During the following series of articles I will analyze certain aspects of my Squattertown project. Created as trans-media project, Squattertown was a huge test run and experimental lab for my crew and me. We wanted to see how far we can go. Can we actually pull it off? And what lessons we can take away for the projects to come. In this respect, Squattertown was a full success. The amount of information collected is immense and versatile. However, as a living project over the past 14 months it adopted to its project web channels as those kept changing themselves. I will offer a transparent and honest analysis on every main channel we used. However, I cannot reveal all details as some of my crew members make a living with this sort of internet business.
I will separate my analysis into a number of sub-topics and focus sole on the time period of August 8, 2010 (the day I launched the Indiegogo campaign) to October 11, 2011. If you look at the numbers they won’t be that impressing nor overwhelming compared to other pages or film project. But I think we achieved quite a lot as small indie HK flick within the extreme narrow budget of HK$20K. On top, you most definitely won’t find a more transparent film project analysis within the Greater China region. So here we go:
Facebook was one of the project’s main channels but also the channel that went through the most severe changed during the past 14 months. Primarily, I used the Facebbok page as the central platform to post all updates on the project throughout the entire production period. It was supposed to be a collection of all activities on the web that dealt with Squattertown.
LIKES (or Fans as it was called when we started)
As of October 12, 2011 we got 168 likes. Now the official FB page insights get a bit confusing since they list a total of 177 likes since the beginning. However, as there are 32 people who unliked or better unsubscribed to the project page throughout the course of the project the actual number of people who subscribed to the page was somewhere around 200. That is low compared to my previous UCP (https://www.facebook.com/ucp2009) project back in 2009. We reached a number of 180 likes within just 2 weeks. The peak here was somewhere around 240. Even after 2 years online the page still got 192.
Now, what happened within these 2 years? Back in 2009 FB pages were something new, something different to the groups who were about to start dying. And obviously FB is just about to cut down all open groups with low interactions. (Closed groups seem to remain untouched for now.) So inviting someone to a page and engaging him/her to like it was quite easy and we actually went over 100 within 2 days on the UCP. But during fall 2010 things had changed, FB was flooded with pages, most monetized. People’s notification inboxes were crammed with page and game suggestions from friends one barely knew. So driving someone on your project page and making them engage became a tricky thing.
The like numbers gradually went up, steady but slow. However, there was a significant difference within those likes compared to the UCP. The community that was build with Squattertown was smaller but far more active on the page. The number of interactions was higher. They were actually that high, that I could figure out a posting strategy when and what to post with the maximum impact.
FB on the other hand, since pages became such a great monetary value to them, refined the stats options and analytic tools. This all helped throughout the project tremendously but I ended up changing the strategy every couple of weeks which is quite time consuming.
When we now look at the “active users” graph you can clearly see two big peaks. The first one starts mid of November 2010, roughly around the time when my second campaign on MySherpas got off the ground due to the great press work and help by the German team of this crowd-sponsoring platform. The second and far more distinct peak was the premiere event end of July 2011. In all FB insight graphs you will find an enormous peak at this time spot. So let me explain a bit more in detail what happened here:
On July 31, 2011 we had our official (physical) premiere in Hong Kong at the venue of Videotage. For this event we teamed up with a new Austrian start-up company, RealLifeConnect (http://blog.reallifeconnect.com/), that provides RFID card check-in solutions for events. Guests of the premiere received a special Squattertown RFID card with which they were able to check into the event or liking the event. Whenever someone swiped a card at a venue’s scanners it would result in a small message post on his/her FB profile, telling their friends what they are doing right now. A special was our photo booth where guests could take on one of the series’ costumes and by swiping their RFID cards such photos would also be posted to their FB profiles. (photo booth pictures: https://www.facebook.com/Squattertown?sk=app_167168409988996)
Now I cannot go into details on all the numbers and interactions that were aggregated that night since it is RealLifeConnect’s daily bread and butter but the concept has proven most viable and useful for a on-site film promotion. We were able to connect the event with the internet in real time, having friends of guests interacting on our internet channels. The peak you see in the graphs results from people who cycle back from their friends profiles to the project page. However, it does not reflect how many impressions or posts we had due to the check-ins. Those were far higher.
Now, we did gain a good number of new “followers” to the page on that night as well as during the following days. However, about one month after the premiere a significant change in “like” (fan) numbers started to emerge and still continues. Unlikes are taking place, constantly almost on a daily basis. So here is my theory:
This phenomenon became apparent after the launch of Google+ and FB’s subsequent radical change of key features on its site. For example, the site now offers friend lists (equivalent to the G+ circles) and one can subscribe to a strangers wall without the need of being friend with him. The individual profile sees a tremendous boost, which is correlating with the recent trend of real-identity on the web. G+ is criticized for demanding its members to reveal real profile names, but that is where the money will be in the web of the future. Hence, we will see on FB a significant shift in actual online value from the page toward the profile.
Since the war of believes emerged when G+ launched (Google fans against FB fans) a huge number of Facebookers are starting to update and clean out their profile pages. This is indeed a necessary step as their profiles will eventually be openly accessible blogs. Let’s face it. FB’s original principles of being exclusive, establishing and communicating with your own circle of friends only, are long gone. The site will open up your data step by step, no matter what privacy settings you tick.
Hence, during all those profile clean-ups small projects like Squattertown get kicked out by people. I experienced this behavior quite a lot among my own FB-friends. The day they unlike the page, they added their old school, past working employments and what not. Most unlikes are indeed people from Hong Kong. G+ does not play a big role in this city, but FB became like a business card, a second me. And you better keep that neat and tidy!
So what I am currently experiencing is a shift in fans. Since the start Hong Kong fans were dominant. Now they begin to drop. New likes coming primarily from Western countries. And there is actually a slight trend towards South America.
Since we started off the project under the objective to create a niche sub-genre within the Western it was clear female fans would be rather scarce. When we look at the 14 months graph we got 31% female and 68% male fans, by having the strongest audience between 25-34. The latter one was a success as we specifically targeted this group with our trans-media concept and online presence. However, most the time during the project, as well as on other channel’s stats we had a female-male ration of 25% to 75%. At the beginning of the project even higher, around 15% to 85%. So I would say we were able to get more female fans into the project than expected, even though I was hoping for a number around 40%.
The four top countries are no actual surprise as those were the ones we conducted our fund-raising campaign at. Ultimately a FB page is a good tool to connect to a very international fan base in a short time. But by having fans from different countries and cultures raises the question of language. In which language should updates be posted? Should there be a bilingual or even multiple translation on each information/content? How do you engage a great number of fans to interact with your content via certain languages?
The Squattertown page fans come from 20 different countries and I usually posted updates in English, occasionally in German. There have been a couple of Portuguese comments but interactions were mostly in English. Recently, FB implemented a Bing translation tool,but I still got no viable answers to my questions above.
I think there could have been more interactions when I would have posted all updates in English and Chinese simultaneously, considering our main target was Hong Kong. Thus, I believe a more specifically narrowed targeting on one country alone can give you higher interaction rate and maybe even more fans. But ultimately Squattertown was supposed to be international and I was constantly trying to figure out where our limitations were.
Cycling back to the unlike-issue, to a greater extend I believe the abandoning of this quite local HK project by local people is also rooted within the language issue. Looking at other film related local FB pages it becomes evident that those with big like numbers and interactions are sole in Chinese. So I do believe to a certain degree I focused not enough on the project’s local aspects, needs and potential. there was a lot left on the table…
ACTIVITY & MEDIA CONSUMPTION
I think the graphs are self-explanatory here. Page views were relatively constant. Usually one can say each peak was one project update. During the fund-raising period views were always between 100-200. during the production and post-production it went down a bit as I was more focusing on the actual project rather than writing updates. So the lesson her would be, employ someone who gives updates and maintains the page. But then again, I wanted people to know when there is an update that they could rely on it came from me, personally.
Now again, the premiere event blows the chart out of proportion. But I think more important are referrals here. Since the project had a broad presence on the web it was a bit hard to determine who or what drives views/clicks/people from where to where. But you will see my personal web page was significant in terms of driving people to the page, as was Google/YouTube. there are also other project channels linking here as well as several blogs and pages I teamed up with during the production period.
However, don’t underestimate the impact a simple link in your email signature can have, still, after all those years and social media! However, driving people to the FB page was just the strategy for the first couple of months, during fund-raising. By December 2010/January 2011 I started primarily driving clicks to the main project page http://squattertown.com (from which all project channels are being linked with) as well as the YouTube channel. Now, one of my biggest mistakes here was not to track the URL links I sent out or simply limit to a set of links. Thus, I cannot provide further detail on this issue.
When it comes to media consumption, one thing is for certain, biggest interaction driver are photos. Videos are only relevant when they are short and one can tag a large number of people in them. Un-tagged videos have a far lesser chance of being watched. We do not have any audio items on the page so there is no analysis on this aspect. In my previous experience with UCP, audio was quite a hassle as one needs to apply for the app to be activated on the page by FB. Last time this took about 3 months or so as they are checking for potential copyright infringements.
For the analysis of the YouTube channels as one of our three video platforms I will mainly focus on the teaser since view numbers and stats for the four webisodes are still rising steady. I suspect to evaluate an online video run would need about 6-9 months until there is enough material for a thorough evaluation.
The teaser was launched on March 19th, 2011. Primarily spread throughout the project’s social media channels, it was then further shared by fans and friends. As you can see on the graph, there were 2 minor spikes in April and May. Views were mainly driven by the YouTube channel or embedded views which, to a great extend, involved Facebook, my own website and other fan/crew pages/blogs. Then there is this immense spike in beginning of June. This is when CNNgo published an article on Squattertown and embedded the teaser to the top of the page. You can also see how diversified the view sources became. Other pages and blogs started to link to the teaser. The aftershock of the article went on for about 2-3 weeks until end of July, when the premiere event took place. You will also recognize, that the CNNgo article turned the majority of the view sources from YouTube to embedded views. After the premiere, YouTube views became almost redundant, leaving only the actual channel views inside the stats.
This showed me how important actual press work is to a project. One cannot just rely on social media. Most young filmmakers believe social media is a great promotion tool for their film but in the end it is what it always was, conversation and networking. Promotion and advertising are killing those two characteristics. Hence, one has to find methods and ways to create a conversation online that eventually leads to your project. Pointing with the finger at something will alienate most.
TEASER HOT SPOTS
YouTube offers a so called Hot Spots tool within its stats. It basically tells which parts of the video are attractive to viewers and subsequently how “hot” it is. This tool won’t be available for videos below 1K view numbers, apparently because there is not enough data. I checked this graph a number of times and it keeps indeed changing quite a lot. I have seen this green graph starting high and having a deep valley toward the end.
For a filmmaker this tool is questionable. Somehow nonetheless, I hold it quite interesting as it links up (presumable) audience attention/interest directly with the images. That way one can check if certain shots have the intended reaction on the viewers. However, this should be taken as reference only and not as absolute.
Btw, YouTube recently published a site manual in which they argue content creators should focus on the first 15secs to make them as enticing and engaging as possible. Apparently, according to this graph the teaser fails in this respect, at least for now.
Even though it is too early for an in-depth look on the YouTube numbers I believe there is already a lesson to learn when we compare the demographics between teaser and webisode #1 as this will correspond to the FB analysis above.
First, gender and age. The teaser got a ratio of 15% female and 85% male viewers. That is a much heavier imbalance to the Facebook numbers. Webisode #1 is just a tiny bit deviating, 13% to 87%. Now what strikes me is the huge difference in age. While webisode #1 shows a similar sectioning in age as the FB fans, with 25-34 year olds as major group, the teaser is surprisingly even all the way through from 25 to 64 year olds.
Now, of course, this numbers can change but it basically tells me that there are two different viewer groups active. This definitely is a result of changing my promotion strategy during the web launch in August. I took the lessons learned from the teaser and targeted the series more specifically to niche web channels. Hence, I would argue “traditional” web press channels, like e.g. CNNgo with a vast regular reader base give you a great broad platform but barely real interactions nor sustainable push within other project channels. This is simply because the trans-media aspects are not utilized by their older demographics. This might also apply to print media, but I did not test them on this particular project. However, I must say the CNNgo article brought other advantages and talents to the project. I met a number of new people who then started contributing to Squattertown and are still working with me on new projects.
When we now look at the world maps to see which country got the most views it is clear that all the aimed markets have been reacting to the project as planned. Primary targets were US, Germany, Hong Kong, Austria and Portugal. That Asia got a quite even number of views is surprising. But you have to consider one mistake within the YouTube stats: China as a whole should not be marked. There have been no Chinese views. Also, I can’t say much on the views among the various US states. California seems a steady hot spot, but that’s rather usual I would say.
In the next post I will analyze: VIMEO , GOOGLE+, EGGUP and our biggest mistake!