The phone rang at our office in late September 2019. A lovely voice on the other end said, “We have a gem of a thing here, but not enough people know about us. Can you help?”

Who could pass up a challenge like that? 

A lunch meeting and a couple of phone calls later, we signed on to help the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival (SDFF for short). 

The big ask was to bring awareness of SDFF to filmmakers, film lovers, schools, and journalists. As always, we started with research and strategy. Then we got to work.

We had a handful of months to get up to speed about a new industry, clean up and optimize the existing Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, and build out our calendars. There was a clear path to a live festival with an opening night of March 26, 2020.

We even had a great evening with the entire SDFF team during the Member Preview when we got to see how much passion fans have for documentary films and a quick look at 2020’s programming. 

Happen to remember where you were on March 26, 2020? Yeah.

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and life started to close down, we watched the SDFF team pivot smartly, quickly, and confidently to an all-virtual event. Our job was to support the festival’s directors and keep the SDFF audience informed.

What a run. 

Of course, 2021 was more of the same. We were still working in our PJs, pretending to like Zoom calls, and watching way too many lousy t.v. shows. The team at SDFF worked even harder to program a festival with interesting films, found a way to bring the popular panel discussions to ticket buyers, and actively informed their audience during a year of world-rattling tumult. 

Our job remained the same — raise awareness, drive “ticket” sales, increase the population of people looking to engage with SDFF, and help wherever possible. While we had subtle changes to our strategy and tactics, our focus on those three core assignments remained. 

So, how did we do? Turns out pretty good. Utilizing completely organic methods — meaning we didn’t spend any money for growth — our team increased the number of followers and engagement across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

 

Facebook

+22%

Follower Growth

Engagement Rate from Sub 1% to an avg. 4%

 

Instagram

+15%

Follower Growth

Avg 5.4% Engagement rate from next to 0%

 

Twitter

+11%

Follower Growth

 

 

One of our key learnings from 2020 and 2021 was that filmmakers and the documentary film community are fiercely passionate about their craft. When we went out to engage, follow, and share their content, we were rewarded with them returning the favor. 

Side note: this approach can be replicated for nearly every business. Find your tribe, engage with them, and stay in the conversation. Good things (for the most part) happen when you’re authentic, generous, and open. 

We also had the opportunity to free SDFF from a truly awful experience with their previous website company. It’s a very long story and not ours to tell, but we built and launched a brand new website that’s modern, user friendly, and useable by the internal team. SDFF’s communications team has been busy adding and tweaking the website to meet their needs. 

Okay. So, it’s 2022. 

WE’RE COMING BACK LIVE! We think. Wait, yes, we can get together in person. We think. Can you hang on for a second? 

Of course, we’re kidding. If you can’t have a little fun these days … That said, we’re planning on an in-person event and encouraging our friends and followers to join us in Sebastopol this year. Our efforts include more engagement, better creative, and a higher level of communication with filmmakers and film lovers.

While the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival isn’t quite yet the Sundance of the west, it’s a gem that is shining brighter and brighter every day. We’re grateful to be along for the ride and wish them all the best.

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