By Jan McQuillan

December 22nd, 2014

Viewster is a free online video service with its own film festival. The platform offers a catalog of thousands of free original international series, movies and documentaries that are hard to find anywhere else. You could stumble across anything from a Korean drama to a Swedish crime series, or a Japanese anime “simulcast” in which Viewster licenses a new series for broadcasting immediately after it’s aired in Japan. As they state on their website “if you’re looking for the blockbusters currently in your local cinema, you’ve come to the wrong place.” The diverse content within the Viewster collection would make any cult film geek go totally nuts.

They have a great proposition. The service is available via streaming on computer, smart TV, and the Viewster app on tablets and smartphones.  This also means that the service is worldwide, with strong footholds in Northern Europe, Australia, Spain, US and France. All Viewster’s content is free to watch, at the click of a button, and you don’t even need to register.  The platform is currently funded by advertising so they don’t rely on revenue from their audience.

We caught up with Viewster’s Casper Mejlholm and Hank Smith to explore their social media goals and challenges in terms of engaging communities.

social communities

left-right Casper Mejlholm, Marketing and Communications Specialist and Hank Smith, Social Media Editor, Viewster

CHALLENGE: DISCOVERING ORIGINALITY
Viewster’s mission statement is “discovering originality” which works both for their content program and marketing strategy. From the content side, they want to start conversations with creators, in order to find new work. In terms of marketing, they make an effort to proactively identify relevant audiences for their content. Viewster’s target market is not within the mainstream, so it requires some effort to find, target and engage with the smaller communities. Luckily for Viewster, there are plenty of film geeks out there with genre-specific interests, and most of them are younger, tech savvy types using social media. For that reason, social media has been a significant part of Viewster’s marketing strategy since 2013.

Keeping content relevant
After setting up generic channels last year, they came to realize that each of their audiences has such specific interests that it was incredibly difficult to keep the channels relevant for all communities. For example, last year Viewster’s generic Facebook group contained keen horror fans, as well as those interested in documentaries, and anime aficionados; and each community understandably responded to very different types of content! Casper and Hank therefore took the sensible decision of creating separate channels for each genre. Now they have an Instagram account just for anime, and a separate one for horror, for example. With only Hank responsible for managing all communities on each channel, the team needed some tooling and structure to keep track of all their fans’ activity on the dedicated platforms.

Social viewing and engagement
Keeping fans engaged on social media is also a crucial part of the team’s work. They recognize that watching films at home on a computer, tablet or mobile app can often seem like a solitary task – in Hank’s words “there’s the perception that the longer you spend online, the fewer friends you have – and that’s not true.” Social media therefore allows them to fulfill a core part of Viewster’s strategy: connecting fans; allowing them to have a forum for discussion around films; and making it possible for them to find new gems. People in Brazil can talk to people in Japan, directors can talk with audiences, and filmmakers can talk to funders. The point of social media is to connect with others, so Hank and Casper nurture that and encourage that. Viewster are often the first to write and publish reviews about the independent films they show, and their audiences are keen to weigh in on the topics discussed.

Viewster Online Film Fest (VOFF) encapsulates their mission of connecting film enthusiasts and discovering originality. As the world’s biggest online film festival, they seek to democratize the film festival process. The festival is put on 4 times a year, with each edition offering a cash prize pool of $100,000. Anyone can enter their film as long as it fits within the festival theme, and meets basic conditions. Anyone can also watch the films – the usual premise of “limited tickets” or “restricted access” being dispensed with, so as many people as possible can consume the content. Both filmmakers and audiences are celebrated through VOFF, and given a platform to showcase their work and views.

Not only this, but the films are actually moderated by an online community with the audience participating by engaging with their favorite entries through voting, sharing and discussing to select the finalists. The audience nominated finalists are then viewed by the jury who decide on the winning filmmakers. In the latest edition of the festival, the views of the audience are recognized with a special “Audience Award” in which communities vote on their favorite film, with the winner able to donate $20,000 to a charity of his or her choice. The winner is the film with the most shares, votes and likes on social media during the festival period.

"With #VOFF, the audience has the strongest influence. Not only are they determining the Audience Award but they are also 100% responsible for deciding which movies will be shown to our jury."

Casper Mejlholm

Marketing and Communications Specialist, Viewster

As social media became more centred at the core of VOFF over the years, Casper recognized the need for a social media management tool. When Hank came on board, he and Casper decided to invest in Falcon as a platform for managing these thousands of fans. This turned out to be a great move. With a theme of ‘Share it Forward’ this year VOFF has had millions of viewers, and engaged hundreds of thousands of them across Viewster’s website and social media using the #VOFF4 hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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RESULTS: SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS FOR VIEWSTER
Social, and Facebook specifically, has been essential to the success of VOFF4, all managed through the Falcon platform. In Casper’s words:

“Having a one-stop-shop for social media management is crucial for us, especially during our festival. We use Falcon to build conversation between filmmakers and viewers, and help them discover films they would’ve never come across elsewhere. We function as a catalyst to create value and connection between the different stakeholders in independent film, whether that’s the viewer, producer, an agency or a potential investor. Regardless of their experience or location, we can bridge that gap by staying on top of social conversations and engagement in the festival period.”

Having Falcon has enabled Casper and Hank to effectively manage their communities across their many channels, ensuring that no comment is missed, and using our tool to scan all comments allowed them to recognize familiar faces. Hank has also noticed that using the Falcon platform enables him to identify Viewster’s most loyal followers.

“It became easy to identify our most dedicated fans through Falcon. The platform tracks every engagement, so I see a lot of familiar faces on our channels.”

Segmented social content and the value in video
Their content strategy has also proved much more effective since they launched their segmented approach on social, and their focus on video. They realized that their audiences were becoming less and less patient in terms of reading the posts and reviews published on social channels. Videos were seeing much higher engagement, and especially short videos depicting a remarkable scene from the film that fans can’t see anywhere else. In a video you can say everything you don’t want to type out; in Hank’s words “no-one wants to read your manifesto” meaning that it’s more compelling to watch a short clip from a film, rather than read the marketing copy. Also, the Viewster team found that their fans would want rather share compelling scenes from a film, and not the trailer. 

 
They even began to notice a discrepancy in engagement with a post whether they cropped the video 2 seconds later or earlier – those first couple of frames when a video starts playing in your News Feed are crucial. There is an art in picking a clip that works well without audio – according to Hank “it can make a difference between getting 10,000 and 50,000 views on a video, so we spend our time getting it right.”

As a result of these changes to their strategy, they can see that their audiences are more engaged and more willing to share Viewster’s content.

FINAL THOUGHTS

For an organization like Viewster, where social media is really at the heart of everything they do, a social media management tool like ours is an indispensable resource. We were happy to hear from Casper that our platform also helps the organization to manage their networks effectively, and ultimately save time and money:

“Managing all our channels without a tool was inconceivable. We need a reliable platform to manage, listen and publish to our massive network, and additionally it comes down to time management. We save money in the long run at the aid of Falcon, because everything can be done much more effectively as opposed to using the native platforms of our current and future social channels.” 

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About Falcon.io
At Falcon.io, we offer a unified SaaS platform for social media listening, engaging, publishing and managing customer data. We enable our clients to explore the full potential of digital marketing by managing multiple customer touchpoints from one platform. Our diverse and global client portfolio includes Carlsberg, Tiger, Nintendo of Europe, IWC Watches, Mentos, Redken, Coca-Cola and many more.

About Viewster
Viewster is the only online video service with its own film festival that brings together creators with a global audience. They offer a catalog of free series and movies that are hard to find anywhere else, available at the single click of a button, for free across a variety of devices with no registration required. On Viewster, you’ll find a sweeping selection of niche movies, cult series, acclaimed festival darlings, all the classics, hidden gems from all around the world and much, much more. Visit the website www.viewster.com

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