Monday, September 24, 2012
“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
Brevity is always to be desired in writing, but in the case of Facebook, the longer your posts gets, they actually are measurably less effective. The chart below, created by Vitrue, tracks posts from a few characters long all the way up to 240 characters.
As you can see, you get fewer and fewer comments and likes as your posts get longer. One blogger claims that the optimal length is 90 characters, which makes a 140-character tweet look like a novella. Sometimes there is no way to keep posts that short treat your posts like journalism and put your most important words first.
If your posts get really long, they are cut off and there is a link. In the ticker (that little newsfeed on the right of your screen) they just stop altogether and you can only see the rest of them if you hover your mouse over the ticker.
When you take text and put it into a Shareable Square that is funny or otherwise interesting, you can get away with including more words. Still, the less words the better.
I worked as a publicist on a film called “The Mosquito Coast,” and often the director, Peter Weir, and the cinematographer, John Seale, would apply what they called the “K.I.S.S test” as they were setting up a shot. “Is this simple? No? Then let’s find something that is.” Simple is good.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
When I was a teenager growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, there was this writer who once put his phone number on the cover of one of his books. (I think it was Richard Brautigan, but I can’t confirm it.) None of my friends ever phoned him but the idea that we could if we wanted to was tantalizing. It made us love him all the more.
Imagine you live right now in my hometown of Madison. You don’t go to film parties in New York or LA and you don’t go to the Sundance Film Festival, but you have a passion for films. You see a movie and you are just nuts about it, and you strongly recommend it to all your friends Still, after awhile you see more movies and start recommending them. You stop talking about this particular film.
Of course you check out the Facebook page, and what you see there is that the director responds to all questions and even comments about what people write there. You immediately start penning a love poem to the film which goes out to your Facebook fans. From that point on you are hooked; you become a very active member of the page. And because the filmmaker puts intriguing pictures up on the page, you share them regularly. Unlike what would have happened without Facebook, your recommendations don’t stop. They may continue into the time it goes out on iTunes and VOD and DVD and Blu-ray and beyond.
Despite your love for the film, you would never in a million years send posts to your friends in Madison about when the film is opening in Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, as that would be like spamming your friends. But if there are dozens of graphics that show visually or quote from the script things that epitomize why you love the film, you are going to share a lot of them.
Let me be as clear as I can: if you personally don’t engage with your fans I don’t think you’ll ever build a community with them, which is another way of saying that the page won’t help you. It’s not that taxing: checking in daily is fine. But you have to be present.
You have to have a personality. Sometimes I’ve said something online and people didn’t like it so a few people unliked my page. That’s part of the process. Most of the people in the group will appreciate you more if you are honest, and not be so careful to not offend anybody. At the same time if I see in the “Insights” section that a few people unliked my page on a certain day, I do check out what I posted that day to see if there’s anything I regret.
Talk to you fans. That’s the only way you will build your film’s Facebook community and you may discover that you enjoy it. Plus you will be creating a fan base that can potentially follow you for your whole career
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
I know this in a series about how to get likes, comments and shares, but it’s more about what the purpose is of getting them.
Your film’s fan page has thousands of likes or even tens of thousands of likes. You have a very active group--they are liking, commenting and sharing like nobody’s business. And some of this is because of the calls to action I told you about in my last post.
How exactly does this get more people to watch your movie? Because there is a danger that you can be working furiously to get a better and better Facebook page so that you can have a better and better Facebook page. To what purpose? All my years of marketing have taught me that you will never get anywhere unless you know where you want to go.
What you are trying to do is build your own Facebook community: a group of individuals brought together online because of your movie. They want to express the love they have for it, and share ideas and debate, and most importantly, interact with you and others who worked on the film.
How do you build that community? That’s not something I can sum up for you in a paragraph; that’s something that we will be exploring together over the coming months and hopefully, years. But I can easily tell you how you don’t build a community--you achieve that by getting people to like your page as a favor. This is building a synthetic community and that is something that does you no favors.
Imagine you are at a party and you meet a guy who says, “please like my page!” And you figure, I’ll never see his film in a million years, but he seems nice enough and it’s no big deal to like a page. So you do. But tell me: have you joined his community in any real way?
When I started this page a week ago, Facebook told me to contact my friends which is to my mind, completely against the spirit of social media. Instead I carefully made a list of people I know who were likely to be interested. But I said in my note that they shouldn’t feel obligated to like my page if they didn’t want to. I only got fifty likes, but it was a pretty authentic fifty, with some people who might hang around to be part of a community of people who want to utilize Facebook better.
The essence of what I’m saying is that the graphics you make and the calls to action you send out have to fit into the larger vision--how do they help build your community and what kind of community do you want to build? If you build an authentic Facebook community for your film you will created a base of friends who will do things for your movie--and not sit passively in front of their computer monitors.
Many in the film industry believe that a Facebook campaign is only worthwhile when you are promoting a movie where there is community that is already in place, like “The Hunger Games” or “Twilight.” The idea of building an online community from scratch is both alien to them and too much work. You are going to have to show them how it’s done.
Monday, September 17, 2012
I’m sure that all of you have had the experience of being flat out asked for “likes” or comments on fan pages, as in “like this if you love chocolate donuts” or “who is your favorite TV singing contest host?”
In the social media biz these are referred to as a “calls to action.” The idea is a no-brainer and it totally works. If you ask people to like or even share stuff or if you ask them questions, you are going to get more feedback than if you don’t. Check it out as you browse the film pages on Facebook, and learn a lot of the techniques--fill in the blank, Most people running the film pages don’t know this technique, and those that do have a more lively page.
You should definitely do this regularly, as more people respond if you tell them what you want them to do. Go to other fan pages and study what people are doing. You may notice that most of the people who run independent film pages don’t know this technique. If you use it, you will be ahead of the pack.
I do calls-to-action regularly and so should you. I just don’t do them every single time, as there is a thin line between engaging your users and being habitual and boring. I have found that If you create great images, no requests for action should be necessary. There are times, however, when I have screwed up by not asking. Here’s a square I did:
The reaction wasn’t terrible--I got 50 likes and 21 shares and 5 comments, but it could have been better. I’m describing something that is unjust, so what is the proper way to respond? “Like” it? 50 of my regular readers knew me well enough to understood that liking it meant they shared my outrage. But if I had said something like “Like this if you think that ALEC is making a travesty of democracy,” I would have received more likes. I don’t think it would have increased the comments or shares though.
There is more important reason why I am wary of overusing calls to action and I’ll get into it in my next post.
Friday, September 14, 2012
Likes, Comments, and Shares, and other interactions with your fans (like clicking on a photo) are the lifeblood of your film’s page. It’s like watering a plant: if you don’t get them, the value of your page will gradually wither away. Nobody knows exactly how the Facebook algorithm makes its judgments, but we do know some general things. I will get into more detail about how the Facebook algorithm works, but today let’s just focus on how to get more of these likes, comments and shares.
All the experts will say that photos and videos are the number one way to get reactions. As you can see, my approach is all square pictures. To me it’s common sense--people are scanning the timeline in their page, and a lot of them are at work or otherwise distracted or busy. Some of them will take out the minute or two to watch your video, but your square will be seen by everybody. I want everybody, not some or even a large percentage of my readers.
What if you are at a festival and there are tons of pictures you want to put up? Remember I have an unbreakable rule that you can only do three pictures a day. Either pick the best three and make them into squares using software on your phone or create collages with software on your phone. In the abstract I would strongly advise that you choose rather than do collages, but I have worked with enough people in the film industry to know that egos are involved in things like this.
Of course, somedays you are going to want to run a video. If so host it on Facebook rather than linking to YouTube or someplace else. If you embed a YouTube video the image on your page and on your fan’s timelines will be 130 x 73 pixels on your page; if you host it in YouTube itself it will appear 398 x 223 pixels on Facebook. If you just link to it your video offsite, you have totally shot yourself in the foot. .
Why would Facebook reward you with a video image that is so much bigger if they didn’t prefer that you hosted your content with them? There may be reasons why you don’t want to give them video, but my whole method involves giving them pictures—which is to say I spend a lot of time making stuff and then I hand it over to them. So I will say to that if you want to increase the amount that your videos are seen—and isn’t that the whole point?—host all your video on Facebook. It doesn’t matter if you premiere them elsewhere, just don’t link somewhere else or put a dinky YouTube video up.
After pictures and videos comes links. You might consider uploading a picture to accompany the link. Any old still from your movie is better than just a link. But I do have to caution you that when you put up a picture, in the ticker it will just say, “so-and-so uploaded a picture,” with no comments. That’s a judgment call. I go with the timeline and not the ticker.
Sometimes people put up a lot of links at a peak time like a festival or a release. Choose the best links and space them out. There’s no law that your reviews have to go up on Facebook as soon as they appear—that’s what Twitter is for. What’s wrong with only putting in the New York Times and the best reviews from other outlets as you get access to them? You might get the New York Times online on Thursday which leaves you three more spots for Friday. You are thrilled about your opening day but your fans include people who may be less excited and will see it as spam.
Status updates are the least effective thing and if you really want to screw your page, run status updates all day long. I believe you would be much better off not even posting every day but doing a really awesome Shareable Square when you do.
On Monday I’ll talk about another way to get engagement from your fans.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
If your goal is to beg the mighty and heartless Facebook computer to make your page suck, then by all means post as much as you want. I generally post once a day, and sometimes two. Never post at the same time--space your posts around six hours apart.
If you’re going through something where there are tons of great pictures you want to share--like a film festival--use one of the many programs that make collages. I’ll do a post on collages later but you probably know how to make them. You curate what you send out.
Facebook is not Twitter. One of the most important things about using social media is to understand how each one operates. Therefore using automating software is not something I recommend. Not for quantity of posts and not for other things either. Sometimes I send my Shareable Squares to Twitter; sometimes not. I will show you later how the way I format my posters for my “Good, Bad or Ugly?” page doesn’t look as good on my Tumblr blog--so I format them a different way.
I believe in scheduling posts. You can do that by clicking the little clock icon at the bottom left in your “Write something…” box. Even if you are ready to post immediately there are advantages to scheduling. I don’t know about you, but right after I post something I often see some obvious mistake like a missing link or a typo. When you post for real, then it goes out to your fans. You can cancel a scheduled post and do it over. And as I mentioned before you can set everything up before you head out for your day. Facebook doesn’t need to control your life. You can make your Shareable Squares when it’s convenient for you. All you have to do is use your phone to keep an eye on your page for reactions.
At the same time, I wouldn’t run any posts until you absolutely have to. Something more current might strike your fancy and you can put the one you were planning to run aside. You have a good link and you just decide to take a frame grab, format it in a square and call it a day.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Here’s how you can create a Shareable Square without any graphic design training. First you need to make a white 806x806 file.
Go to pixl.com. Click “create a new image.” Fill in width 806 and height 806, name it and save it in a place that’s easy to find as you will use this a lot.
Go to PicMonkey. There’s no registration required.. Click “edit a photo.” You can upload the picture or even drag and drop it.
The P icon is text. Click the button that says “Add Text” Once you put something in the box it’s very easy and intuitive to change the type font, color, size. So play with it. You’ll be an expert in no time.
Even though I love fonts, I like that PicMonkey gives you very few choices. There are so many fonts available online that it can be a real time sponge if you think about fonts too much. On PicMonkey if you want Arial Black to not be italic you are out of luck. PicMonkey is kind of like Netflix streaming; you may not be able to get the font you want but you can always find something that you will like, and maybe something better.
Click the icon underneath the P, the overlays editor, and if you want to bring a picture in you can do that by clicking the button at the top that says “Your Own.”
So here’s how I created the square from my last post.
1) I brought in the picture of the little little guy in the box (he is the letter “x” from the free font bitsbats on dafont.com).
2) I played around with the type and changed the size and placement of the little guy until I was happy.
3) Then I clicked the bottom icon and looked for backgrounds for my type and box guy. I found one I liked in the Papyrus section. Done!
There are three quality choices for saving a picture in PicMonkey: small, medium and large. If your picture is under 4 MB it shouldn’t matter because Facebook compresses it anyway, but I’m still experimenting with whether it’s better for me to do the compression myself. The only drawback (and it’s a big one) is that you can’t save the actual file--you can only save the file of the finished print. If you want to go back and change it later you have to start all over again.
PicMonkey has an easy-to-use, intuitive interface similar to Apple programs. Kids will like it as you can do all kinds of silly things with it. It also has a “create a collage” button on the home page.
Have fun exploring PicMonkey!
Monday, September 10, 2012
My last post was about the why of the Shareable Square. Here’s what you have to do:
I know that sounds like an awful lot of work, but it might be as simple as reformatting a picture. And I’m going to be introducing you to free websites and software where you can come up with something in 15 minutes.
Don’t ever link to anything again without posting a picture. At the least, take a frame enlargement off the article or review and reformat it into a square. Put your very brief text on it and use bitly to compress your link.
Or better, use a still or frame enlargement from your movie. Or pull a quote and put it into a box.
As you can (and should) preschedule your posts on Facebook, you can grab time when you’re free and knock off a few of these. It’s a good idea to get ahead, particularly if you know you have some busy days ahead or are going on vacation.
Friday, September 07, 2012
Al Facebook gurus will tell you that if you use pictures you’ll get more engagement on your fan page. But they don’t focus much on what kind of pictures or how to make them.
Let me introduce you to what I call The Shareable Squares. You get the shareable part. But why the square shape? It’s because otherwise they can get cropped and you want to control how they are seen.
It’s like with a Cinemascope movie. In the old days they panned and scanned them for TV and even now they typically aren’t letterboxed. They show them 16:9 on a Hi-def TV or even worse.
The posts on your fan page are 403 x 403 pixels square. I use 806 x 806 images because I want more quality and if you were a real stickler you could even go for 1209 x1209 because they look bigger when you click on them. If you upload a different shape Facebook will place it for you and let you reposition it, but even so you might not be able to make it work the way you want it to.
You might say to me, “I post and see wide images in my newsfeed all the time and on my fan page I have the option to show a very wide picture.” That’s true. But my fan page is always square and I want people who come to the page to be able to glance at it and like it. Not everybody is going to click on a picture to see the whole thing. Here’s a graphic made about the Koch Brothers for my “Save the Supreme Court Re-Elect Obama” Facebook page:
This image was formatted for the wide screen shape you get on a fan page when you click the star button to highlight a photo. It looked great on my there. The problem is that most people don’t go back to the fan page much after they like it; they see the subsequent posts in their own timeline. And it looked like this:
I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of truncated images like this on Facebook. Some much worse than this where you really can’t figure out what they’re about. If you’re curious you click on them and you see the whole thing. But the reality is that a lot of people keep on going and don’t click on them.
Square images always get seen the way you want them to on Facebook; square images always get seen period. As we are looking for any advantage we can get, a single extra share each time from somebody who is a very active Facebook user with a lot of friends, will result in a big payoff over time.
And getting reactions to the pictures you put up is the name of the game. And it’s going to be the main topic of discussion of this blog.
Thursday, September 06, 2012
Groucho: And here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.
Chico: Why a duck? Why no chicken?
Groucho: I don’t know. I’m a stranger here myself.
Why Facebook? Do I have something against Twitter or Pinterest or Tumblr or YouTube or LinkedIn or Instagram or foursquare, or any other social media platform? No, I love all that stuff and I love the way Etsy, Fancy, Crowdstarter, and a zillion games couldn’t exist without social.
Social media is like clothes. There are an infinite number of ways to dress yourself. Some people seek fashion in all its endless variety and place it at the center of their lives. Others, like Stanley Kubrick, wear the same damned thing every day. But pretty much everybody has a pair of jeans. Facebook is a pair of jeans. Almost everybody in our independent filmmaking world who uses social media tends to use Facebook. I’ve heard people say that Facebook is to social media what Google is to search technology. So why not make sure you’ve done the best possible job on the Big Kahuna?
As you will be hearing me say over and over, Facebook and most social media is driven by visual “content” (argh!) or what you might consider offline to be imagery or even… art. And in my opinion, Facebook works best when the pictures you give it are in certain shapes.
So why not start with their requirements? The hard part is creating the visuals; that’s what will challenge your creativity and take your time. Once you’ve done them and put them up on your film’s Facebook fan page, you can port them over to Twitter, or Pinterest or your Tumblr blog. .
You’re all accustomed to think in terms of the aspect ratios for movies. In my next post, I’ll talk about aspect ratios for Facebook.