Blue Bird Down: What the Deterioration of Twitter Means for Independent Creatives

Lynnaire MacDonald is a NZ-based producer and former publicist/social media marketer of Māori and Pākehā descent. She is currently producing her first short, SAVE ME, which is in pre-production.

Since Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter I have spent each day anxiously scanning news reports. The repercussions of this purchase have been a mix of farcical and concerning. The decision to allow anyone to buy a blue tick verification and impersonate public figures and companies is laughable. The reported 500% increase in use of the N-word on the platform within 12 hours of Musk taking over is not.

It’s easy to say, “So what? It’s just a social media platform,” but for thousands of people in creative industries Twitter has provided an easily-available, free public space to connect with fellow creatives. Additionally, it’s operated as a space where creatives could successfully promote their work to a much wider audience than they may have had access to previously.

That’s not to say Twitter was some fool-proof utopia. We know it’s not. It can be a complete dumpster fire of hate and misinformation. I’m also not looking at Twitter with some rose-tinted view, either. However, the death of Twitter means shutting off access to a social media platform that has also been hugely beneficial for indie creatives.

Twitter has also helped steer the fate of some creatives as well. It was a tweet at four in the morning that would start performer Mason Alexander Park‘s journey towards their phenomenal performance as Desire in Season One of The Sandman. Park was in the two-week quarantine period before beginning filming Cowboy Bebop when they decided to tweet Neil Gaiman to see if Desire was going to be in Season One. Gaiman got back to them with the casting director’s information and the rest is history.  

In my case, I owe my (albeit humble) career in the film industry to a single tweet. I joined Twitter in 2013 as part of an exercise we were doing when I was working towards my Certificate in Public Relations and Business Communications. I had wanted to be a film publicist. After receiving my Certificate, it was difficult to get the kind of work I was looking for but through building up my Twitter following of independent filmmakers I had a few good leads. It was the Thursday before Good Friday in 2014 when I put out a tweet, asking if any independent filmmakers wanted social media marketing for their films. By the end of the day I had five films interested, and by the end of the weekend I had fifteen.

I had posted that tweet because I saw that independent filmmakers were primarily relying on social media platforms like Twitter to quickly and successfully reach their audiences. And cinephiles on Twitter (especially those who supported independent film) were ardent and responsive. Independent filmmakers didn’t have the money or means to pay for a publicity firm to secure media and grow their audiences. And the ‘big’ mainstream media news outlets prioritised films with established and well-known actors. So if you have an incredible micro-budget film with a cast of unknowns you were at a disadvantage when it came to the ‘big’ news outlets. Not so with Twitter.

I would assist filmmakers by providing publicity outreach to secure media placements while also building their social media audience via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. There were many times where that involved mobilising the audience to support and contribute to a crowdfunding campaign. And as great as Facebook and Instagram were to connect with audiences, it was Twitter that really mobilised audiences to help fund a film.

For instance, the UK-based film Us Among the Stones was able to not only achieve but exceed their post-production funding target because myself and the team mobilised indie film fans and fellow creatives to contribute to the campaign. In fact, the FirstGlance Film Festivals Twitter account (which at the time of publishing this article boasts 49.7K followers) would very happily re-tweet content which contained the hashtag #SupportIndieFilm. Even once I moved away from publicity and into producing, it was having the experience of utilising Twitter for crowdfunding campaigns which also assisted in the success of the pre-production Kickstarter for my first short, Save Me.

As I write this, Twitter is like Schröedinger’s cat- we’re not quite sure whether it’s dead or alive. People are leaving for Mastodon and other platforms, but building up a following again is going to take time, especially if you’re on a different server to people you’d been followed by on Twitter (or vice-versa). Twitter was part-community water-cooler, part-bulletin board. So what do you do if you have been utilising Twitter successfully to bring awareness to your work and grow your audience for future projects? Whether you decide to stick with Twitter to the very end or abandon it completely, you should consider ‘future proofing’, and I have a few ideas.

If you don’t have a Facebook account for your production company or film (or yourself in the case of actors), consider doing so and then directing your Twitter followers towards the Facebook page. That way you can hopefully bring some of your supporters and industry colleagues over to the page while also growing your audience on Facebook. While younger audiences are tending to flock towards platforms like Tik-Tok, Facebook is a reasonable default platform for audiences around 25-40 (this is based on my own observations over the years).

If Facebook isn’t for you, you may want to start a regular update via Mailchimp or Substack. Once you’ve established your account you can share a link to your followers to sign up for updates and then keep them updated on a semi-regular basis.

If there any fellow creatives on Twitter you want to keep in touch with or potentially work with in the future and you follow one another, consider sending them a direct message to exchange contact details.

Perhaps Mastodon will become the new popular micro-blogging platform, perhaps there will be another app to become the default. Right now, we don’t know but by future-proofing you can at least salvage whatever’s left from the wreck of Twitter.

Lynnaire MacDonald

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