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.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
When I told my artist friend Jeff Scher about Shareable Squares, the first thing he said was that faces were always better than images of anything else. That made immediate sense to me. There’s a reason why people put people’s faces next to quotes in social media, and it’s more than just celebrity. Michael DiBiasio had great success with his squares, and it wasn’t because everybody knew the young people in his family. Advertising also tells us that when people look directly into the camera, it’s even better. So keep that in mind as you experiment, and see if it improves your results.
The other thing Jeff and I talked about was size and scale. In early live television drama, directors like Sidney Lumet, Arthur Penn, and John Frankenheimer realized that a 21-inch TV screen was hardly the best medium for epic movie-making like “Lawrence of Arabia,” so they made frequent use of close-ups. If our work is going to be seen in a 403 x 403 pixel square, shouldn’t we think the same way? Shouldn’t we crop our photos as tightly as possible? I’ve already said that the type should be bold, so that’s in keeping with this idea.
On the other hand, if you can’t see the photo very well, then you’re more likely to click on it so that you can see it. Every click you get will score points with the Facebook computer algorithm. Personally my approach is to always go with the best content possible and trust that more people will like, share and comment about it.
From now on, whenever possible I’m going to try to get faces in my squares as large as possible. Try it yourself and let me know what kind of results you’re getting
Friday, October 26, 2012
I admit it. I didn’t completely tell the truth about the square thing. In fact you can have images that are wider than they are tall… but they will still be seen as Shareable Squares in two out of three places on Facebook.
If you post a wide picture on your personal timeline, Facebook will crop it to 296 pixels high to 398 pixels wide. Scaled up for our purposes, it becomes 806 pixels high to 1084 pixels wide, and you can use that size as long as you keep all relevant information in the center 806 x 806 pixels.
Yesterday I posted a wide 806 x 1084 image on the Reid Rosefelt Marketing page. It appeared as a 403 x 403 square, the same as everything else I post there. When I shared it to my personal page it was also square. They both look like this:
But on the timeline, it appears 296 to 398, like this:
And when you click on it anywhere, it’s full 806 x 1084:
For those of you who remember Sally Field blubbering “You like me! You like me!” when she won the Academy Award for the second time with Norma Rae, there’s a little joke here because you can’t see that her right hand is clutching the Oscar unless you click on the picture.
Okay, so I’ve said it. As long as you don’t crop any vital information out, it’s fine to go with 806 pixels by 1084 pixels. But my point is still the same. You wouldn’t put up an ad anywhere with a third of the text cropped out, so why do it on Facebook? You know what? Some people actually think it’s a good idea because it forces people to click… which is a reaction that the Facebook algorithm recognizes. To me this is an unfortunate example of the kind of thinking that is too often found in the social media world—worrying more about pleasing the Facebook algorithm than about selling the product.
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Don’t forget to post the Shareable Squares you’re making to my Facebook Page and I’ll re-post them. I want the page to be all about you and your ideas. Also, please subscribe to my mailing list as my posts in Facebook won’t always get to you.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
You shouldn’t spend a lot of time making your Shareable Squares-- ten to fifteen minutes tops. The most important thing is to put one up every day. What will slow you down is too many choices. There are thousands of fonts available online. There are probably over a hundred online and iPad apps that allow you to dramatically change the colors, mix in photographic layers, add type and frames. The options for combining all these things is infinite, and you If you try to futz around with a few of these, you can spend all day. If you’re having fun, then go for it, but I want you to make a square at least once a day, in whatever way works out for you. Take an hour sometime and do two or three of them. Trust me, sometimes you think you’ve done a masterpiece and nobody notices; then you’ll toss something off in two minutes and it will be huge. It’s the ideas that make a square or break it.
That’s why I recommend PicMonkey. (My post on it is here.) It has very few type fonts and very few things you can do with colors and frames. Spend a few months with it and you’ll know everything it can do.
Still, if you go on my Facebook page now and then, you’ve seen me do some silly, yet impressive composites, which look like they might have taken a bit of time to do. These come from the site PhotoFunia. This site can magically pop your pictures into posters, art galleries, billboards, frames, drawings, magazines, on TV sets, books, and so on. It also has excellent technology for grafting faces onto other bodies or turning somebody into a zombie. All you have to do is upload your photo, click “Go!” and you’re done. All that is left is to crop it into an 803 x 803 pixel square.
PhotoFunia will give you ideas when you don’t have any. Every time you want to let people know there is a new review, you can either take a frame grab or a PicMonkey quote and throw it on a billboard or put it in an art gallery. There’s ample room for imagination with this beyond fooling around. For example, you could take an image of something really tragic, and by putting it on the cover of a magazine casually held by a model, turn it into an image of how people are casually oblivious to the awful things that go on in the world.
There are many other sites like this as well as Facebook and iPad apps that do similar things, although each one has some special effects that the others don’t. Still, I strongly suggest that you keep it simple and start with PhotoFunia and stick with it, at least for awhile. Keep as few tools and options as possible and you will get the most impact out of your Facebook fan page in the least time.
By the way, please keep posting your squares on my Facebook page and I will re-post them. Let me know whether they are working for you and if you give me permission to put them up on the blog too.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
A Shareable Square should be as bold and brief as it is possible for you to make it. Shareable Squares are all about the quick glance; they get a larger response than text for exactly that reason.
Never forget that many people will see your square on their phones or in apps like Tweetdeck where the image you may have put a lot of time into will be extremely small. If you are too subtle, a lot of people won’t notice it at all. What’s the point of that?
I found the quote above on the web and I liked it. It was fine, but I didn’t think it was something that would have the greatest impact on my page. So I kicked it into high gear.
Keep your text as short as possible.
Stick with a single bold font.
I began my New York movie career as a graphic designer, and so I know a bit more about it than most, but I’ve thrown the rulebooks out for my squares. In terms of font weight, my answer is increasingly bold or even extra-bold. I’m often going with Arial Black because PicMonkey has it, so that makes it quick. When I do my squares elsewhere, I use Gill or Helvetica Neue.
Many graphic designers abhor Helvetica or Arial, as they are omnipresent cliches --check out Gary Hustwit’s excellent film Helvetica--but they are used everywhere because their stripped-down Swiss design is elegant and beautiful. You can’t go wrong with it, and that’s a good thing if you don’t know what you’re doing with typography.
Artist Barbara Kruger has created a lifetime of great art with Futura Bold Italic and Woody Allen has used Windsor Light Condensed on every movie since Annie Hall. It’s okay if you find your font and stick with it. Sans serif is recommended but you can choose anything you want if it packs a punch. If it’s not extremely legible at a small size… toss it!
On the other hand, I do admit that sometimes I feel like making a square like this Breakfast at Tiffany’s quote that breaks all my rules. The squares are also creative expression for me, and it would bore me if all I did was swing for the bleachers for fan reaction every time. And maybe I will assemble this square later with other things and it will work well in other social media like in Pinterest or a Tumblr blog.
But I know that most of the time I have to look for the most impact.
Saturday, October 06, 2012
As readers of this blog and my Facebook page are well aware, I have a very simple attitude to success on Facebook—creating images that people will share. And most importantly, images that are directed at a goal. Calls to Action are essential as are all the other advice we can get from the wise people in the social media world. But success comes out of images that make things happen for us.
Oh yeah, and I dictate that the images be square, because that means they can always be seen on every page in Facebook without parts of them being cropped out.
Today I’m doing a case history from a filmmaker Michael DiBiasio, who has put his Shareable Squares into action on Facebook for his Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to finance his upcoming film, “Multiverse.” Here’s his first one, made using a picture of his dog. When he posted this one, he put a “threat” in the text box, saying that she wouldn’t get any hugs if nobody donated: Afterwards, Michael posted a thank you with a different picture.
Let me let Michael take over: “I shamelessly edited some cute, funny pictures of my niece, nephew, dog...into faux-silly threats. Everyone seems to be enjoying them so far, and it's definitely helped increase visibility. We've seen some donations come in directly after posting! And it's a lot of fun to put these together in between the crazy busy-ness of producing.” Note: No teddy bears were harmed in the creation of this square. Also note that with this square Michael started including the URL for his Indiegogo campaign.
Do these qualify as “calls to action?” They certainly combine humor with cuteness, two of the most shareable qualities you can find.
Michael says the square below worked quite well for him:
I’m sure Mari Allen would appreciate the way Michael thanks people below. It’s always nice to thank people when they send you money.
Having had his fill of tormenting children and small animals, Michael moved on to mentions of his previous films. This first one refers to his first movie, which was made possible through the help of his core audience of friends and family from his hometown. This shot features extras from that audience.
Note that Michael uses an authentic Facebook “call to action” for the first time here and in the next one:
And finally, his most successful square to date. The Call to Action has engaged the fan base of his lead actress and creative producer Rebecca De Ornelas.
Michael followed each square with an immediate comment that included the link to IndieGogo. linked this square to his Indiegogo page. This provided immediate incentive and made donating/action easier.
lick the image below and send him some money right now. After all, Michael has entertained us and that’s what social media is all about. The jargon for this in the social media world is “added value.”
Thanks Michael for sharing this.
I hope that I will be doing blog posts on the activities of the members of my page as a regular feature of this blog. I already have a few things for next Saturday, but I could use more. Come on, people! Show me what you’re up to and I’ll give you a little more publicity on this page. And if you haven’t created any squares, please post your comments about Michael’s work on my Facebook page.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Once you’ve set up your page, you’ll need to create a cover photo--an 851 x 315 picture that sits at the top of the page. Your cover is anything that can look good cropped into a long rectangle, but beyond that… what do you want your cover to be? For you, it might be a still from your movie, or one of your photographs, or your paintings or a product. If you don’t have anything original you’re going to have to create something and it has to be good as this is what will represent your business. You need to take your time on this, and if necessary get a graphic designer to help you. This is not a place to mess around with copyrights. I am very knowledgeable about Fair Use, which I will write about later, but let me say that it is hard to verify what it is, but it is not hard to verify what it isn’t—if you are looking to make money out of an image you have to pay for it. And I want to create an image that I can use later for everything. Let me tell you why I think a stock photo company is essential. I found my picture I use for my cover of the woman filmmaker on iStockphoto and decided she would be a good image for my brand. There are numerous pictures of her on iStockphoto and even a video, all of which might be useful at some point. More importantly, I was able to buy the lowest file size for $19 while knowing that more hi-def versions are available if I ever need them. One of the reasons I buy from iStockphoto over other stock photo companies is that they allow you to pay for them in dollars, rather than in credits. With all the others you have to buy a block of credits. This makes sense for somebody who buys a lot of photos but it is a ripoff for us because we buy credits we don’t use. If you want, you can still buy credits.However, there is one big negative to stock photography: anybody else can use it. Getting your own art is always better.
There can be typography on your cover page, but it can’t include any mention of Facebook terms such as “Like” or “Share.” There can’t be a Call to Action like “Get it Now” and it can’t have your website address. Read more details on the Facebook Page Terms page. It might suit you to change your cover from time to time. If so, you are in luck because there is a brand new app called pagecovery that lets you schedule cover changes at different intervals of the day, week or month. It’s free now but I’m sure it won’t always be.
There is an application for creating cover photos, but I tried it and found it very hard to use, so I decided to create a template for you myself. If you right click and download the picture below, you’ll have an 815 x 315 image with a cutaway where the profile picture will be. Rename it “Facebook Cover Template.”
I’m not going to assume that you are all Photoshop users, so on this video I’m using a free online video editor called pixlr editor. There are a lot of programs that copy Photoshop and what they all have in common is that they aren’t as good and are much more difficult to use. A few are online like pixlr and there is a well-known open source download called Gimp. In this demo I will be doing things that take four steps in pixlr and would only have taken one in the consumer version of Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, which is what I use. Version 11 is coming out very soon so now is a bad time to buy. I’ll let you know when it becomes available and at that point you should do yourself a favor and spend the $60 and buy it and make life easier for yourself. Once Elements 11 comes out I will do my demos in Photoshop Elements and if you want to do the same tasks in pixlr, Gimp, or another program, use the help files, although I can’t say for sure if you will be able to do it all.
The images I use in the demo video below come from creaTTor.com, which is an incredibly useful asset for free stock photos, textures and patterns (I used one of their free textures in my cover), illustrations, menus and buttons, Flash animations, and all kinds of stuff. You should explore it as they are great material for Shareable Squares and you won’t have to worry about copyright. The creaTTor.com stock photos come in sets that must be downloaded in their entirety. The images I’m using come from their Cosplay set from Pixster.
You’re going to want to run this video on YouTube so you can see it full screen.
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!