Crowdfunding is a great tool for financing your next film, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In crowdfunding, instead of enticing a few large investors, you must charm, excite, and court hundreds of fans, friends, and followers to invest smaller amounts of money to support your work. Here’s how it works on Seed&Spark.

If you think this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. So here are some tips for finding and engaging your crowd.

1. No one’s looking for you.

As Clay Shirkey points out in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, technology and the pervasiveness of social media is changing how people congregate and cooperate online. Social media has spawned mass social movements that have enacted real-world change.

Crowdfunding operates on the same principles. It is at once a digital strategy for funding, as well as a way to tap into the power of the crowd you gathered through social media. However, you cannot use crowdfunding without first establishing an online presence, including a social media presence.

But there is good news…

2. Your people are out there.

It’s estimated that by 2019 there will be around 2.77 billion social media users in the world. Currently, 81% of the U.S. population is on social media. This means finding your people should be easy, right? Well, no. Just because so many people are online does not mean that they know who you are or will be interested in your work, which is why you have to get out there and find them.

Whether you succeed or fail in film is not something you want to leave to fate. Instead, do the work. Get yourself (and your film) on social media so people can find, support, and watch your work.

3. Define your crowd.

As you establish a social media presence, brainstorm with your team about who might be interested in your film. Consider things like genre, whether it has a social justice angle, or if you have a star who has a following online. Think about who’ll like it because they already like that sort of thing, as well as other groups who might be surprised to find they like it because it’s tangential to their current interests.

Once you’ve established the primary audience for your film, generate a list of people with corresponding or subsidiary interests. Consider, for instance, the Netflix series Aggretsuko, a Sanrio cartoon about a mild-mannered red panda who sings death metal karaoke as an outlet for the rage that accumulates over the course of the day in her oppressive work environment. The potential for overlapping audiences for this show is immense, including people who like cartoons, Sanrio fans, feminists, karaoke aficionados, death-metal junkies, and, you know, people who hate their day jobs. (Hmmm, wonder where you can find some of those…)

4. Participate in the community you want to gather.

I have some great news for you: the people you’re looking for are out there, and they’re already getting together to discuss topics relevant to your film work. Now you just have to find where they congregate online and become a part of the community.

Do they participate in weekly Twitter chats? If so, join in the fun. Are they chatting online in various subreddits? Then become a part of the conversation. Are there bloggers who write consistently about the topic at the center of your film? If so, comment, join the conversation, and develop relationships within an existing community. Offer to write a guest post. I’m not talking about barging in and saying, ‘Hey, look at me! I have a thing, and I want your money!’ Because, well…that’s rude. Instead, try participating in conversations, introducing yourself, or doing something radical like ask someone else a question. Develop real connections, and then, in the course of those conversations, talk about what you’re doing and why it’s relevant to the larger conversation. Short version: be a person talking to other people with common interests.

If there aren’t many existing conversations because your subject is super-obscure, start one. If you are interested in something, there are other people interested in or liking that thing. However, if you’re making a film that you think no one will like or care about, we might need to have a different talk.

5. Be a beacon.

Now that you’ve established yourself on social, brainstormed who you wanna speak to, and figured out where they hang out online, it’s time to send out the Bat Signal. Gather your crowd by starting your own Twitter chat, blog, or Reddit conversation, then invite people to socialize and be a part of the community. Get kooky – do a Facebook Live. As you establish yourself as a viable (and giving) member of a community, it’s much easier to ask that community to support you in your work.

Now you may be saying, “Hey, this sounds like a lot of work.” Oh, for sure – it’s a ton of work. However, you’ve already invested the time and energy (and money and sweat and tears and maybe blood?) to get this film made: wouldn’t it be a shame if no one ever knew about it?

Invest time in growing your audience so that your film gets seen. Your film and you are worth it.

Julie Keck is a Chicago-based filmmaker and writer who’s produced over 20 web series. She’s also co-author (with Jessica King) of Social Media Charm School, a guide for filmmakers who are ready to find their crowd. Oh…and she also serves as the Head of Education and Outreach for Seed&Spark. Play with her on social: @kingisafink

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