Today’s guest contributor is KYLE PROHASKA — CEO of Praise Pictures, a film production company primarily involved in the Christian market. His first feature film Standing Firm recently released on DVD in the USA and over a dozen foreign countries. Kyle’s skill set spans a wide range from graphic and web design to editing, coloring, compression, dvd authoring, and online marketing.
Facebook Marketing: The Key to Independent Film Marketing?
In a world bombarded by media and lower and lower budgeted products flooding the marketplace, it’s no wonder filmmakers are searching for new ways of distribution and marketing. The last ten years especially has opened up various doors for the little guy working in his moms basement. Technology has pushed the ball forward more for the indie filmmaker in the last number of years (even the last 5) than any other time in cinematic history. With movies showing up in cinemas shot on $2500 DSLR’s, it’s no wonder every deadbeat who ever wanted to make a film is now giving it a shot and throwing things up on Youtube or Vimeo. But, the same problem remains that has plagued the unknown filmmaker from the beginning of the cosmos…how to get your movie in front of people who care?
With the birth of social media, almost anybody can find an audience. That is, if there’s an audience to find. Facebook fan pages have become increasingly popular over a short span of time as everybody and their brother is making pages for their favorite things, and for filmmakers it’s the perfect opportunity to gather supporters. Email lists and things of that sort work well as well, but it’s a cold message dropped into an email box, it’s not the same. With a fan page you can regularly keep people updated about whatever it is you’re working on, comment and answer their questions, add polls to ask them questions back and get feedback, and invite them to share your films page with others. Unfortunately due to spamming and massive amounts of page invites, Facebook removed the “Suggest to Friends” feature from the site, crushing the ability to build your fan page for free. There are ways to still build it a little bit (they kept the Suggest to Friends feature for administrators), but it’s limited at best. Asking people to “Share” your status posts or the page itself is one of the few ways to spread the word, that is unless you care to spend a little money.
Lets be honest, not many filmmakers or indie-producers out there have a spare dime to spend on promotion. It all went into the spit and popsicle sticks they used to finish their film or whatever it is they’re working on. But, Facebook Ads can be a fantastic way to spread the word if you can get the costs down low enough. I don’t really suggest this for anyone who doesn’t have a product to actually sell, because your money can go down the tubs very quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing. The key is to get your sales to balance out with your ad costs, and with enough elbow grease actually get into the profit arena. I can’t spill every secret but I will give you a few tips and tricks to show you how to create an effective Facebook marketing campaign for your film.
Creating The Proper Page
Something to consider when creating your fan page that affects your ads….your page title. When you create a title for your page, it’s permanent. They won’t let you change it after a while so putting something clear in there is smart. You do need to consider SEO (Search Engine Optimization) when creating your fan pages. Is the title of your movie or product something unique? I know I’m stepping outside the bounds of Facebook here but that’s an important thing to consider. If your title is very unique you may have no need to put anything but the title in the page. If there’s something non-movie related that might clash with your title then putting “Movie” at the end of your title may be beneficial. Here’s why this actually matters. When you run Facebook ads for a fan page specifically, they don’t just track your clicks but your “actions.” This is how many people have become a fan as a result of your ad. This is great because then you know you’re not just paying for people that leave. This is something to keep an eye on as you run your ads and do tests because you might have a very cheap ad running and you’re getting the clicks but for whatever reason only 10% of those who click become a fan. That’s a problem so watch out! Ok, back to the title problem. The reason why the title matters is because when you run ads for a fan page on Facebook they FORCE you (yes) to use the title of the page as the title of the ad. When you do a normal ad linking to a site somewhere you can put in any title you want but with fan pages it’s different. So if your title is “The Blog_movie” it’s going to look very weird above an ad and possibly even look spammy. Be sure when you create your fan page’s name that it’s something that’ll look good above an ad if you ever plan to run them because once you choose it and build that fan page it’s PERMANENT.
How Can I Boost My Fan Base?
To do that I’ll have to look at my films page: http://www.facebook.com/standingfirm.
You’ll notice right away that we have quite a few fans, over 200,000 as of the day I’m writing this. Quite a few right? Well, that came at a cost and I’m pleased to report the cost has been made back and continues to be, but it took a number of months to get things that high even spending the money. You’ll also notice that before you become a fan you’re taken to a landing page with the trailer on it, links to buy the DVD, etc. These are very important if you have a film to market. I see many films out there with terrible trailers as well, and even if you run ads and have them point to a page like this, you could easily lose a potential customer if your trailer is awful. Not only is it rare for them to click an ad at all, but when they do they better love what they see when they get there or else they’re GONE. If you don’t have an absolutely fantastic trailer that at least grabs them in the first 10-15 seconds, do yourself a favor and either scratch the landing page altogether, or put something on it they WILL care about. FBML was an application you used to use to do these landing pages but Facebook only a number of weeks ago has swapped it out with something called iFrames. You can Google that to find more information on building landing pages. Basic HTML/CSS and graphics knowledge can be VERY useful here and you’d be surprised just how complicated these pages can get. If you want my advise, the simpler the better. People are just plain ol’ dumb sometimes when it comes to finding things and clicking on what you want them to. Just assume you’re making the landing page for your grandma and make things clearcut and easy to understand. Remember with advertising with ads you’re paying for the clicks, so what good is a click if they land on your page and go away after a number of seconds because they’re either disinterested or confused by what they’re looking at. KISS…keep it simple stupid, because that’s how most of the goofballs on the internet are. Some of you know what I’m talking about. “Click there.” “Where?” “Right there…” “Where, I don’t see anything!?” “Ugh! THERE!” ….(pause) “Oh, now I see it.”
You get the picture.
Before I began running actual advertising for my page I did get the page up to 16,000 fans. This is done various ways and now with the removal of the “Suggest to Friends” feature it can get even tougher. Also, you need to target those who will actually care about your film. What good is having your best buddy as a fan of your film if he doesn’t plan to pick up a copy? 200,000 fans means nothing if nobody goes and purchases a DVD. Also, you can have all the fans in the world on your page and even pay thousands of dollars for them but have absolutely no activity on your page. There are pages on Facebook with hundreds of thousands of fans that barely get any “Likes” or comments on their status posts because the active users who are fans is zilch. You need to keep the page moving and keep those who are fans interested.
It won’t take any of you very long to notice that my film is a Christian film so therefore I’m going to be looking for people who have purchased other Christian products in the past. If you’re doing advertising that means targeting other Christian movies (of if you’re doing a normal movie that’s about something like Surfing, you’d target surfing movies). A very simple concept really, but it’ll all depend on the product you have for sale. Lots of people overconfident in their film will target people they think are the buyers and get frustrated when they don’t get results. This is something you should be thinking about before you even make a film but I’ll say it anyways…KNOW YOUR MARKET. Who’s the film for? Who’s the buyer? If you don’t know then find out first then come back to this article, otherwise none of this will do you much good.
OK, back to what I was saying about keeping people interested. This can be done in a few different ways. I’m using my film as an example because in the Christian market I have a lot of things that I can use to keep people interested and interacting with my posts. Bible verses, quotes from theologians, quotes from people in the film, testimonies from views effected by the movie, requests for prayers for those on the page who might ask for them, etc. I’ll admit it’s a lot easier in the market I’m in to keep the page active. But, I understand almost everyone likely reading this isn’t in that arena so I’ll try and offer some alternatives and a few warnings. Warnings first.
One thing you want to avoid is making every single post you put up about where to buy your DVD and how important that it is they go out and get a copy. Is that the whole reason you’re marketing things yes, but after a while you’ll just be a salesman alone to people and not someone they want to interact with. Have you ever hidden anyone off your News Feed because they drive you crazy? If so then you can see how pitching “ZOMG BUY MY MOVIE ITSZA BEST!” can get a little annoying. I like to post every 24 hours but if you can’t every few days can be ideal for a page.
Another thing to avoid is attaching links to posts. Now I don’t mean posting links in general but actually attaching them. When you post a link into a status you’ll notice that special box appears that puts the title of the page in there, normally chooses a picture from the page and the description is embedded. These can be good for very rare circumstances but take it from me, the performance and number of impressions your status post will get goes down significantly, especially when your page grows to a significant amount. Most viruses on Facebook show up in the form of those embedded picture links, so be aware of that. That reason alone is enough for me to stay away from them overall since I know people are becoming less and less likely to click on things out of fear. To avoid the attaching of a link when you put it into a post, click the “Status” link again after pasting the link into the status and the attach box will disappear. It can also help to put in short links so you don’t scare off your customers. Long links (particularly from sites that sell DVDs like long Amazon.com links) can just look spammy by appearance.
Posts that are short, sweet, and to the point get the greatest response rates. Anything long-winded and tedious goes in one ear and out the other. If anyone ever has to hit “See More” on one of your posts, don’t expect a very big response. The more things they have to do to see your message, the less people you’ll impact. People are way too lazy most of the time to click “See More” when they’re quickly browsing their News Feed.
I suggest a site like Bit.ly to shorten your links. Listen to me though, assign custom links to each of them. If you think an Amazon.com or other kind of link like that is spammy looking try some of those short links that look like an expletive spelled out like in Looney Toons. Give them logical customized links that people can understand. The one I put at the end of a lot of my posts or when I share where to buy my DVD at is http://bit.ly/sfbuydvd. It’s easy for people to read, and it has “buydvd” in it which tells them what it’s for. The benefit of using these programs is also so you can track how many clicks they get and where they come from. My suggestion for you is to pick one single link to give people, shorten it and customize it, and then use that link ALONE for everything. Facebook, Twitter, emails you send to your mom, etc. This way you start to build a network with the link and whoever wants to share the film with others will be using that link as well so you can continue to track the clicks and where they’re coming from. You don’t have to do that but I suggest it because it’s been helpful to me.
By the way, I know I said not to pitch your DVD in every post but I meant more specifically. I tag the link on the end of my posts because most of the time I have people on the page who haven’t even seen that link yet, and every single time there’s a handful that click it, and always a handful that buy it.
HOT TIP: If you’ve made a film and have exhausted the “Suggest To Friends” link with your own friends, contact anyone who worked on the film that you trust (make sure of that) and explain to them that you want to make them an administrator temporarily on the page. Once they’re added they can use the “Suggest To Friends” link themselves and invite their friends. This is a quick backdoor way to get a couple thousand or more invites to the page by those who were involved with the film. As far as I know Facebook doesn’t have a limit on how many admins you can have or how much you can add/subtract them and put new people in so you could do this with quite a few people. It’s a good way for free to advertise the page initially and get a kickstart.
Running Facebook Ads
How about the ads I keep talking about? I’ll only talk about those briefly because this article is already running long. Facebook ads can cost you a ton of money if you get things wrong, so be prepared to monitor them at first almost all day to make sure you aren’t blowing your money. Before you even think about running an ad you need to consider your market and who you should be targeting. Do you want to target just those who will be interested or those who will be interested but are also the more likely buyers? You need to decide that depending on the needs of your project. In my case I started primarily targeting women 45+ as they are the majority buyer in the Christian market. Even with movies made for teens or men, the women are typically the ones going out and picking up the movies while they grocery shop, or if they buy it online they’re the initiator most of the time. Women are the pathway in the Christian market to reach the other demographics (at least that’s my opinion). So you need to know who you need to target and why.
Then you need to determine if you want to run CPC (cost per click) ads or CPM (cost per impression) ads. The difference between them you can go look up on Google but I’ll just tell you they both have their strengths and weaknesses. If you expect an amazing click through rate (I would say anything above 0.3% is doing pretty good) then CPM might actually keep your costs low. However on ads where your CTR is very poor CPM will just eat your money away. CPC can eat your money as well if your bid is too high and you’re paying 50 cents or even a dollar a click. That’s no way to market on Facebook especially when you’re probably keeping a couple bucks from your DVDs and that’s it. I would say you should get your costs down to $0.10 per click at a minimum if you want a really great ROI (return on investment) but that’s just my suggestion. You can be higher and still make a profit if those you are targeting are buying your product.
The ad itself is important and you would be surprised what affects the CTR’s most. The picture is the biggest eye catcher you can have. The text and even the title of the ad are secondary. Why do you think they put pictures of attractive women on there even if the ad is about something more general? They know men will click it. Honestly even if you’re targeting women, they respond to a woman’s picture more than a mans (in my experience) because they relate. Men click on ads with women on them because they’re attractive, women aren’t the best to grab that way. Choose pictures that your target market whom your shooting the ads at will respond to. Also don’t get too stuck on making the ad particularly fit the film or project. Sometimes it should but it doesn’t always have to. As long as what they see when they click on the ad isn’t TOO different from what they saw a picture of you should be fine, but your only goal is to get them to click, not to give them a rundown of your whole movie or product. JUST GET THE CLICK.
The title of the page as I stated at the top of this article is very important so make sure you choose wisely. The next would be the text which can be very annoying and coming up with something good can be hard. A call to action is always good because it initiates the buyer to click but all of this can fluctuate depending on your film. If it’s a chick flick then put something mushy in there and if it’s a horror movie put something about how great a horror movie it is. The options are endless and honestly I can’t give much advise here. You’ll need to experiment because none of this is cookie cutter. You need to do tests and see what performs the greatest, but make sure you don’t burn through your money doing it! The closer the text, title, and image relates to those you’re targeting the better.
As somebody who has spent a hefty sum on Facebook ads for myself and other people, I will tell you that the lower you spend per day the less performance you’ll get. That doesn’t mean that things won’t go great, but you’ll be limiting thing significantly. The ad system on Facebook is very organic and gives favor to those who spend more. If you just start doing ads you might notice it can take forever to get an ad approved but when you’re a big spender it can be in a matter of a minute or less. Also when you run ads and put up bids you’re waiting for impressions which puts the ad on the sidebar of those you’re targeting. The lower your daily budget per day along with the bid you put in for each specific ad will have a big effect on how much exposure your ad gets. It can be tough to even get an ad jumpstarted with a budget that’s very low since you can’t get enough system favor due to the low amount. I’ve had ads where I set my daily budget too low, kept my bid the same, increased my daily budget and the ad shot off like a rocket. The goal here to get an ad moving and then milk it for all its worth as you slowly lower the bid and move it into what I call the “sweet spot.” I’ve had ads get down to very low CPC amounts after weening them down over a small period of time, and then they coast for a long time and the costs sometimes stay consistent and even go down in a lot of cases. This is why if you only have $100 to spend you won’t get very far, because you’ll never be able to spend enough in the long run to get your ads performing like that. Or your daily budget is set so low that your ads never are given the time to mature.
To sum up what I mean, the less you spend the more expensive your ads are likely to be. Sounds stupid? You bet it is! But that’s the way it works. Because you aren’t spending enough to allow mature ads to bubble to the surface out of all your tests, they’ll cost much more per click unless you “strike oil” which many ads I’ve done have and they become a mature ad almost immediately. Granted, I’m targeting enough people with the ad in my market that it can continue to give the ad impressions without the ad showing up too many times to the same person so that does affect things as well.
If you’re budget is extremely low (in the hundreds) then I’m not so sure spending it here is your best option. Lower budgeted projects would benefit more from the CPM type ads because you get impressions no matter what because of your bid while CPC ads don’t give you impressions at all unless your bid is high enough. If you have a really awesome CTR and you’re running CPM ads you could actually stretch $100 or a little more pretty far, but those times are likely and it always takes some time and money to learn how to do that. Plan on blowing some dollars to learn this stuff because every ad is different and every product/film is different.
I hope this article has been helpful. I couldn’t spill all the beans here or else I would’ve written a book (perhaps I should?) and although things might be a tad confusing for some, I tried to pack as much helpful information into this as I could. If there are any questions you can email me at email@example.com but just beware I get a ton of emails and yours can get lost in the cracks. Some emails I just have to ignore as well because either I could sit there forever just answering emails, or I can go make a movie and make a living. I’m also available for hire in this arena so any companies or people with films they want to try and spend some dollars on, hit me up!
Posted in advertising audience distribution marketing