Review Marketing

by | March 15, 2024 | Newsletter

As many of you know, I encourage filmmakers to get reviews across all major platforms IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon, iTunes. This is an increasingly important component of earned media: some might say more important than press reviews. A number of years ago I read a Yale School of Management study (which I am striving to find the link to) that analyzed the effects of user reviews on Amazon film rentals. They found that every additional review from 0 to 25 had an exponential effect on sales. After 25 reviews there was still a sharp linear increase until 100 and after that a linear increase even into the 1000s of reviews.  A baker’s dozen tips below.

13 Tips On Consumer Review Marketing

1. Core audience: Develop your core audience/super fans early.  Yes, I am broken record – but this can’t be repeated enough.

2. Collect emails early:  Throughout prep/production/post and beyond.  I am still amazed at how many filmmakers are not collecting emails at festivals! (and that is not early in the process)  However the Sam Now team did start doing this early – Director Reed Harkness: “At festivals we started generating fans of the movie, people who were definitely part of the SAM NOW fan club. You’d know it when you see it in their eyes. These people were crucial when we asked people for reviews.”

3. Practice the 80/20 rule: 80% of content should be information interesting to your audience. No more than 20% should be promotional. This is a good rule of thumb for social as well.  Know what your audience is interested and send them a variety of content on a regular basis so when it is time to ask your audience for something – they are more inclined to oblige.

4. Make it simple: When emailing your core audience include the links to each platform you want people to post a review on (in the order you want them). Remind people that they will need to register for those platforms in order to post a review). 

5. Get verified reviews: Since verified reviews are more powerful, I also suggest asking people to rent the film on Amazon, or whatever TVOD platform they are posting on before posting their review.  You can either offer to reimburse people for the rental or offer something else in exchange – eg a nice piece of merch if you have it – see more on Sam Now below.

6. Get verified part 2: Before the film is released on VOD, your audience should indicate in the review where they saw the film eg at a festival or other screening to validate the review for the bot moderators.

7. Timing part 1: Assuming you have developed your email list/audience – I recommend two time periods  to garner reviews:   First, during your festival release – get reviews on IMDB right after your world premiere. Email all the people whose emails you collected at the festival a week after the festival, thanking them for coming and asking them to review your film – indicate how helpful it will be for the life of the film.  Rotten Tomatoes as well but often RT requires films to be “in release” in order to collect audience reviews.

8. Letterbox! If you feel you have an audience that is on Letterbox – I would prioritize that platform as it is fast becoming one of the most important film recommendation sites – especially for fiction films. 

9. Timing part 2: TVOD Depending on your goals and release windowing – the next moment to engage consumer reviews – would be its launch on TVOD.  If you are trying to monetize, prioritize Amazon which as of last reporting accounts for at least 70% of TVOD rentals or IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes if you are focusing on career. Then for your super intrepid fans – iTunes and Google Play.

10. Timing part 3: Spread Them Out. Platforms have ways to weed out review marketing campaigns, hence the suggestion to have reviews “verified” above.  Surges during your premieres or TVOD launches look normal, but if you run this type of campaign in the middle of a release – many of these reviews may not post because a platform suspected a campaign.

11. Incentivize: The Sam Now filmmakers reached out to their lists in their first week on TVOD and offered to mail sticker packs to anyone who would send back screenshots of their reviews.  Not many took them up on this, but it made the campaign fun and they garnered over 20 reviews in that first week on Amazon – they now have 100.

12. Friends and Family: Get your friends, and extended family on board.  Not a good look if the reviewers all have the last name of the producer/director/cast/crew – but many films have had successfully extended family with different last names post.

13. Incentivize part 2: Exchange reviews with fellow filmmakers on their projects.  If you are open to reviewing my podcast and would like me to do the same for you, let me know.  

Reach out if you have anecdotes or tips from your experiences with review marketing – I’d love to hear and share what you have learned!

Featured image credit to Tumisu.