Friday, February 01, 2013
One of the most stunning achievements of the Internet is the speediness with which it can spread misinformation, stupidity and lies. There have been dummies since the dawn of time, but they have previously lacked the technology to unleash the virus of their brainlessness to untold millions with the swiftness and ease we enjoy today. There is no way that so many seemingly sentient people could believe that the President of the United States wasn’t born in the U.S. if it wasn’t for the power of the web. Even as big a blowhard as Donald Trump would not to be able to accomplish this without the Internet.
And now we have Graph Search. As I wrote last week, Graph Search has the potential to do enormous good, but quickly I realized that it would also be another force for the triumph of stupidity in the modern world.
As I was turning in my blog copy, a guy named Tom Scott put up a Tumblr blog, “Actual Facebook Graph Searches,” which quickly went viral. Scott searched things like married people who like Prostitutes, current employers of people who like Racism, and more disturbingly, family members of people who live in China and like Falun Gong and Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran. Gizmodo also found people who announced on Facebook their liking for “Shitting my pants,” and Mashable used Graph Search to suggest that People Who Like Honey Boo Boo Like Playing Dragon City, Musicians like to play Tetris Battle, Apple Employees listen to David Guetta, Google employees listen to Pink Floyd, and Mashable readers like “Inception.”
This information is frightening people, which is a good thing because it will cause them to clean up their Facebook privacy settings, but some people are taking some of these connections that are being drawn as being connected to something real, and I fear that Graph Search is going to be abused in the future by the media as an source of reliable information of one sort or another. I hope not, but it is likely. Graph Search is supposed to be fun and social, meant for finding out verifiable things like who among your friends like to knit, not this sort of thing.
Let’s take a moment to study the data. The Islamic guys in Tehran? They didn’t say they were gay; they said they were interested in both men and women to interact with on Facebook. Facebook isn’t a dating site and it doesn’t provide any explanation as to whether this preference is meant to be sexual and I know lots of people who use it that way. So this Graph Search proves… nothing. And once they hear about it--and they will--they’ll change their settings.
The Falun Gong has been subject to imprisonment, torture and other human rights abuses in China, but a totalitarian government doesn’t need Graph Search to find them. They can make their list from the Falun Gong Facebook page directly, and find family members from that. This isn’t secret information. Understanding that leads to what the real issue is with Graph Search, which is not privacy, but “obscurity.” As Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger state in a recent article in The Atlantic, “Obscurity is the idea that when information is hard to obtain or understand, it is, to some degree, safe.” Hartzog and Selinger discuss the recent case of The Journal News in White Plains, New York, which published the names and addresses of gun owners. The outcry wasn’t caused by the idea that there was information about gun owners accessible in a public archive, but that it was suddenly made easy for everybody to see. And I think it’s more the issue here. We may have been comfortable putting questionable stuff on Facebook at the time we did it, because we believed it would be forgotten an hour later, and only seen by our friends and maybe our friends’ friends. To be suddenly confronted with Graph Search seems like a terrible betrayal to some. While Tom Scott, the Actual Graph Searches Tumblr blogger who set off the media frenzy, may say, “If it’d be awkward if it was put on a screen in Times Square, don’t put it on Facebook”--most people don’t see it that way, and today many of them are freaking out.
If you think about it, most of the examples of the nefarious uses of Facebook come from likes and you can remove them in a minute. Click the box that says Likes on the top right of your page, click the edit pencil on the top right, hover over any Like you don’t want to be associated with anymore and delete it. Done!
Don’t want your name to come up in Graph Searches for anybody but your friends? Learn how here. If you don’t want all your friends to be able to find you in Graph Searches, make a list of the people that you trust, and set up Facebook so that only they can get access to your information and posts. If you wish to correspond with Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, you can do so on this page.
Let’s proceed from the things that frighten us about Graph Search to the so-called information people are getting from it. Examine the “shitting my pants” Community Page on Facebook, referred to by Gizmodo. It currently has 635 fans, with a “People Talking About This” score of 13, which makes it a not very active community, unless you compare the page to the “Not Shitting My Pants” Community Page, which only has 108 fans and had only one person talking about it all last week. Over one billion members and that’s all they could find? Anyway, do any of you believe that “shitting in my pants” is more popular than “not shitting in my pants”? Only on Facebook it is.
One video I saw made a big deal about a the results of a Graph Search between fans of Barack Obama who worked for Mitt Romney. I used to have a Facebook page called “Save the Supreme Court--Re-elect Obama.” Many of the people who joined it wrote angry, hateful comments about Obama every day. I came to believe that these people searched Facebook for pages that had the word Obama in it for the sole purpose of trolling. But if you were doing a Graph Search today, I’m sure you’ll be able to get people who like Obama, Sean Hannity, and Wayne LaPierre, and it would make perfect sense, or at least Facebook-sense, which is another way of saying absolutely no sense at all.
Likewise, the “fact” that “People Who Like Honey Boo Boo Like Playing Dragon City” over any other game is ludicrous. Who among the untold numbers of “Honey Boo Boo” fans also like it on Facebook? I love “Honey Boo,” but I haven’t liked her page. These tallies are disenfranchising me and probably millions of other “Honey Boo Boo” fans. At the same time there may be people who claimed to like Honey Boo Boo on FB when they didn’t actually like it--as a joke. The same thing happens over at the Dragon City page and all the other games. So do Musicians Like to Play Tetris Battle? Over other games? Really?
Pages that are well-run and advertise on Facebook get more fans, providing a lopsided connection to what people like the most in the world outside Facebook. A large portion of the likes people do are “pity likes,” favors to friends who are desperate to rack up likes on their pages, or because they entered a contest, or they had to like a company page so they could complain about how much they hated it. Don’t forget that a large portion of the profiles on Facebook aren’t people at all, they’re bots, but that doesn’t stop them from liking thousands of pages. I just looked at my list of likes and I don’t give a hoot about most of them, although I am relieved that “shitting in my pants” isn’t on the list. (Perhaps “relieved” is a poor choice of words.)
Correlating something like “Musicians” to “Tetris Battle” violates all rules of the scientific method. You can rightly compare good data to another source of good data. But when you compare a pile of crap data to another pile of crap data, then, in scientific terms, it all goes kabluey. Journalists are going to do Graph Searches and report them as if they actually meant something. Graph Search will become the Fox News of Facebook.
Despite our fury about privacy, I expect that you and I are going to abuse Graph Search for our own twisted purposes. Did you know that Facebook keeps a record of all your searches? It’s true. But don’t worry, Facebook claims that only you can see your search history. Does that make you feel safe? Hah! If you want to whisk those sick searches away, here’s an infographic on how to get rid of them.
You have the power to protect your privacy if you’re willing to take a few minutes to do so. Most of us already did it when Timeline came out. What you have no protection from is the tsunami of illogic that is headed your way. Idiotic Graph Search conclusions have targeted your brain cells and there will be no escape.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
As I was turning in this blog post on Wednesday, Tom Scott’s Tumblr blog “Actual Facebook Graph Searches,” was going viral. Scott searched things like Mothers of Jews who like Bacon, married people who like Prostitutes, and current employers of people who like Racism, and more disturbingly, family members of people who live in China and like Falun Gong, and Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran. It’s likely that some of these “likes” were intended to be ironic; I’m dubious that people would say they liked Prostitutes, even if they did, and Gizmodo found people with dubious likes for “Shitting my pants,” as well as some creepy things that might not be ironic. Also the men in Iran said that they liked both men and women, and it's not unusual for people on Facebook to interpret that preference in a non-sexual way. But as has been noted a lot, it would be hard for people in China to say they were joking about liking the Falun Gong.
I will write more about this, but I would advise all of you to go to “3 Privacy Changes You Must Change Before Using Facebook Graph Search” (Gizmodo) and Facebook Graph Search: Now Is The Time to Go Over Your Privacy Settings (ABC News). I also think it would be worth taking a look at The Facebook Privacy information page .
Last Tuesday, Facebook introduced a new feature called Graph Search at a highly hyped press conference. Wall Street, which had been expecting a phone ,was not impressed, and the stock dived by 6.5% (it’s since recovered). On the other hand, the social media bloggers almost unanimously called Graph Search a triumph and Mashable declared: “Facebook Graph Search Could Be Its Greatest Innovation.”
What is it? Graph Search gives you the power to tap into the web of connections between you and your friends in a way that has never existed before. For example, if you type in a question like “Which of my friends like Moonrise Kingdom?” you will be shown a list of your friends, weighted by the ones you interact with the most, i.e., best friends on top. You could also ask, “What films do my friends like?” and presumably--I haven’t seen it yet--the films at the top of the list will be the ones most liked by your friends. You can also add other variables to your search like “Which of my female Los Angeles friends who speak French like Moonrise Kingdom?” As Graph Search indexes photos as well as likes, you can ask to see pictures from the photo libraries of all your friends who have liked something or other on Facebook. You can see more examples of what Graph Search can do on a very Apple-ish video, and sign up for their Beta here.
Consider for a moment how Graph Search could supplement or compete with the services that other websites provide. Yelp tells you what friends have to say about restaurants and other businesses; Graph Search tells you which ones are liked by your friends and their friends. LinkedIn is a powerful hiring tool for searching through people’s resumes; Graph Search lets you make targeted social inquiries, such as finding which friends of your friends are film publicists. Match.com, as USA Today pointed out, allows you to see profiles of strangers who have signed up for the service; Graph Search shows which of your Facebook acquaintances and their friends are single. (Female Facebook users… prepare to be pestered!)
At this point Graph Search only indexes what’s in your profile and the pages you’ve liked, so its usefulness is limited by how much our Facebook profile tell about us. However, Mark Zuckerberg says that his ultimate goal is for Graph Search to include all the content posted on Facebook. Imagine if you could instantly call up comments that a trusted friend made about a movie three months ago? That would indeed be very useful, but it will be many years before Graph Search can do that. In the meantime, if there’s anything that Graph Search can’t help you with, your search goes to Bing.
If people having all this instant access to your data disturbs you, remember that there is nothing accessible through Graph Search that you haven’t already made public, and it only works within your circle of friends. This is an excellent time to revisit your privacy settings, perhaps take down some pictures and remove tags. Here’s Facebook’s information page and the video below about how how privacy works with Graph Search.
As far as your film’s fan page goes, Graph Search will force you to change your strategies. In the past, your page was the nucleus of a network, branching out to your fans and their friends, and to the tributaries of Facebook users that stem out beyond them. Graph Search serves people on the outer margins looking in. Previously the likes, comments and shares drove your message into the network, and the number of likes was secondary, but if Graph Search catches on, the number of fans will be very important to a search for “What movies do my friends like?” However, the quality of the content will be as important as it was before, because it will move your film up to the top of the list.
Will Graph Search become one of those big ideas that changes the way we use the Internet?
Time will tell. As I said before, Graph Search’s viability is limited to how much our profiles express who we are, and that is never the whole story--all of us enjoy more movies than we “like” on Facebook. Will people hike up their privacy settings so much that Graph Search never reaches its potential? (If that happens it would have a detrimental effect on advertising.) How well will Graph Search work on phones? What will be the impact of all the bots and fake likers on Facebook? On the positive side, will Graph Search make it more likely that people will like film pages and write positive comments, as they can see how it will make a long-time difference? Secondly, if Graph Search truly lives up to its promise it may become the “killer app” that convinces Facebook holdouts to join so they can get access to it. At this point I think it’s too early to separate what is hype from what could be a seismic change. Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg had the right tone when he said, “This is just some really neat stuff. This is one of the coolest things we’ve done in a while.”
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Many of you are at Sundance now with a new movie. Congratulations and I wish you the best of luck. I know you’re overwhelmed with the experience and it might seem a ridiculous time to ask: “Will your film still be watched in 2043?”
With the advent of digital streaming, movies available for round-the-clock viewing have already become needles in haystacks as high as Everest. Netflix claims to have 90,000 DVD titles and 12,000 streaming ones. Add to that, movies from other streaming sites like iTunes, Hulu, Amazon, CinemaNow, Mubi, Fandor, Snagfilms, Crackle, YouTube, Indiepix, Crunchyroll, and apps like HBO to Go, that even allowing for overlaps, it becomes numbing for most people to pick a particular movie out of the pile. In 2043 there will undoubtedly be hundreds of thousands of films and TV show episodes available instantly, but all current indications suggest it won’t be a comprehensive list or include the best films. The lack of selection isn’t an issue today, but I believe that future cultural and technological trends will lead the mass public to select among what is most convenient and instant, and only the most discerning viewers will seek the best of cinema history on plastic discs.
You’re at Sundance now with a film--and in the future, many films-- that audiences love and critics do too. (You can stop reading this if that’s not true.) Moving forward you should know that it’s rare to find a career that doesn’t have its ups and downs, and some people fall so far off the radar that when they return to the public eye we call it a comeback even if that person worked steadily while they were “away.” Don’t let that be you. Here are some things to think about.
Keep at it. Woody Allen makes a film every year. People don’t like some of them? They go crazy for “Midnight in Paris”? It doesn’t matter what happens; he’s always on to the next one.
You have to learn media skills. Here’s some basic advice you can use today. First, when you speak to a journalist it’s not a chat, it’s an opportunity. Imagine that you weren’t you, but someone else trying to persuade somebody to see it. What points would you want to make? Don’t force things, but do try to say things that help and avoid things that don’t help. Never do anything that doesn’t take you towards your goal, which is to find the reasons why people should see your movie. Second, just as you study the art of the great filmmakers, scrutinize carefully the skills and technique of the most brilliant marketers. Third, be willing to devote some time. Ang Lee takes nearly a year after every movie traveling the globe to promote it. If you meet with a potential distributor during the festival, they will be very receptive to you throwing out how much energy and time you are willing to put into selling your movie. (There’s so much more I can say here, and I will write about it later.)
Branching out. The more things you do, the more you will stay in the public eye. Actors become directors, directors become actors, and both actors and directors become producers. Some filmmakers also work in theatre and TV as well as pursue causes and politics. The ultimate multi-tasker is Robert Redford, who in addition to his never-ending initiatives to expand the mission of the Sundance institute, and his career as an actor/producer/director, has devoted much of his time to environmental activism. Wanting to branch out is a personal thing, but there’s no harm in stopping to think now and then about things you always wanted to do… and whether it’s time to start doing it.
Change and reinvention. As artists move through their careers, sometimes they face the riddle: “If I keep making films like I did before then people say I’m in a rut, but if I make different kinds of films they say they liked the old ones better.” There’s no safe choice to this, so if you do have the inclination to change course, I say go for it. I don’t think change is ever wrong, as that’s how you grow. If your experiment leads you towards taboo subjects, you might get a lot of attention, and there’s nothing wrong with that, unless you’re doing it only for the publicity. You can take that to the extreme and never stop the process of reinvention.
Let me talk about your legacy now.
If all goes well you will spend a lifetime making good films and working hard to get your films seen and make your presence felt in the world. If you reach a certain level, it won’t be an issue for you to be remembered, but if your work is wonderful but less celebrated? What happens to your legacy after you retire or die and your movies fall into the morass of too many streaming movies?
Not to be dramatic, but I have been amazed and disheartened with the fickleness of the public and how quickly they can forget the films of the past. Here is what I have discovered from my decades as a publicist.
There has to be at least one person or an organization willing to carry the torch.
These caretakers will endeavor to get all your films online and have copies available that can be screened in theatres. So often the films that a writer and director is best known for fall out of circulation for one reason or another.
They will strive to set up theatrical retrospectives. There must be events where the films are shown as a group, so that the totality of your work can be appreciated. This creates a news peg for the media to cover. Every time there is a retrospective, your work will become new again. People who read about it will seek your films out on home video.
Often the reason that an artist’s work is sent to oblivion is not because nobody wants to memorialize it, but because the authorized person impedes or blocks it. There are many stories of a widow or widower asking an unreasonable price for a film with a limited audience with the result that nobody sees it.
Thinking about who’s going to look after your work when you’re not around is important, like making a will. If God forbid, anything happens to you, who would it be?
Social media is essential. Extending a legacy is what social media does best. I’ve written about how this works here. If you haven’t done so, build a Facebook page when you get home and learn how to get the most out of it. If you sell your film to a distributor, ask if you can be in charge of social media. Unless they’re Focus Features with their dedicated social media staff, it’s unlikely they will have as much time or motivation to lavish on a Facebook page as you will, and they certainly can’t do it with your voice, which is the most important thing.
If you’re at Sundance, think about this when you get home. If you’re not at Sundance, then what are you waiting for? Facebook is a magical tool that never existed before so why not use it? You’ve put your heart and soul into your movies and I’m sure you want them to live on. More than anything, I do too.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Imagine if an idealistic multi-billionaire became determined to reinvent independent film.
Imagine if he sought out the most talented, but not yet established, filmmakers in this country--the stars of the film schools, people, festival prize-winners, critically acclaimed directors whose movies have not turned a profit. He invites each of these people to his office in California, where he takes them for a nature walk to explain his dream of a colossal experiment in cinematic collaboration, larger than anything the world has previously seen. Not incidentally, he offers each of them a substantial salary to take part. Most will grab the money or be curious; others will be suspicious of his motives or wary of being tied up and say no. It will take awhile to put together the perfect group, but
the entrepreneur is patient and won’t quit until he’s assembled hundreds of people, the best of the best of the best. Of course, sometimes he’ll make the wrong choices, but one thing he’s known for is his decisiveness about letting people go when necessary.
The ultra-wealthy man hires one of the world’s most acclaimed architects alive to design the biggest open office space on the planet, a Xanadu where all these filmmakers can work together. There are no private offices, only a single floor and the owner works in the same gargantuan structure as everybody else.
What would happen if such an abundance of talent were brought together in the same place? Is this clear-eyed passion or mad folly? Would it be an unwieldy mess, a total waste of money and time? Or is there a chance that something wonderful might emanate from this imagination factory? Maybe even something unimaginable and new?
Change “gifted film director” to “visionary hacker” and that is very similar to what Mark Zuckerberg is planning to happen in the Xanadu that Frank Gehry is building for him.
Architect Frank Gehry and Mark Zuckerberg review the Facebook West design with Gehry's partner, Craig Webb. Source: Frank Gehry/Gehry Partners
My mind boggles when I visualize Zuckerberg’s huge room, several football fields long, chock-a-block with tech geniuses. What will be born when so many fertile imaginations collide? His venture is so outsized it reminds me of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character in Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York,” rebuilding New York City inside a warehouse. No matter where Zuckerberg’s audacious dream takes him, it’s an artist’s dream, not a businessman’s dream.
While many Facebook-haters cast Zuckerberg in the mold of an arrogant commander like Steve Jobs or a socially uncomfortable nerd like Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network,” his lack of impressiveness as a speaker belies his undeniable brilliance, and I actually find him kind of sweet. I believe in his sincerity when he says that “Facebook was not originally created to be a company… it was built to accomplish a social mission—to make the world more open and connected.”
Zuckerberg is the opposite of Steve Jobs. Jobs didn’t want anybody to know what the person in the next office was doing; Zuckerberg doesn’t want there to be offices at all, he wants “hangouts” where people can congregate. Jobs was obsessed with secrecy; Zuckerberg wants his staff to work in transparent ways. Jobs didn’t want anybody to know about his future plans; Zuckerberg loves to talk about them. For example, if you want to sleuth out what companies Zuckerberg is buying and what people he’s hiring, you’re going to have to go to this page in Wikipedia where they are all listed. In the past he was more interested in so-called “acqui-hires,” people taken on solely for their brains, rather than the startups they created (which sometimes pared down their services or shut down altogether, to the chagrin of their users), but lately he has been buying companies useful to mobile, most famously Instagram, but also Tagtile (mobile-based customer loyalty app), Glancee (location app to connect strangers with common interests), Karma (gifting app, which aided the very successful Facebook Gifts), Face.com (facial recognition) as well as many more acqui-hires.
I am particularly fascinated with the acqui-hires, because they are brought in with no specific ideas for how they might improve Facebook. I also believe that the entrepreneurs who do come in with companies attached are also acqui-hires as it is the nature of tech people to follow up a success by moving on to develop new technologies, just like a successful film director often wants to try out something different from what they’re known for.
This venture has been widely reported in the tech media but the mass media hasn’t given much notice to it. It’s a very big deal and it’s sitting right in front of people’s noses. The problem with most people is that tend to judge a company like Apple or Facebook based on what it looks like at the moment they’re looking at it. They aren’t capable of considering what it might become because they’re not Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg themselves. Therefore Apple could bring out the iPods, iPhones and iPads, and everybody is surprised, until one day it isn’t Apple Computers anymore, it’s just Apple. But why should each one of those things continue be so astonishing when you look at what Jobs had accomplished previously and you knew what a hungry mind he had?
Facebook has over a billion members and is adding a hundred thousand a day. It has changed the lives of many people. What other twenty-something has built a company like this? You have to give Zuckerberg a lot of credit for what he’s already achieved. As for where he’s going in the future, it’s my hypothesis that he hasn’t assembled this group merely to make Facebook “better” any more than Apple brought people into the company in the late 90’s solely to improve the iMac. I believe that the Facebook of the future will be a much more evolved social network, but also an umbrella under which many technological marvels as yet unknown will flourish. I think the idea of Facebook will be something much more expansive than what people consider it to be today.
There are a handful of technological ideas that will transform our lives in the future and I believe many of them will be born in Zuckerberg’s workshop.
Thursday, January 03, 2013
Can you really sell your film on Facebook with one of those dinky ads on the right side of the page?
Let’s begin by taking off the table the fact that many people really hate them. Assuming that that’s not the case, usually the 100 pixel x 72 pixel size is too small to even show the poster image, and the maximum 90 characters makes a tweet look like a novel. It’s true that Facebook ads can be dirt cheap-- for the price of one weekly ad in IndieWire-- I once got 60 million “impressions” (times displayed) on Facebook-- and it offers prodigious targeting abilities allowing you to zero in on fans of any director, actor, movie, social issue, among other things, but still, you end up with a bargain price on a zillion itsy-bitsy ads that I personally don’t think will directly lead to anything as big as a ticket purchase or a video viewing. Selling shoes or an exercise program or ice cream cones, yes; movie tix, no. In my opinion, the sole purpose of those itsy-bitsy teeny-weenie ads on the right side of the page is to drive people to like your Facebook page. It’s worked for me and countless others and it can work for you (if you do it right).
Now that you have a lot of fans on your page, do you blast them with a hard sell? Do you put up a series of links to reviews that call it a masterpiece or one of the year’s ten best or the funniest or scariest movie in town?
I’m hoping most of you know the answer to this one, but all of you don’t because I see it all the time.
Earth to Facebook marketers! Anything that looks or feels like ads is the epitome of what people don’t want to see on social media and will make them unlike your page or hide your posts pronto. You don’t like it on your page, do you? The harder you sell the easier they unlike.
Do you sell your movie on your Facebook page by begging your fans to go to the movie theatres?
Your posts only reach 16% of your fans, of which more than half have already seen your film. If anybody in that 8% is willing to see your movie as a favor, that’s because they have more of a connection with you than clicking a “like button” and you can reach them much more efficiently through email. There are many examples of successful social media campaigns that ask people to reach out to their friends, but I personally think it’s a lot to ask your 8% to reach into their contact lists to notify their out-of town friends every time you book a new playdate.
Do you sell your movie on your Facebook page by keeping your fans up-to-date with the latest news?
If you’re a passionate fan of a film, it’s wonderful to receive information about awards, events and the latest reviews. And it’s a nice thing for filmmakers to be in touch with their fans, particularly when the fan base gets big. But what’s the point in communicating with people who have already signed on? You are putting time into Facebook because you want to reach the friends-of-friends, friends-of-friends-of friends, and friends-of-friends-of-friends-of friends. You want to keep reminding people who have never liked your page and never will… but might be aware of it and this will help keeping it on their wavelength. My blog post about “The Wire” shows how this can go on indefinitely. There is nothing in simple news by itself that makes a fan assume their friends will be interested. You need to create the kind of content that people will want to share.
So how the hell do you sell your film on your Facebook page?
You sell by not “selling.” You sell not by asking, but by giving.
You win when you grasp the concept that it isn’t about pushing your product on consumers, but initiating a dialogue. You succeed when you strive to give your fans an experience that is as close as possible to the one they enjoy with their most interesting and fun Facebook friends--intriguing and funny comments, links, questions, pictures and videos. You have a lot of tools like trailers and ads and publicity to help you get through the weekend. Social media is not about this week; it’s about what “Homeland”’s Carrie Mathison calls the “long game.” Social media is about forging relationships that will last throughout your career.
Don’t let anybody ever catch you “selling.” Facebook will work for you from the moment you understand that you only get when you give.
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
I read that 57% of people say they talk more online than they do in real life. Whether or not this suspiciously precise statistic is wholly accurate-- it paints a realistic picture of the way people I know live today, and how we will live as we move forward to 2013 and beyond.
Does social media increase our connection to each other or does it tear us apart? By communicating with more people more of the time do we let our face-to-face social interaction skills deteriorate? Will we evolve into creatures with very small mouths and extremely dexterous fingers?
Of course, not all the changes wrought by the internet have kept us physically apart. In almost as many cases it has brought us together, for example: computer dating; reunions with long-lost friends; joining with strangers at meetup.com live events; connecting with nearby friends through 4Square, to name but a few. The truth is that the internet has probably connected more people in the real world than any entity that preceded it, and it has opened up previously unimagined opportunities for lasting connections with the people we already know.
How does the internet impact moviemaking? While technology has created the opportunity for parts of the process to be done in isolation, mostly we band together in groups of varying sizes during film production. In addition, most of us interact at film festivals and through organizations like the IFP, the Sundance Institute and Film Independent. Where the fissures between people are growing is in the way we watch movies, which is less and less in movie theatres.
Technology is chipping away at the idea of cinema as a communal experience, and this concerns me. The small screens cut into the art of the cinema and into the vitality of the experience, which is at its best when it flows from the credits through the café conversations that flow afterwards.
Technology has proven its ability to help get people into the theatres, notably the transformation of the experience created by online ticketing. Social media can help people find out what their friends are seeing and recommending. I do miss the golden age of the film critic, but I realize that the purpose of sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic is to get people out of their houses and into the theatres.
I’m as big a believer in social media as you can find, but I am more cheered by new ideas in micro-exhibition like ReRun and Rooftop Films, and the alternative distribution models being explored by people like Peter Broderick, Jon Reiss, Scott Kirsner, and the creator of this blog. We need more ideas like these and we need to integrate them at their core with social media. As a marketer, I do advise people to consider the digital route, but I never advise them to leave some kind of theatrical showing out of their plans.
My plea to the independent film community for 2013 is simple: let’s use technology to bring us together. See you at the movies!
Thursday, December 20, 2012
I had breakfast recently with the charming Jaie LaPlante, Executive Director of the Miami International Film Festival. Jaie has healthy 13,000 fans on his Facebook page, but like most people, he’s hungry for more.
I explained that he shouldn’t worry much too much about the number of fans--the thing that matters is how active his page is--he should be concerned with the number of likes, comments and shares. What was he doing to stir up traffic? Jaie said he had a guy named Igor Shteyrenberg who was merrily posting all day long. “He shouldn’t posting so often,” I said, repeating a truism I’d rattled off so often in blogs and lectures. “All Facebook research has proven that you should never post more than two or three times a day.”
Umm….wrong. Rules don’t apply when you have great content.
Despite--or maybe because of--the constant postings, I later discovered that Miami had one of the liveliest festival pages I’d ever seen. Igor turned out to be the George Takei of movies, generating a potpourri of funny, interesting cinema and pop culture graphics he’d excavated from the web. The page gave the festival a lively personality-- hip, and buoyant and fun. Adjusting the numbers proportionately for number of fans, the Miami page had much better metrics than the pages for all of the world’s top festivals. Posting “too often” didn’t matter.
I was happy for Jaie, but the wonderful Miami page made me think of something that I don’t like to think about: my own page. There was a lot of room for improvement there. The advice I give centers around creating square images—I call them Shareable Squares--that are funny and interesting and shareable. Why couldn’t I put it into practice myself? I worked hard on my Facebook- related graphics, but they weren’t all that exciting; movies are intrinsically more fun than social media advice. There were people creating the square images and having luck with them, so I ran examples on my page, but I couldn’t rely on them to be a regular source of content. I had been experimenting with offering different kinds of information on the page, but when I saw the Miami page, it kicked me in the ass--I knew I could do better.
For the first time I asked myself the questions I ask every potential client: what’s your goal? What do you want the page to do for you? I decided there were three main reasons: first, I write a blog and I want to announce the new posts; second, I want to announce my lectures; and third, and most importantly, I want the page to be a place to post examples of people putting my advice into action. So I thought, “why don’t I make my own cinema-themed content to show people what I’m advising them to do?” It would vividly illustrate my approach and at the same time give people a sense of what I’m like.
I did my first graphic on December 1st, a picture of Jean-Luc Godard:
People liked it, and so I made more: Christopher Walken, Marilyn Monroe, Abbas Kiarostami, Louise Brooks, Quentin Tarantino, Groucho Marx, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Steven Spielberg, Michel Gondry, Woody Allen, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Pedro Almodovar, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Orson Welles, and Tim Burton.
The activity on my page has gone up ten times.
There’s an important lesson here and it’s not limited to social media. Don’t give up. Keep trying until you find a solution that’s right for you.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
The HBO show “The Wire” went off the air in March of 2008 after five seasons. It never received hire ratings or an Emmy nomination, but many critics called it one of the greatest TV dramas of all time when it was on, and admiration for the program has increased exponentially over the years.
HBO put up an official Facebook page in 2010 which currently has 1.7 million likes. This past Tuesday, December 4th they put up a picture Wendell Pierce as beloved Detective William “Bunk” Moreland accompanied by the quote , and asking the fans to share their favorite Bunk quotes.
So far, 1505 people have commented, 13,129 liked the picture, and 1879 people shared it, for a total of 16,513 mentions on Facebook timelines. Not all of the 16,513 timeline mentions are on unique pages but on the other hand if you scroll through the 1879 shares you’ll see hundreds of comments and shares from those.
A good guess is that over 15,000 people put “The Wire” on their timelines in one way or another.
As Facebook users have an average of 130 friends that would mean that a mention of “The Wire” appeared on around 1,950,000 timelines.
Still, just because a Facebook user has a mention of “The Wire” on his or her timeline doesn’t mean they see it. On average, only 16% of posts get seen, so only around 312,000 people probably saw it.
You heard me right—over 300,000 people saw a Facebook mention of a show that went off the air four and a half years ago, based on a single post by HBO. Even if my calculations are inflated--and I don’t think they are--it is still in the hundreds of thousands.
These are big numbers, but what do they actually mean in the real world? Personally I don’t care much if somebody likes some TV show on my timeline, particularly Facebook “friends” I might not even know. Although there will be some friends whose opinions I trust, with all the entertainment choices I have, I don’t know if a simple mention or even strong praise would be sufficient to convince me. But it wouldn’t be about a single day. It’s a never-ending barrage of praise from friends that goes on for years, until this old show becomes linked in your mind with can’t-miss current series like “Homeland,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”
I admit that you would have to be a hermit not to hear about how great “The Wire” without any help from social media. Still, we all hear about amazing movies and TV shows, but for one reason or another we never get around to checking them out. Eventually our vague plans to see them slip to the back of our minds and disappears.
As long as HBO keeps pumping out content, Facebook never ever lets you forget about “The Wire.” And this goes for kids who are five years old today. They are going to hear about it again and again and again. The only thing that will happen is that number of fans will grow as people watch the show and the numbers of mentions on Facebook will increase by the hundreds of thousands.
Facebook is forever. Facebook is not about selling tickets this weekend or this month; Facebook is a long-term game which has a potential payout unprecedented in the history of marketing.
Or at least until there are TV’s or some kind of visual delivery system and climate change hasn’t killed us all. Even if Facebook is wiped out by some other social media platform, “The Wire” will live on there.
How much effort was put into that December 4th post? It’s nothing more than a wallpaper photo recycled from long ago, accompanied with a line of text. It probably took an HBO staffer a minute to put it up, before moving on to “Sex and the City” with its 13 million likes, “The Sopranos,” with its 2.4 million likes, “Game of Thrones,” with its 4.5 million likes, and “Deadwood” and all the rest.
You can say, well “The Wire” is a very special show, and that is certainly true. But there are thousands of great shows in TV history that aren’t taking advantage of social media like HBO is.
There are a lot of great independent films too, but 80-90% of independent film distributors and filmmakers are totally, completely, utterly not doing what HBO is doing. And I include marketing people who are on Facebook ten hours a day. Once they put on their marketing hat on they use Facebook like the people who are most annoying on Facebook. You know, the kind that never send you any fun links or make interesting comments about current events? The kind that only contacts you when they want something, like for you to like their page or come to their concert or art show or….wait for it…tell your friends that their movie is opening in Cleveland or Birmingham or Tuscaloosa or Chicago or Tampa or Austin or San Francisco. Did you tune out aftere first dozen playdates? No problem. If you don't like, comment or share, the Facebook computer algorithm will stop showing them to you.
Can we do better than this in our industry?
Hell, HBO doesn’t do Facebook that well either.
Postscript: This post appeared first in Ted Hope’s blog “Truly Free Film” where it received the following comment from Miles Maker:
A beautiful and bigger example of what I'm experiencing with PARIAH (2011). Now nearly a year after it's theatrical release and 2 years after its world premiere at Sundance, the page has evolved into a community of like-minds on the subjects, themes and values of the film.
We've seen a lot of activity with more than 17,000 likes--none of them begged, borrowed or bought. We've grown them organically since the short film version of the feature.
A post made last week received 142 likes and has been shared 228 times, with similar likes and share numbers for other posts in the past month while we continue to gain Facebook likes. As new users like the page, we're undoubtedly driving repeat rentals, DVD and Blu-ray purchases and recommendations from fans & followers for this award-winning film.
Check out the “Pariah” Facebook page. I know I will.
Sunday, December 02, 2012
Dear Mark Zuckerberg,
I love Facebook but there is one thing that really irks me fierce, and that’s when a guy with a name like Axylsmpgo Phpnygusx “Big Pimpin” Pxtzchqo and a profile picture of Vera Farmiga likes my page. A guy who makes mysterious comments like like “axkcfierj;kfdjrpeirka;dfuernxitrh.” I suppose that there are those who get satisfaction out of correspondence of this nature, but alas, I am not one of them.
Please help me get these counterfeit likers off my fan page. All you need to do is give me a button so I can zap away the profiles of people who aren’t real. For example, if I have 1083 and one of those phantoms tries to make it 1084 I click and then I’m back to good old 1083 again. That would give me more satisfaction than you can imagine.
I’m sure you agree that these imaginary Facebook profiles pose real dangers to Facebook as a business. When advertisers shell out heavy coin to reach people who don’t exist… they can get annoyed. I bet Wall Street takes notice of stuff like this; I know I do every time I promote a post. : ) You must agree with me that this smells bad because otherwise you wouldn’t have started removing the buggers in January. But you persist in making me wait for the day when you’ll exterminate my personal infestation.
I’m as big a fan of Facebook as you could ever find, and I’d be the last one to complain, but seriously there is something kabluey in your system. I target ads to the United States, Canada and the UK and I get dozens of people from Morocco. Maybe it’s just me, but I seriously doubt that non-English speaking people in Marrakech are interested in my page. And don’t get me started about Iran and Algeria.
I block them. I report them to Facebook. I hide my page from countries. I target all my posts to people who speak English. But still these android profiles grow like kudzu on my page. Mark, when somebody wants to friend me on my personal page, you give me the right to confirm or not confirm. There is so little power I have in real life… people with b.o. and bad breath can sidle up to me at parties, so you have no idea how grateful I am for the confirm option that Facebook so kindly provides on my personal page. But when it comes to my business page I am as helpless as a kitten up a tree. This ability to control my own destiny is a basic human right, one that I humbly request that you grant me.
It wouldn’t have any impact on people who get joy out of having computer viruses as pals, but Mark, I’m the kind of guy who needs to have real relationships with people. After all, I am one of your 16 million subscribers.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
It’s probably not fair to blame the fall of Hostess, maker of the Twinkie and thirty other brands, on marketing. There were numerous reasons why it was in and out of bankruptcy for years until the bakers union strike took the final bite out of the company.
Still, you don’t need to cut people’s pay and benefits if you are making tons of money. And if you have a product people love, and good marketing… you will make money. You could say that times have changed and that Twinkies aren’t exactly the healthiest of snacks, but what about Oreos? Double Stuf Oreos? Healthy?
Some of you may remember that I previously posted on my Facebook page about how much I love the Oreo page. After I heard about the demise of the Twinkie, I thought it might be interesting to compare the wonderful Facebook campaign for Oreos (over 30 million likes) with the one for Twinkies. Or more precisely, the one that Hostess never did for Twinkies.
Aside from the mentions of Twinkies on the Hostess page (404,000 likes), here are the Twinkies pages I’ve been able to find:
Twinkies Auto-Generated Facebook Page with Wikipedia Entry (71,000 likes)
Twinkies Community Page (25,524 likes)
Twinkie (9600 likes)
There are also some recent pages like R.I.P. Twinkies 11/16/12
What a mess! This is a product that has a lot of interest from users of social media, but Hostess never made an effort to direct all this traffic to a single brand page… and then build it up. They wasted an incredible opportunity to market their product. Interestingly, Hostess did do a Wonderbread Page (29,510 likes)
While Nabisco-then-Kraft-now-Mondelez went to town with the Oreo, they haven’t ignored their other brands, like Ritz Crackers (911,000), Triscuit (509,000), and Chips Ahoy! (838,000). Recently Mondelez embarked on a very special campaign to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the brand. They created a campaign called a “Daily Twist,” which they posted each day to Oreo’s Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest Pages, in addition to Oreo.com. Each whimsical graphic focused on an event of the day, like the Mars Landing, Elvis Week, Gangnam Style, Carmageddon 2, The Refs Return, all submitted by their fans, and memorialized in Oreos. The campaign encountered controversy with their gay pride day “Twist.” The image of a six-level cookie colored like a rainbow went viral, with 14,800 shares and 87,000 likes, but there were some anti-gay people who said they wouldn’t eat any more Kraft products, displaying an ignorance of the company that owns Oreos along with their intolerance. There also were complaints from people who were upset that Mondelez wasn’t going to be selling six-layered Oreos.
The campaign culminated on October 2nd with the final ad created in a temporary ad agency on Broadway and 46th Street in Times Square. The ad was created in real time from submissions made in person and on social media during the morning The three finalists were put up on a billboard and on Facebook so that the fans could vote.
So there you have it: a tremendous amount of energy and creativity invested by Mondelez in social media on the Oreos brand, resulting in over 30 million likes on Facebook, and a tsunami of attention through social media. Whereas with Hostess you had no effort and a pathetic Facebook presence.
If Hostess would have worked harder on social media, would it have kept them alive? It’s hard to say, but it sure demonstrates how lazy the people were who were running the place. Maybe if they were paying attention to marketing Twinkies, the bakers wouldn’t have had to take all those cuts.
It’s impossible for me to say how much money Mondelez has made from its social media work with Oreos, because it is a mega-corporation with a zillion brands. But they obviously think it’s worth it, and there’s no question that they have got a ton more people talking and thinking about Oreos through this campaign, as I am right now.
Personally, I must admit that writing this post has made me ravenous for Oreos. And I’m going to feel really good when I buy my next package. Go gay pride!