The Myth of Instant Social Media Results

January 14, 2011
posted by sheric

It is quickly becoming my biggest pet peeve, filmmakers (and distributors) who want to start their social media accounts and “campaigns” a short time (like a week!) from when they are launching something. While I have spoken at length about creating community and how long it takes, I am still being contacted in hopes of being able to provide a large number of instant followers/fans who will buy the DVD/order VOD/go see it in a theater/festival next week! This is an unrealistic expectation and a fool’s errand to undertake. Please don’t try to do this. I know this thought is a result of not being educated on what social media is, except that it is cheap,  so I want to address that here. If you expect social media sites to provide you with instant results, you are using the wrong tool.

What social media is good at:

-Conversation-this is a two way communication medium, not a one way message mechanism for free. You can’t develop strong relationships and meaningful conversations in a week, or a month. Before you can influence active behavior using social media, you have to have a relationship.

-Community-whether you are building your own or participating in others, you should not use a community just to shill.  It is an intrusion, an irritation, and no good results will come of it. To become part of an online community, you have to spend time there just as you would in offline life. You won’t have time to do it if you leave it too late.

-Contribution-social media relationship building means contributing meaningfully to the relationship, just as in real life. You will get out of it what you put into it. Provide value (information, answer questions, be helpful) consistently and you will get the attention you need to convert people. Again, this happens over time.

What you need to implement social media strategies:

-Research-You have to mine the space for data to see which tools to use for your audience. It might be Facebook, but it might be a forum dedicated to the topic of your film. It is probably several sites, each with their own way of communicating effectively. Data mining takes time, patience, energy. You’ll also want to find influencers to help. It takes research to find and evaluate those people.

-Content, and plenty of it-yes, production stills, videos, director blogs are all content, but they are really boring if that is all you are talking about. You need a content calendar to plan out what  the sites you own (your own pages) will run and at what frequency and what kind of material you will be commenting on at other sites. This is where your Google alerts and your social mention programs come in. What other kind of information can you share or comment on?

-More tools than just social platforms-distributors know this, in fact social media is often left too late because more focus is given to other tools like advertising and publicity. There is more work to maintaining a community than there is to buying ads and pitching media, so they often just treat it as a free way to advertise. The filmmaking team needs to be doing this community maintenance (they are the closest to the community), but the success of social media initiatives are tied together with an integrated plan using many different tools, not just social platforms.

-ROI or VOI-probably the most contentious issue in social media marketing, how to measure Return on Investment (ROI)? A recent eMarketer report cites that social media strategists’ biggest goal for 2011 is better measurement of this. Since social media is a conversation medium, it is difficult to measure the effect  particular conversations have on sales or awareness. You can measure how much/far your message traveled, how many people potentially saw it or how many directly participated in a conversation and correlate that to sales. I think it is better to measure on the Value on Investment (VOI), how valuable is it to speak to your community? Is your community growing and active because people learn from you and enjoy being there? Are you considered a source of information and a brand that is connected and listening to their followers? By using social media as a listening device, are you better able to learn what messages resonate and how you might make effective changes? These are all valid goals so don’t just measure in sales and revenue.

I don’t even agree that you social media efforts should be viewed as campaigns. A campaign is an aggressive activity conducted for the short term. Social media marketing is more of a way of doing business. The mindset you have to have is your activities are geared toward the on going conversation and steady growth of a community around your brand, not the quick collection of numbers on your Facebook page or Twitter account. Plan for the long haul when using social tools.

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