Figure 1: Top 15 film festivals by number of social issue influencers in each of the 16 social issue networks. The blue color indicates a top-tier festival (as identified by POV), and green reflects a non-top-tier festival. X-axis normalized across all issues.

This is the third of four posts mapping online social networks; today we’ll be focusing on film festival organizations and their reach within these networks. (If you’re just joining us, you can read more about the series here and here.)  Specifically, we’ll be addressing the following questions, as posed by a hypothetical festival organizer:

Which festivals reach social issue influencers? Where does my film festival rank among film festivals’ social issue engagement as a whole? What social issue network(s) have I attracted attention from in the past and which should I target in the future?

For each of our 16 social networks, we scanned the number of influencers who followed each of the 224 film festivals. We refer to this count as the festival’s “network resonance”—the more network influencers a festival account has in their audience, the more “resonant” it is. Figure 1 shows this distribution for the 15 highest-resonant film festivals in each social network, with the “top-tier” festivals (those identified as being high in “clout” by POV)  highlighted in blue.

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Figure 1: Top 15 film festivals by number of social issue influencers in each of the 16 social issue networks. The blue color indicates a top-tier festival (as identified by POV), and green reflects a non-top-tier festival. X-axis normalized across all issues.

Figure 1: Top 15 film festivals by number of social issue influencers in each of the 16 social issue networks. The blue color indicates a top-tier festival (as identified by POV), and green reflects a non-top-tier festival. X-axis normalized across all issues.

Unsurprisingly, networks with subject matters related directly with films have the strongest connections with festivals, such as Arts & Culture and Media & Communications. What’s more interesting, however, is the extent to which festivals overlap with other issues, such as Environment & Natural Resources, Human Rights, and Community Development & Relations. In each of these, at least four festival accounts garner more than 100 network-specific influencers. We can also see issue networks that these festivals have yet to resonate with significantly, like the Drugs and Science & Technology networks. (In the case of the latter, we’re interested to see whether this this network grows in the coming years as virtual and augmented reality projects become more integrated with film festivals!)

The three festivals among the top resonating festivals for all issue networks are Sundance, Tribeca and SXSW. They are in fact, in varying orders, the top three festivals in 11 of the 16 networks, showing their extremely wide reach across different social issue influencers. Not far behind is The Green Film Festival, which is in the top five for nine issue networks. The Green Film Festival also leads in influencers for the Environment & Natural Resource network, making it the only “non-top-tier” leader of a network.

In addition to observing how the top festivals resonate across all issues, we can look at individual film festivals to identify which social issue influencers they have in their follower lists. We illustrate two types of reach in Figure 2: a festival that resonates highly with a single network (@Mountainfilm – Telluride Mountainfilm Festival), in comparison to a festival that reaches multiple networks relatively evenly (@hrwfilmfest – Human Rights Watch Film Festival).

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Figure 2: Total network followers for each of 16 social issue networks for two documentary film festivals, the @Mountainfilm account (The Telluride Mountainfilm Festival) and the @hrwfilmfest (Human Rights Watch Film Festival). These represent the two types of distributions: on the left, a distribution with one clear network resonator, and on the right, a distribution that illustrates resonance across multiple issues.

A festival’s audience distribution—the extent to which it comprises members from multiple issue networks—demonstrates the range of issue experts present within the festival’s social network. For example, while the @Mountainfilm account is highly resonant within a single network, @hrwfilmfest is connected to more than 75 influencers within four networks.

Finally, by analyzing a festival’s resonance within an issue network, we can develop a finer-grained understanding of its audience. For example, the New Urbanism Film Festival reaches more than 100 issue influencers in our Community Development & Relations network, making it the third most resonant film festival for this group. Figure 3 illustrates the festival’s influencers within this network, as well as the number of influencer accounts per topic areas.

Figure 3: Images that show the reach of the @NwUrbanFilmFest within our Community Development & Relations network. The figure on the left highlights which influencers in the network the festival has reached, with the image on the right summarizing which groups those influencers belong to.

Figure 3: Images that show the reach of the @NwUrbanFilmFest within our Community Development & Relations network. The figure on the left highlights which influencers in the network the festival has reached, with the image on the right summarizing which groups those influencers belong to.

Because urban planning is a significant group within the conversation surrounding community development, @NwUrbanFilmFest has high resonance. However, the festival only seems to resonate with that one group while lagging behind in other major groups like Food/Agriculture. To improve their standing in those other key groups, the organizers for the New Urbanism Film Festival might consider accepting more films that address diverse dimensions of community development, or working with social advocate groups with a focus in that field.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what a festival organization can glean from this kind of analysis. A festival can map all of its past films onto social issue networks to see how they resonate across influencers and communities of interest, or compare its network footprint from year to year. Equipped with this data, an organization can refine its outreach strategy to target topic-specific influencers, or set a goal to broaden its followers across multiple issue areas. As we continue to explore this new ground, we are confident even more applications will become evident, which we look forward to sharing in order to help organizations maximize their impact!

To read the rest of our “Social Issue Networks and Film Festivals” series, visit:

  1. Introduction and Method
  2. Issue Advocate Analysis
  3. Media Makers Analysis