Facebook is not a good sales platform

May 18, 2011
posted by sheric

I covered this in a past entry, but more of this opinion was voiced on today’s Social Times blog. I’ve seen many new services like FlickLaunch and Dynamo Player configuring their platforms to sell on a film’s Facebook page and Warner Bros has started implementing their own Facebook movie rentals for US residents including Dark Knight, Inception, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Yogi Bear and Life as We Know It paid for with Facebook credit or $3. I’d love to see their sales figures, but remember that a huge advertising and marketing budget was spent on these titles and they have all gone well into the DVD window and beyond. Most indie movies will not have the same kind of demand because similar marketing efforts haven’t been made .

Facebook sales will not be your biggest money maker because people do not come to Facebook to buy.

Facebook is a social platform. People come to Facebook to chat with friends, see what everyone is up to, post news about themselves. While you may have amassed a large following on Facebook, unless you are posting content of interest to your audience on your page regularly, chances are your “fans” have not been back to your page since they joined. They won’t see your fancy Welcome page or your newly constructed BUY NOW page. Most people are only reminded of you if they see your news in their news feed. The news feed is the first page everyone lands on when they go to Facebook. Sometimes they only see the Top News view, even though it is possible to change that to Most Recent, most people do not. If they haven’t visited your page in a while or commented on any of your news, your page has stopped appearing in their feed. NOTE: I am not suggesting you spend all your time shilling for your film on your Facebook page in order to stay in the news feed. A conversation with a shill is boring and a turn off.

Even though you can buy ads to drive more traffic directly to your page, it will take a significant spend to generate the number of impressions someone needs to have before they click on it. On average, an ad will be seen 5-7 times before any action is taken. Facebook is more about attracting and keeping attention that can influenced into a sale later on than it is about making a sale right now.

As the Social Times article contends, social media platforms like Facebook are the top of your sales funnel, the place where relationships and trust are built. After you have accomplished this, and it will take a while, then you can transition your audience to your own website where the sales can take place (here’s where something like Dynamo Player will work). Yet another reason to start your social media efforts and audience building WELL in advance of your finished film. This isn’t a campaign for 3 months, this is commitment for the full life cycle of your film and continues into the length of your career.

So, should you never try and sell streams on your Facebook page?

Undoubtedly there are hundreds of millions of people on Facebook and it is entirely possible that someone will try your film out if they see it’s available. If the cost to set up Facebook streaming is right (ie, low to free), you aren’t losing anything to try, but do not invest a lot in this. As DVD’s popularity continues to plummet, more and more people will be turning to online streaming rentals. Invest in having a good player on your site and spending upfront to access iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and game consoles. Spend the majority of your time and effort on your content marketing to pull you audience in, earn their trust, make them feel connected and give them viewing options.

If anyone here has implemented a Facebook sales platform for film and it has resulted in great success, let’s here about it.

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.

Don’t Automate Your Feed

February 19, 2011
posted by sheric

A few months back I wrote a post addressing the calling out of people on Twitter for not autofollowing and how autofollowing is a bad idea. In fact, I said that I do not advocate using any automated programs for social media. It is surprising to me that so many social networking “experts” encourage their clients to do this. I realize that your time is often limited and having conversations with people is not your number one priority for your business. It is so much easier to broadcast out one way communication and that is why these automated tools have become so popular. Consider this, if you don’t have time for relationship building with your audience, don’t use social media. It is ok not to use it. Buy media advertising, set up a static website, use direct mail, these are all tools too and they are much more suited to the one sided broadcasting you are looking for than pretending with a bot.

Ways to spot a bot (which you are if you are using automated programs; you aren’t there see?)

-Your following to follower ratio is 1:1 and both numbers are high-You seriously can’t be having conversations with the 50,000 people you are following!

-You have the same message on your Facebook page, your Linkedin page, your Twitter stream, your Flickr account, you Tumblr account. Perhaps you think the connections you have on each of those sites is completely different. Have you considered that some of those people are the same and they get sick of seeing the same message from you 4 times? Stop broadcasting into the void and start speaking only when you have something unique to say on each platform.

-You seem to have a canned message ready for different times of day, every day. Do you seriously sit down and plan out what message you want to put out by the hour, every day? Do you do this in real life too? If you did, you would be very difficult to have a conversation with, mostly because you would shout out something and immediately leave the room, right? That is what you are doing when you “schedule” a Tweet or a Facebook update.

People, please listen. Social networking is SOCIAL. If you don’t have time in the day for a little social interaction with your audience/fans/clients, then don’t use these tools. They won’t work well for you. And for goodness sake, don’t pay someone to teach you how to automate your accounts and encourage you to sound like a robot! If you just have to automate, it is simple to find a free tutorial on how to use automated programs.

I personally think you will be missing out by not devoting some time in your day for social interaction, there is a lot to learn from real people on social media sites. You have to make time to do this work or have someone on your team who devotes quite a lot of attention to it [but I really think YOU should do it too]. For many people, this is how they discover new things. Not from being broadcast to, but from asking questions and getting responses, reading what their peers say, gravitating to sites where interaction is happening, getting valuable information from sites and people who are knowledgeable.

Just don’t pretend you’re engaging. Your automation fools no one.

Is Facebook Marketing a Waste of Time?

February 5, 2011
posted by sheric

the sales process funnel

It was a question posed in the comments of a Mashable article on tablet commerce and how much ecommerce is happening via tablets and via social sites like Facebook. A Forrester Research poll was highlighted in the article showing “less than 40% [of retailers] have been able to’quantify the return on this investment [social networks], and even fewer have found that social networks grow their business. To the degree that retailers find any benefit at all from social strategies, it is most frequently driven by tactics like ratings and reviews on a website rather than activities on social networks… Social networks, in fact, ranked dead last on a list of 10 customer acquisition tactics.” It leads me to question, is Facebook a good place to be selling?

As a retailer, and if you are trying to sell DVD’s/downloads you are a retailer, I don’t think it is a good place to focus on selling or to make sales from the site. Selling is of course your ultimate business goal, but Facebook and other social platforms are places where people go to socialize, spend time with their friends, share pieces of their lives. Do you think that is a good time to solicit your products, interrupt the experience by shoving merch in someone’s face saying “buy this?” Would you do that in real life, go to a backyard barbeque with a trunk full of DVDs and walk around the yard asking people to buy one? Some of you might, but then you would never be asked back. Likely, you would go to the barbeque and socialize, subtly finding out who are the likely buyers of your product, you might even give them a card (if they ask, and they will if interested) to continue this conversation and get additional information in another location. You have to look at this as a process where social networking is at the initial contact and ongoing fact finding phase. There are many tools in the sales arsenal, all with a different purpose. Use the right tool for the job.

Social networking sites are for acquiring and cultivating relationships. Generally in the sales cycle, this is the top of the funnel. You should start a sales process by inviting people into your funnel. How do you do that? You research and find the most likely people interested in what you will be selling. Initially this could be a wide, diverse group. This is  best done long before you are actually ready to sell something (preproduction/production). You will be moving these people through the funnel on the way to buying something, but it will be a slow process and not all of them will end up buying. That’s why the funnel starts out big at the top and narrows down. Lots of people will initially be interested and gather in the top part. As the process wears on and you start to hone in on the ones most interested in what you are selling, the amount of people reduces. Facebook and the like are for your initial gathering, the tool to use at the start of your process.

The next phase will lead them to your website where the conversation continues, but not everyone will make that transition. Some may continue to only hang out on your FB page, some may fall away completely. You still have to have a presence there. Some may do both and these are likely your best customers, the people most enthusiastic about your work. They will bring others to the page and speak so highly of their involvement with you, they will help transition the community to the website. Take special care of these people.

As you continue to build and foster your audience on social networking platforms like Facebook, try to resist the urge to hurry them along through the sales process. Someone who feels rushed (or used) to buy something will not stay long on your page. Film is a luxury product, the sales process will be longer and it will start with a relationship. A tab pointing the way to your website or store will serve to guide them to the next phase but should NOT be the landing page of your Facebook presence. People come to your page to find others, meet you, see what the project is all about, starting the relationship process. Don’t close off that communication by virtually saying “unless you are here to buy, we don’t want you here.” As the survey shows, audience/customers rarely buy on Facebook, but they do check you out there which is the first step in the sales process.

It is no longer enough to just make a film, you have to create community and anticipation for your film as well. And social media and viral outreach takes a long time to reach critical mass, so build your social media presence into your production schedule.

Just this week a filmmaker asked us…”I’m in post-production, should I wait for a distributor or start thinking about marketing now?”  The answer? — do not wait for anyone! By the time you exhibit your film at a film festival you should already have built a community so that you can make the most of your public exhibition and be best positioned to distribute your film effectively and as directly as possible…  And it also so happens that distributors these days are looking at your number of facebook friends and your twitter followers to help them make acquisition decisions….as it helps them gauge interest in your film.

But even more pointedly, one’s ability to get onto Cable VOD will be impacted by perception of marketing and audience interest and that’s still the lions share of revenue stream in digital and very competitive, and for when your film is available on DVD and digitally, you’ll have a community to distributed to.    Think of your film as a cross-platform story, and allow your community to access it from whatever medium they choose…that way when the film is finally finished they’ll be primed to see it. So don’t procrastinate….start letting people know about your film NOW.