It’s become a truism of the Information Age that you’ve GOT to use social networks to market your creative product, be it an indie film or a book or a CD or a painting.
Don’t take my word for it, go and do a Google search for the keywords “marketing” and “social network.” Millions of hits. There’s a whole cottage industry that’s grown up overnight, professing to teach you HOW to use social networking and charging a pretty penny for this arcane knowledge.
But as I found out with a recent Kickstarter campaign, and I’m finding out all over again trying to promote screenings for Troubadour Blues, it’s easy to get people to “like” you on Facebook, but hard to translate that into action.
When I sent out Kickstarter appeals by conventional e-mail, I had a one-in-10 response rate, about average for fundraising campaigns. When I sent them out via Facebook, it was more like one in 30 or 40. A lot of Facebook friends have “liked” or RSVPed to Facebook invites to my premiere screenings, but few of them have jumped over to Eventbrite to buy advance tickets.
A great article in Advertising Age caught my eye this morning: “Why Facebook Is Becoming the Media World’s Black Hole,” by Simon Dumenco. He compares Facebook with a favorite bar that’s become more and more crowded with people and activities:
Essentially, Facebook has to constantly battle against its very nature — its supposed reason for existing — as a friendly place for “friends” by conning those friends (and you) into “sharing” more and more, and by increasingly pulling intel about Facebook-linked activities (e.g., listening to music via Spotify, or reading an article off-site via a Facebook-linked app) into the picture of users it presents to marketers. It puts all of us to work (at $0 per hour) to increase its “engagement” scores because getting more and more people to spend more and more of their lives directly on Facebook — or tethered to Facebook through an off-site app — is the only way it can keep growing its advertising business and justify its valuation.
Meanwhile, as time spent on Facebook increases, media companies and marketers have fewer (and shorter) opportunities to engage consumers off-Facebook … because there are still only 24 hours in the day.
But at what point does this “sticky” everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach begin to backfire for the Social Network itself? As Facebook becomes sort of wallpaper for people — the more it becomes a virtual web operating system — does it really make them more eager to spend? Does sucking up higher and higher percentages of users’ mindshare necessarily increase their responsiveness to advertising? Or, to the contrary, does it leave them feeling a bit numb, weary … and used?
I, for one, am beginning to feel a bit numb, weary and used. I don’t like a lot of the changes Facebook has implemented in the past month. I don’t like Smart Lists — just like I don’t like the “smart” features in Microsoft Office — and I find the way they’ve split up the News Feed infuriating. I can never be sure that I’m seeing all the posts by my friends, and I don’t have time to spend sorting my friends into lists. I’m a one-man operation and I need to spend that time promoting my own work, not helping Facebook mine marketing data from my friends.
I don’t even have a Timeline yet. I’m really curious what that will look like. But like everybody else, I’m afraid to pull the plug. Sometimes I think this is what drives advertising. Everybody’s afraid to stop, because the other guy is still doing it.
Reminds me of something my mother used to say: “If all the other kids were jumping off a cliff, would you jump off, too?”