The Ugly Truth About Social Media

March 10, 2011
posted by sheric

I’m about to head off to my first SXSW and I am currently being bombarded with press releases and news about films, panels, and all things interactive. I am most excited about hearing the interactive speakers as I think they have more to offer about the future than the same people talking the same stuff about the film industry. But I am also overwhelmed at how many start ups are launching in the social media space, especially companies promising to take care of it all for you. Beware of this, social doesn’t work like hands off advertising. If you are going to use it, you have to be there in person.

Last night, I found this post on the Sysomos blog. I think I’m in love with Mark Evans now because he presents everything I have been saying too. Social media work is not free and not easy to maintain and it certainly isn’t just a Facebook page. Here are his five main points:

-”Social media is a game of inches, not miles.” As much as people like to call their social media efforts “campaigns,” it isn’t a campaign. It is long term sustained effort. Calling it a campaign connotes that it will have an end; that it will not be ongoing. If you are building an audience, you are always going to be building and cultivating.

-”Social media is grunt work.” Along the same vein of this work being ongoing, it takes absolute dedication by a person or group of people who are close to the work. This why I can’t see outside agencies doing this work for you. I can see them training you to do it, but they can’t speak with the depth and authenticity that you who are the most passionate can. And it can’ t be automated completely either.

-”There is a never ending need for fresh content.”-This is the part people forget. Keeping attention means you have to feed it every day. Someone on your team, close to you and the production, has to be in charge of  doing this. When there is a blog pause or lack of some kind of update, people wander off to find other interests. Then whatever audience base you have built falls away.

-”Social media can be an expensive proposition.” Yes, the tools are free. The cost is in the labor. You can either commit to doing the work yourself or budgeting for someone on your team to take the job, just like any other job you fill on your crew. The thing to remember is  this isn’t a short term gig. You can’t just bolt it on for a few weeks or months and expect great results. Number churning is not the main thing you are after.

-”ROI can be challenging to measure” because you shouldn’t only be relying on social to gain attention. If you have been consistently building and maintaining it for a long period, your reliance on media buys and earned media will be less. Most filmmakers I know have NOT been doing this for a while (Kevin Smith excluded and even he uses earned media) and will need to use additional methods for gaining attention and sales. It will be exceedingly difficult to point at a certain content post and say “that led to an uptick in box office or streaming sales,”  just as you can’t do that for an ad buy, but your overall efforts, including your day to day interactions with fans, will lead to greater return.

Be very realistic about how long this will take and how much work it will be when you are budgeting for time and money.

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