Making Facebook Count

Orthogonal by M Jack Muranami.
In his latest tips for How Freelancers Can Succeed, Ande Schurr says Facebook can ignite the fires of your business and help define and develop its culture and spirit.


In his latest tips for How Freelancers Can Succeed, Ande Schurr says Facebook can ignite the fires of your business and help define and develop its culture and spirit. He offers some case studies and encouragement to start devoting more emphasis on social media.

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Find inspiration, support or just a good laugh. Social media, our modern day campfire.

A few days ago, a colleague posted a comment that life was getting boring.

It wasn't your average light-hearted social media comment and before long this person had many responses, likes, and suggestions on how they might deal with this predicament.

It was totally impromptu, in the moment, just people like you and me reaching back to a friend who dared to share their feelings. You could sense this person's change in mood and I couldn't help but be impressed and amazed to discover that this 'Facebook' - something I had long relagated to the bottom of the 'genuine personal contact' barrel - had a very important part to play in our well-being and fostering a sense of community.

Facebook 'friends' are not just superficial, shadowy creatures behind computer screens or mobile phones, they are as alive as you and I are, blood rushing around the body, looking for a way to improve the quality of their own lives, and when the chance lends itself, the lives of others. Nothing beats the contact of a real person, and yet, when that isn't possible, Facebook becomes the meeting place.

Yet Facebook is far more than personal community. If done correctly, it can ignite the fires of your business, and help define and develop its culture and spirit.

There is an oft quoted phrase - "we live in auspicious times". Maybe so, but of more importance to the business owner is the reality that we live in suspicious times. We don't trust the hard-sell - the 'I'm passionate about cars' car salesman. We trust those who do a good job for the sake of doing a good job and not just for commercial reasons. In the mini-case study that follows, I discover three businesses who work for the pleasure of doing a great job for their customers.

These three business owners embrace Facebook and make it work for their business. The first is the successful, quirky little cafe in Mt Albert, Cosset Cafe. They are in a different industry from us yet Kellie and Rohan, known as 'the lovely ladies' to their customers, have a surprising grasp of how to fuel desire and pique interest among their cliental. Secondly we look at popular camera rentals company, Rocket Rentals. With offices in Auckland and Wellington, their customers are spread around the country so they need some kind of forum to broadcast their news and show a united front. Lastly, our icon, Peter Jackson, who uses his Facebook page for important filming announcements although there are some semi-personal touches too like when he pays tribute to a colleague who has passed away.

These examples give us three unique approaches to social media. Choose the one that suits you.

1. Taste Buds -  Cosset Cafe

The Cosset Cafe Facebook page has a behind-the-scenes feel. Off-the-cuff photos of new art work on the walls adds to the 'as it is' and 'by the way, I took this photo if you're interested' approach that is so effective because it is casual and so avoids the stench of 'polished marketing'; an alien in the social media realm.

Cosset posted "Lemon White chocolate and morning glory muffins" on Sunday morning just gone. Seven people 'Liked' it. That's seven almost certain customers. Along with everything else they do to promote the cafe, over and above a nice write-up in this month's Metro Magazine saying that their home-made Chai was the best in the business, Cosset turned over its busiest day in 5-6 months! It is these little tasty morsels of information that win over their customers and keep them wanting more.

Adaptation: We too have to assail our customer's taste buds - not their physical appetite but their appetites for news of what productions we are on currently, good deals on rental equipment, new cameras, lenses, lights and sound gear that can make their next project look and sound incredible, and something inspirational from time to time to keep their spirits soaring.

Approach: Little text-only teasers, sometimes several in the day describing what is on offer in the cafe's kitchen. The occasional photo of new art work on the walls helps to keep the focus on the total cafe experience and not just the food.

Examples: (1) Apple cinnamon and pecan get together to create today's muffins!! (2) Rohan is busy making chai syrup...getting ready for higher demand after a wee rave in Metro mags April issue!!

2. Focus the Lens -  Rocket Rental

Rocket's Gavin Newton is an active social media user. He and the others share clips (produced by their cameras), photos of DoPs hard at work, DoP showreels, new and old lenses in stock + responding to questions and comments from their customers.

This kind of public community board is perfect in building the image of Rocket as more than just a rental house. It shows that they care about the entire filming experience and not just their business. One thing I like about Rocket is that they embrace all their competitors. If they don't have a particular camera left on the shelf, they'll pass on contact details of Metro, Panavision, NZ Camera Hire or many more besides. Gavin, officially title 'the Rentals and Facilities Manager', sets the standard with his attitude: "our industry is too small - we have to work together".

Adaptation: We all use equipment regardless of our profession. Even if you're a writer, you can post about your new fountain pen - that is sure to draw a laugh! But it's not just about purely advertising our gear, it's blending that with something interesting, something worth sharing - like a special lens that is 30 years old, or a new micro camera that fits on a pigeon.

Approach: Lots of pictures and words. All news is good news. Promoting their own gear but equally promoting camera operators and forming a community without any fear of looking too commercial.

Examples: (1) over 30yrs old but very nice old film look from this Angenieux 1:10 zoom......(2) Alex prepping for an EPIC shoot on steadicam.....

3. Polished and Proud -  Peter Jackson

Peter is in another league from the most of us! Yet we can still learn from him. He only makes important announcements but that is a style in itself. The Hobbit Production Video series, which are so polished and evocative of what is to come, attracts tens of thousands of 'likes' each time they are posted. Most of the other content on Peter's Facebook page is generated by his fans such as news and videos about him.

Adaptation: Occasionally we need to bring a 'Wow' factor to our Facebook page, derived from our work and not just singing the praises of someone else. If we have directed, produced, shot or recorded/composed sound on a video then that should be uploaded. We can't all be film giants like Peter but we can be proud of our own accomplishments for our clients and friends to appreciate.

Approach: Publish only when a project is complete. Less is more. Polished content wins even if it's polished 'behind the scenes' content.

Examples: (1) Hi everybody. We will have a new on-set video from THE HOBBIT coming here soon! (2) I'm very proud to present the trailer for our new feature documentary, WEST OF MEMPHIS, directed by Amy Berg.

In Summary

These Facebook business and personal approaches should give us the encouragement we need to start devoting more emphasis on social-media. The key is community spirit. The rewards are colleagues and clients who become real friends and want to give us more business because they see that we aremuch more than just a title on a call-sheet, a classified listing or the end credits.

Written by

Ande Schurr

3 Apr 2012

Ande Schurr is a professional and experienced sound recordist with a passion for the film and TV industry. His columns on The Big Idea focus on 'How Freelancers Succeed'.

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