​Twitter for Independent Filmmakers: A Guide

Josh Grau

Josh Grau (@grauface) leads sales development for Brand Solutions at Twitter. He focuses on developing large-scale event-based programs for marketers and works closely with movie studios to develop Twitter-specific marketing strategies for major releases. Prior he headed business development for YouTube Branded Entertainment, and Director of Marketing for ESPN and CBS.

Greetings, Sundance alumni! I’m thrilled to be a contributor to this exciting new Artist Services site and help share some insights into the wild world of Twitter.

In just five short years, Twitter has grown from a little side project into a global phenomenon that is changing how the world communicates and consumes information. Twitter is everywhere—Larry, our little blue bird, has quickly become one of the most recognized brand icons, and our user growth is staggering.

However, there is still a lot of head scratching when it comes to understanding the utility of Twitter. The great thing about Twitter is that it doesn’t discriminate—it’s for anyone who simply wants to connect with the people and organizations they are most interested in and share and consume information.

That said, I’m excited to be an ongoing contributor in what I’m calling “Twitter for filmmakers.” The goal is to help share best practices in a variety of areas, including how to effectively use Twitter day-to-day, examples of how studios are using the platform to market their films, and providing real-time updates on new features and functionality as the site continues to evolve.

So to kick things off I’m going to provide a quick 101. Whether you’re a Twitter addict or have never visited Twitter.com, these reference points are a good resource no matter your level of Twittertelligence. Here we go!


Twitter is fast becoming the ultimate online identity for a lot of users. Your profile page can be a great branding tool, and there are some easy things that can be done to customize your profile to make yourself easy to find and recognize:

  • Upload a background image and profile picture, and fill out a creative-but-informative bio.
  • To make sure people can find you, use your first and last name and include a link to your personal or professional website.
  • Put your @handle on everything—your email signature, your business card, your website, even in the credits of your films (I’m not kidding!).

To Follow or Not to Follow?

With 200 million registered users, choosing what accounts you want to follow can be overwhelming. However, when it comes to selecting who to follow be sure to tap into both your personal and professional interests. Following other directors, writers, producers and actors—as well as financiers—lets you stay connected and engage in conversations and exchanges that could open doors, spark new ideas, or simply keep you informed.

I follow a good majority of my colleagues at Twitter, in part because they keep me wildly entertained but also because they Tweet out a lot of useful information. Additionally, follow the industry publications that are most valuable to you. There’s nothing better than getting a quick glance at the day’s headlines on the fly (download the Twitter app!) versus sorting through a stack of newspapers, magazines and trades (sorry, print world).

Tweet and the World Tweets with You

After a more than a year of working here, I am still trying to get my family to be more active on Twitter. The response I hear over and over is: “Why tweet when no one follows me?” A valid argument, but just like with dating, sometimes you have to make the first move. Even if you don’t have a lot of followers you can still dive into conversations and send your 140 character nuggets of wisdom into the Twitter ethers. It really boils down to these two symbols: @ and #.

  • Be @ggressive: When you “@ mention” another user – either by replying to their tweet or placing their handle within the Tweet copy—you are engaging with that user. No matter if I follow you or not, if you mention @grauface, I’ll be able to see your tweet and can start a conversation with you if I choose (and I will!). And content is @king. Twitter users are much more likely to engage with a tweet that has a link; so share interesting content often. Have a trailer for a new film? Tweet it out!
  • Hashtag Fever: In Twitter speak, the “#” is not called the pound sign or number symbol, but rather the hashtag. Created organically by users to categorize conversations, hashtags are part of Twitter’s DNA. When you tweet with a hashtag you are putting a creative identifier on your message. Hashtags are both searchable and hyperlinked, so queries and clicks take users to a results page that displays all tweets using that hashtag. One of my all-time favorite hashtags was #lessambitiousmovies, a creative meme that was created by one user and spread like wildfire for a few days. I’ll tell that story in another post. #Staytuned.

So those are some basic tips to ensure you’re setting yourself up for Twitter success. I look forward to contributing more posts, but feel free to send me a Tweet (@grauface) if there are any topics you’d like me to cover. I can’t promise trade secrets or shares of stock, but I’ll do my best to provide the most useful tools to help Twitter become a key member of your film crew.

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