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How Documentaries Can Benefit From Social Media

Published by Connor Wesson on April 28, 2022

Watching a documentary film often feels like a journey, the type of experience in which stranger's lives unfold in front of an audience. Today, a modern documentary's impact campaign is reliant on social media to reach larger audiences.

 
Key Points:
  • Documentary films have never been so accessible to the worldwide community, filmmakers are utilizing social media to reach larger audiences.

  • Social media sites have become leading online spaces for documentary filmmakers to promote their film's impact campaigns.

Filmmakers lead a discussion at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. (Credit: IDFA)

Throughout the creative process there are opportunities to utilize social media to reach your target audience. News gathering, distribution, and audience engagement are examples of the aspects of documentary filmmaking that social media may contribute to.

 
What is the purpose of a documentary film?

Documentary films are the perfect visual tool to create dialogue around a particular issue or subject. Often well-researched, documentaries can educate audiences on communities or issues previously foreign to them.


Some documentaries only aim to inform audiences within the typical 90-minute film, while others hope to lead impact campaigns that follow the film's release.


Often, environmental documentaries like Seaspiracy, by filmmakers Ali and Lucy Tabrizi seek greater social change. Their film, about the devastating impacts of commercial fishing on the world's oceans has gained a huge amount of support on social media.


@Seaspiracy utilizes social media to Connect with audiences

"Seaspiracy" filmmaker Tabrizi lead a successful impact campaign following the 2021 release of the film. (Credit: IMDB)
  • Social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have helped the film Seaspiracy continue its impact beyond the big screen.


  • The account is most popular on Instagram with a massive following of 735,000 users.


  • Co-directors Ali and Lucy Tabrizi operate the @Seaspiracy account across social media platforms, providing updates to environmental campaigns worldwide.


  • Utilizing the bio to create a call to action, Tabrizi attracts more users to support the account.

 
Impact Campaigns on Social Media

Impact campaigns? What are those? According to UCLA's Bonnie Abaunza, "Social impact campaigns help drive audiences to films by launching advocacy initiatives and calls to action based on the social issues they address".


Impact campaigns improve audience traffic to your film or social media sites, further engaging and educating the public. The dimensions that the impact a film or documentary can have on communities or greater society have been visualized in the graph below:


A chart displaying the outward impact a documentary films are capable of achieving with determined impact campaigns. (Credit: Panicaro Foundation)

The creative dimensions of impact, explained:

  • Compelling Story: The documentary or film grasps the attention and hearts of audience members.

  • Awareness: Viewers begin spreading the word about the film they saw, how it made them feel, and why others should or should not watch it. Even if the shared opinion is negative, it will still have the chance to invite someone to educate themselves and open their minds.

  • Engagement: Through social impact campaigns people can donate, communicate, coordinate, and support the mission of that film or documentary.

  • Stronger Movement: Greater engagement numbers build, gathering the attention of more people, organizations, and governments. Petitions are made, events are put on in support of the impact campaign, and people in power or of status begin to voice support for the campaign.

  • Social Change: Finally governments, national or international, recognize the legitimacy of the impact campaign and choose to make structural changes as hoped by supporters of the movement.

Social media impact campaigns satisfy the feeling of "what happens next" after watching a hard hitting documentary, offering a great opportunity for viewers to connect to the global community. As social media and technology continues to advance, it will be interesting to see how impact campaigns adapt in the future.

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