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Beyond Facebook

Monday, April 08, 2013

As recently as last summer I thought that a filmmaker could do a good job with social media only using Facebook.

I’m not saying that anymore.

Back then, the crux of my argument came from my supposition that most independent filmmakers’ time was very limited. If they had time to do Twitter, Instagram , Tumblr, etc., that would be great, but I knew what was involved in making a film and I knew that a lot of people were doing DIY distribution. Facebook was bigger than all other social networks combined. Facebook offered unique advantages like cheap advertising. Facebook took very little time compared to the others.

So I told filmmakers and other artists: “Learn how to use Facebook!”

That was then.

Post-IPO, and particularly since September, Facebook has been monkeying around with the Edgerank computer algorithm that controls everything on the network. Nearly everyone has reported that less of their posts are getting seen and they need to pay for “promoted posts” to get them seen. If you have a Facebook page for your film, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, check out this New York Times article by Nick Bilton to see what I’m talking about. Facebook denies that they have changed their algorithm so everybody has to pay for what they used to get for free, but they don’t deny that they are changing Edgerank.

Facebook has also been ramping up the use of advertising on the site. Ads in the news feed, not just in those teeny little boxes on the side. Stuff that looks suspiciously like spam. Ads on Instagram (coming soon!) Ads, ads, ads. What does it mean for our independent films when people’s timelines are buried in all these ads? It’s not good for people like us who want our posts to be noticed, to have people increasingly annoyed by what they are seeing in their timelines

For the first time Facebook is letting advertisers target you for ads with information about you they’ve found off of Facebook. As media analyst Richard Greenfield wrote:

That’s just what Yahoo does. That’s just what AOL does. What makes Facebook special was supposed to be the data on social. Instead, they’re reverting back to what all of the other websites do … It just makes Facebook a lot less special.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, Facebook is becoming overrun with phony profiles. So when you pay for ads, you may be getting hundreds of “people” who don’t exist. Why? As per this post on Facebook Login:

On underground forums in Russia, a page with 100,000 likes sells for about $150,000 to $200,000. Once a byte bandit buys a page, he can rebrand it. They can make the page look as if it’s affiliated with a well-known brand. We saw one page being used to market fake Nike sportswear.

With that kind of money being made, how can Facebook ever stop this spam? So what if they delete a million profiles? The bandits will just put more up. What’s the harm in having more fans for your page? For one thing, the Facebook computer algorithm will decide that your page is unpopular and punish you for that. It’s a computer. It doesn’t figure in that the reason people aren’t responding to what you’re doing is becausethey aren’t real. And to add insult to injury, Facebook will make you pay to reach the people who aren’t real.

To sum up: it’s a very big deal for your Facebook marketing when you spend years building up a following of thousands or tens of thousands and then have to pay hundreds of dollars to reach them; it’s bad news for us as marketers--and users--to have too many ads on Facebook pages; and it truly sucks that the whole foundation of having fans on our pages is contaminated by spam.

Should we give up on Facebook for marketing movies? Absolutely not. It is still the biggest social media site and the most used. Facebook will continue to be extremely effective for tons of people. But I will no longer advise people that they can get by with Facebook alone. You need to develop a social media strategy that keeps Facebook as a home base but you must also reach out to other platforms.

Personally, I continue to create content every day for Facebook. But now my Facebook-formatted images are also on Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram and my website. I’ve even started up a Tumblr blog, which is getting a little traction. My graphics are beginning to turn up in Google and Bing searches. And nearly every one of them links back to my Facebook page.

But more significantly, I don’t worry as much about Edgerank as I used to. The Facebook computer algorithm judges you by how many likes, comments and shares you get. It’s a computer; it can’t understand anything else. This makes all Facebook strategy about how to get that kind of activity as we try to feed the computer what it wants. This results in a lot of dumb content, inane questions, true or false, fill in the blanks, etc. And it’s not even working the same way anymore because Edgerank is changing so much. When I use Facebook for myself, I appreciate lots of stuff that I don’t necessarily like, comment on, or share. I just quietly enjoy it. I know that a lot of people do that with the content I put up and that’s good enough for me. I’m just not counting on Facebook and Edgerank to put those images in front of people and lead them to my Facebook page.

That’s the way I’m thinking Beyond Facebook. I think you should too.

Note: I’m currently looking for another name for this page and  “Facebook for Filmmakers.”

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