Anatomy of an Indie Film's Social Media Campaign


I was recently invited to participate in a social media campaign for the independent film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” I thought the campaign, the Dragon Tattoo Blog Hunt, was interesting, so interviewed the film’s social media campaign director, Julie Roads, who came up with the concept then created, arranged and managed the project. Here’s a breakdown of the elements of the campaign.

Basic Elements of Campaign

Eleven bloggers from different niches wrote blog posts, either about or referencing the film. For example, I wrote a very personal post about abuse in reference to the lead female’s experiences in the film.

At the bottom of the posts, each blogger published a blurb about the Blog Hunt with a link to the starting page on the site and a clue to the next site in the hunt. The clues did not contain links, but rather “keywords” (in bold) that, when Googled, led the reader to the next blog.

The final blog post did not have a clue but instead had a link to the final landing page. At this point, “hunters” could submit their information to be entered into a draw to win movie tickets, books, posters, the soundtrack, a Barnes and Noble Nook and a custom designed dragon pendant necklace.

The Blog Hunt ended on April 1.

Campaign Challenges

All of the sites had to publish their blog posts at 8am EST on the launch date. As the bloggers were all over the country, some errors occurred, such as failures to include the clues at the bottom of the posts. In my case, I didn’t realize the expectation was a homepage mention of my blog post, something which was not in my control. So I ended up contacting my editor at 5am (my time) to help with that, and she graciously agreed.

“There was a pretty crazy hour or so where I was smoothing out the wrinkles and filling in the holes,” says Roads. “I have to say, I feel pretty lucky that this was the most challenging part.”

According to Roads, the initial reaction was “phenomenal,” with “a flood of people” completing the Blog Hunt on the first day when the posts were published and disseminated via RSS feeds and syndicated on Twitter, Facebook and the like.

Roads also said she was surprised by the “intense spectrum of reactions from bloggers” she approached. Some people thought she was a “snake oil salesman,” and she was redirected to their advertising people. Others told her they didn’t participate in “viral marketing tactics.” The majority of the people she approached, however, were enthusiastic, excited to be included, and very supportive of the idea.

Campaign Results

The combined monthly unique pageviews of the 11 blog participating in the campaign was 2.5 million. “The main goal of the Blog Hunt was to introduce loyal readers to the film via their favorite blogs,” says Roads.

Number of people who completed the Dragon Tattoo Blog Hunt: 500

Adds Roads, “We designed, built and premiered the site in short order — just one week, immediately before the Blog Hunt launched — and improved its Alexa ranking from 3.8 million to 280,000 in a matter of weeks. We earned a Google PageRank of 5 within seven weeks of being live.”

Roads also wrote up a case study on the campaign. On her blog, she explains the spirit in which she approached bloggers to participate:

For the purposes of blogger relations and out of deep respect for bloggers, I provided the bloggers with benefits:

  • Enhancing their current community
  • Good content
  • Increased traffic
  • Being part of the new community forming around the film and the contest
  • Exposure/Press as a result of a successful campaign (which is being written up by several high profile social media/marketing sites)

The exposure for bloggers participating was bolstered by Landmark Theaters sending information about the Blog Hunt to all of its newsletter subscribers — over 300,000 of them.

“I’m a blogger and I believe strongly in the blogger/reader relationship. So, instead of talking strictly to movie and book blogs about the film, I dug into the niches surrounding the book such as tattoos, violence against women, genealogy, Apple (s aapl), tech — and I approached top bloggers in those areas,” Roads explains. “I didn’t ask them to write a review of the film, I asked them to put on their blogger cap, watch the movie and write about it from the lens of their blogging topic. I encouraged them to maintain their blogging integrity.”

Campaign Observations

Many of the bloggers who participated in the campaign are also Twitter users. I took it upon myself — as did others — to retweet some of the links to the other blog posts in Blog Hunt. I emailed Roads a request for permission to do the tweeting because there was an obvious concern that tweeting links would give away all the clues.

However, it seems to me that the missing piece of this campaign was the lack of a planned Twitter element. Many of the bloggers participating in the Blog Hunt, like Darren Rowse, are also active on Twitter, with many followers. Rowse’s tweet of his campaign-related blog post  from his  @problogger account generated 190 retweets, while Brian Clarke’s @copyblogger tweet hit 150 retweets. Some of the participating bloggers, however, are not Twitter users, so perhaps keeping Twitter out of the mix helped Roads prevent any technical confusion.

Have you created or participated in an interesting social media campaign? Please share.

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): The Dos and Don’ts of Social Media Marketing


Tom Eldridge

Great insight into the social media campaign for TGWTDT. I think any worthwhile campaign needs to evaluate each social media channel before implementation. Based on your last paragraph a viable Twitter presence sounded like more of an afterthought.

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