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, October 21, 2012
Everything in traditional movie marketing is generated by the marketers: publicity, reviews, posters, trailers and TV spots, websites, ads, and so on. It is a one way / top-down process. The marketers make all this stuff and hope that all or part of it will somehow register in the consciousness of potential moviegoers.
Social media marketing works the complete opposite way. A Facebook fan page is a group of people who come together online to talk about a topic of common interest, which in this case is a movie. People can decide to form a group like this on their own, or the marketers can invite them when they set up a page.
Instead of one-way, social media is two-way, or more precisely, multi-way. Social media is about dialogue and making connections and no marketer can force a group to convene or control what that discussion will be. Eric Cantor has an official Facebook page; there is also a popular “Eric Cantor is a Douchebag” page.
Our task as Facebook marketers is to set up the online community, try to get people to go there, and then keep the conversation going. Effective social media marketing happens when the audience is the show--not us. But most movie marketers transfer the one-way technique to Facebook by using it as a newsletter or an email blast… and fail utterly. Sending out status updates about what cities the film is opening in or links to reviews and articles is unlikely to provoke people to comment, share or like. And if they don’t do that, the Facebook algorithm sends out fewer posts and the page gradually becomes a pointless exercise.
The whole idea of social media marketing rests on authenticity--you can’t have a Facebook Community for your film unless there really are a group of people who want to talk about it. That’s why the number of likes you have on your page doesn’t necessarily matter. It does you no good to get your friends--who like you personally but may not have any particular interest in your movie--to like your page as a favor. What matters more than the number of likes is the amount and the quality of the conversation appearing on the page from the people who do care about the topic of discussion.
Having more likes doesn’t necessarily mean you have more activity. The official “Audi USA” page has almost six million members, but it has less fan engagement than the fan page “I Love Audi,” which has only one million members.
If you want to check out whether any film page is working or not, all you need to do is click the Likes button.
You’ll see something like this:
The number on the left, “People Talking About This,” represents the number of unique people who have liked, commented, shared, or otherwise interacted with this particular movie fan page over the past week. That’s always more important than the number of Likes.
The frame grab above is from a recent independent film. Here are a few others:
Here is “Moonrise Kingdom”
How does your page measure up? Facebook fan pages aren’t like posters or trailers, where I might love one and you might hate it. The “People Are Talking About This” is a cold number that can’t be argued with. It doesn’t matter how nice your page looks or how hard you are working on it, either people are talking about it or they ain’t. I would say, however, that though a low number means failure, a high one doesn’t necessarily mean success: it’s not useful if everybody is just telling each other to go to hell. To evaluate a page you have to look at more than its analytics.
If you’re not happy with what you see, you can: try using Shareable Square images instead of status updates and links; use calls to action; post daily but not more than three times a day. I’m sure you’ll see a lot of improvement very soon.
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.