post frequently about content like yours who you could reach out to.
In any case, once you’re tracking tags, keep an eye on your feed as you casually browse Tumblr on other days. You’ll start noticing a pattern in which posts that appear in that tag get the most action (called “notes” on Tumblr, a combo count of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ of a particular post). If you see a particularly popular post, or start seeing the same blogs popping up, that’ll show you who the fandom leaders are and who you should reach out to.
How do you reach out to a fandom leader on Tumblr, specifically? Click on their blog’s name, which will take you to their main page. It starts to get complicated here, because every Tumblr user is allowed to employ a different, custom theme for their main page, and thus there isn’t a consistent template for where the ability to private message the user is. It’s MySpace all over again, and say what you want about Facebook but at least you know where buttons are regardless of the owner of the page.
You’ll most often find the message option under the label “ask” or “ask a question.” Below are the different ways “ask” links are displayed on four blogs I found via the LGBT tag I searched for in the above steps:
You may notice that in the fourth image above, a “submit” feature is mentioned, which on compilation/curation blogs is common. If given the option, you might want to “submit” a pre-written post about your content rather than “ask” because the submission process still allows the fandom leader (aka- the blog’s admin) to determine if your content is relevant to their followers but doesn’t require an extra step of asking permission.
Finding Instagram leaders
Following the trend of Twitter and Tumblr, Instagram creates communities indirectly, making it hard to easily determine “leaders.” I left Instagram for last because I actually think in many ways Instagram isn’t best utilized for finding community leaders- instead, you should just find hashtags that resonate with your audience and create marketing content that feels at home in those tag feeds. People are more likely to browse on Instagram, versus following specific accounts for all their content, because Instagram limits the ability to share content and engage between profiles outside of commenting on static posts. If someone has the inside scoop on Instagram communities, hit me up! Happy to be proven wrong here.
You’ve found your fandom leaders- great! Now’s the time to start reaching out. Here are two possible templates you can directly copy and paste:
Hi [name/username]! My name is [name] and I’m a [filmmaker/writer/director/producer/etc]. As a moderator of [subreddit/Facebook group name], I thought you would enjoy my [web series/ short film/ etc] called [project name]. It’s about [logline catering towards their community/ public-facing interests.] You can watch it here: [insert link]
I would love to get the word out about the show, and if you think it fits with the interests of your [community/followers], we’d really appreciate you posting about it and getting feedback from the community in the comments! Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks so much!
[OPTIONAL: link to your project again, or a main website]
Hi [name/username]! My name is [name] and I’m a [community allegiance- bisexual, female, Latinx, African American, queer, horror-loving, sci-fi-fiend, etc] [filmmaker/writer/director/producer/etc]. I recently released a [web series/ short film/ etc] called [project name]. It’s about [logline catering towards their community/ public-facing interests.] You can watch it here: [insert link]
I would love to get the word out about the show, and would especially love to share it with [name of community/hashtag] because I myself am a member of the community. I think you, and the community at large, would really dig [project name], and I’d really appreciate the opportunity to share it more broadly. Please let me know if you have any questions, and thanks so much!
[OPTIONAL: link to your project again, or a main website]