Saving Indie Film With Facebook

by Reid Rosefelt Did you know that Facebook probably doesn’t show most of the posts you put up on your movie’s fan page?

According to a recent study, 84% of the fans on an average Facebook fan page don’t see any page posts in their news feed. Of course this is just an average; you may have a kick-ass page. Let’s check. You probably know the number of likes you have, but go to your page and look at the number of “People Talking About This.” This is a total of how many unique people interacted with your page during the last week. These are not people who merely “saw” a post but actually did something such as clicking “like,” commenting, or sharing. How did you do?

Nobody really knows how the mysterious Facebook algorithm decides how many of your fans see your posts, but all social media gurus are in agreement that it has to do with how much active engagement you have with your members. So “People Talking About This” is a good starting metric. Facebook provides extensive analytics so you can learn more about who those Talking People (or mouse clicking people) are -- for example if they came from your posts ending up on your fans newsfeed and ticker (organic) or are viral.

The actual metric is called EdgeRank (as comments, shares, and likes are known in FB parlance as “edges”). but you can’t find out what this number is, you can only apply certain techniques to your page to get better results.

A lot of people with FB fan pages wonder if getting the most likes is hitting the social media jackpot. Well… yes and no. You could have 50,000 likes on your page, but if your “People Talking About This” number is 43, you’ve got a sleeping page. A good way to understand what I’m talking about it to check out George Takei’s (if you don’t know his name, he played helmsman Sulu on “Star Trek”) There’s a lot to love about Takei-- his activism for human rights and Japanese-American relations, gay marriage, his wry sense of sense of humor, etc. But still, is he more famous than William Shatner with “TJ Hooker,” “Rescue 911,” “The Practice,” “Boston Legal,” three record albums, bongo playing on “Conan,” and endless Priceline commercials? As I write this, Shatner has 160,000 likes on his page and 881 “talking about”; Takei has 2.4 million followers and over four million people talking about his page. Takei understands Facebook. You can too.

How do you get large numbers of fans and how do you engage with them when you get them? Neither are insurmountable tasks, if you learn a few techniques, if you’re creative, and are willing to put in the time, hard work, and maybe a few bucks.

You can begin today by getting rid of that app that auto-tweets and posts to Facebook in one handy step. All Facebook geniuses agree that you shouldn’t post more than two or three times a day on your fan page.

I could tell you many ways to get fans and get them to like, comment and share , but the easiest way to increase your fan’s engagement is to upload pictures. Add images to your status updates and you’ll see an improvement immediately.

According to most FB experts, EdgeRank operates like this: pictures are better than videos; videos are better than links; and links are better than status operates. Shares are better than comments or likes.

There are a lot of techniques for eliciting comments and likes; one way to learn is by studying pages that get lots of feedback. But what about shares? Ask yourself: why do you share a post? Because it is funny? Interesting? Beautiful? Amazing? Provocative? Or do you share because somebody tells you, “We’re opening in Des Moines on Friday! Contact your friends!” While it only takes an instant to click “like,” it doesn’t take much longer to unsubscribe. Never forget that you are sending your posts out to strangers who may not be as interested in your project as you are.

Many people in the business tell me that social media doesn’t work--they don’t believe it sells tickets. For the most part they are right, because nothing ever works until you learn how to do it correctly. Exploring independent film pages on Facebook has been a very dispiriting experience for me because so many people clearly don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. They work energetically to minimal effect. Worse, the ones who have the skills aren’t aiming high enough.

You’re filmmakers. You are engaged in creating indelible images. Make images that are crafted for sharing across all social media, which is mostly visual. Create images that will make people want to see your movie.

Artists need to step up to the plate, as there’s a real opportunity here. Understand that you can get some creative expression out of this marketing tool and build your audience at the same time. Blaze the trail and let people copy you later.

Veteran film marketer and publicist Reid Rosefelt has worked on hundreds of films, ranging from STRANGER THAN PARADISE  to CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON;  his personal clients have included Errol Morris, IFC, and the Sundance Institute.   He is a consultant to Magnet Media,  a production company that offers interactive marketing services to such entertainment clients as Dreamworks Animation, NBC, ABC, and Showtime.