John Onorato

Facebook or website?  Self-promotion on a shoestring

Facebook or website? Self-promotion on a shoestring

by John Onorato (ghostwritten for Austin Visuals)

Marketing and promotion are important parts of any animator’s toolkit.  Unless you want to create videos by yourself and for yourself, it’s important to let people know about your work. 

Yet there are many ways to accomplish these tasks.  You can benefit either from having a dedicated website, like this one for Dunkirk, or a Facebook page like this one for 2016’s Arrival.  Many films have both.

Before Facebook allowed pages that weren’t directly related to people, a website was how you promoted your film.  A website helped your film attract fans and a following.  When someone expressed interest at a networking or other event, it was pretty easy to give them your URL.  When they visited, there was all kinds of data about your film:  contact information, about the crew, backstage photos, credentials and the like.  And the better the site looked, the better you and your project looked.  But it costs money.

Creating a website from the ground up, though, is neither easy nor cheap.  Today it’s easy to do that on Facebook.  And Facebook is free. 

Big plus, huh?

So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each method.

How Much Will It Cost?
For those of us who have yet to create a website, let’s look at the very basics.  We’ll assume you’re going to use the WordPress.org content management system as it’s easy to use.

One of the great things about WordPress is that there’s lots and lots of themes (or skins) aimed at creatives.  There’s even a number of themes aimed at short films.  You can easily use these to make a unique website.  Sure, there’s a learning curve, but it’s easy to glean what you need to know.  And they usually offer the essentials at a discount for first time buyers.

If you’ve never created a website before, let’s break down the basics. We’re going to assume you’re using something like a wordpress.org hosting platform. (Learn the difference between WordPress.org and .com here ).

For your first purchase, you can get the essentials at a discounted cost:

  • Domain – Also known as the website’s URL, you have to purchase the right to use JohnsAwesomeMovie.com .  This runs usually a dollar or so for your first year, and $10 a year after that.
  • Hosting – Your site has to be hosted on a server so that it’s accessible to the rest of the Internet.  This usually costs $10 a month, or less if you’re able to pay for a whole year up front.
  • Theme – Without a theme, your site will look like everyone else’s – like you simply dumped a bunch of stuff on a page.  There are some available for free, but the better ones cost between $40 and $150.

So to get started with a basic package, you’re looking at between $50 and $160.  Sure, you might have that in your back pocket right now, but for a low-budget film, that can be a big chunk to let go of.  And that’s not even factoring in the time you’ll need to put in to make your site work right.

What About Facebook?
On the other hand, a Facebook page is free.  They’re easy to get up and running; might take you ten minutes.  There is no daunting learning curve or fussy plug-ins.  And there’s no code to mess with either.  But you won’t own the page outright like you would with a dedicated website.

Now if you wanted a website that’s completely unique and new, you’d incur the additional expense of a web designer.  That’s a good way to catapult your site into the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. 

Given that, it’s usually best to pick a theme you like and then tweak it so it doesn’t look like the original.  Or you could hire a WordPress theme designer, who are generally more affordable than creating a whole site from scratch.

Engaging the Social Element
There is a lot more to having your own website, too.  You have to think of discoverability – you might have created the greatest site in the world, but if no one knows about it, and therefore no one visits it, then you’ve wasted your time and money.  Webmasters spend lots of time on making pages that are friendly to search engines (also known as SEO, or Search Engine Optimization).  They work on the site content as well, all with an eye towards increasing the page rankings of the site.  If all that’s on your site is a short film, and no additional content to add value, people will soon stop visiting your site.  And thus your site will slip to the bottom of the search rankings barrel.

Even if the video players on Facebook and YouTube are pretty basic, they do get the job done.  And again, they’re free, aside for the time you put into content creation.

So there’s a lot of value in examining the benefits of promoting – and maybe hosting your film on Facebook as opposed to a conventional website. 

There are a lot of benefits to hosting your work on Facebook.  Granted, there are several ways of getting it out there:  You can put your film on YouTube (or Vimeo), you can create a website, or you might create a Facebook page.  Regardless of how that happens, though, people are at some point going to start talking about your film on Facebook.  It might even start making the rounds there.  But the reach of people sharing your Facebook page versus that of people sharing your film’s site will be much much greater.  One major reason for this is that the algorithm that Facebook uses to share things strongly favors content that will keep a user on the Facebook site.  The more times advertisements get pushed out in front of users’ faces, the more revenue Facebook gets.  So if a few people watch, then share your film, you’ll probably get more people viewing your Facebook page than if those same people shared a dedicated website.

Now About Your Audience …
Sounds like a done deal, doesn’t it?  Facebook seems to win all around.  But there’s one more perk to creating a Facebook page, and that has to do with how you communicate with your audience.  On Facebook, that communication can be real-time.  In other words, you can use Facebook to communicate with your fans on a moment’s notice.

On Facebook, as soon as someone posts a thing, you get a notification.  You can’t beat that for ease and speed of use.  You can build a following, an entire community surrounding your film on Facebook.  And your audience will grow, as communities tend to do.  About the only area in which a dedicated website beats Facebook is if you wanted to have multi-threaded forums.  Of course, those can be pretty tedious to install.  And Facebook does offer the one thread to you, which is great for disseminating information about your project.  People can talk about it on there, too; always a plus.

Sure, it’s easy to configure WordPress.  It’s even easy to do so on the fly, from your phone.  But it’s still not as easy as using the Pages app provided by Facebook. 

If you’re making a low-budget short piece, setting up an entire website solely for promotional purposes just isn’t feasible.  You’ll be spending money that you’ll likely never get back.  On the other hand, though, if you want to sell merchandise (or if you wanted to install forums, as above), a dedicated site is the way to go.  Although they are improving it, the merch portions of Facebook are currently pretty fickle.  So if you think you’ll have a market for hats, shirts, pom-poms and DVDs of your movie, then for e-commerce purposes, a dedicated site is the way to go.

There is one more situation in which a full website is preferable.  That’s when you have a large body of your work to showcase.  Using a dedicated site, it’s easy to put all of that work on a single easily accessed page.  It’s harder to do on Facebook.  Not only is there a river of status updates to navigate, but any additional work has to be buried at least one or two clicks deep.

And let’s face it:  The harder people have to work at finding your great Making Of featurette, the less likely they are to actually watch it.

The Takeaway
What’s the takeaway here?  If you want to have an entire exhibition showcasing all of your project, then make a website.  On the other hand, if all you have is a short film (and maybe one or two other things) then it’s better to avail yourself of Facebook’s great Pages feature.

On Advertising
When was the last time you took a look at your Facebook feed?  If it was any time in the last month, you’ve seen a Sponsored Post.  These are “smart” promotions.

Facebook Pages looks at what categories a thing is in, and pushes content out to people who have expressed similar interests.  For example, if you already follow several different romance pages, and I had a film named “Pretty Woman Redux,” then posts about my film would likely appear in your timeline, since I’ve targeted those kinds of keywords.

You can do pretty much the same thing with a website, but the process is much more involved.  And you have to use a third-party ad manager.  More money down the drain.

Facebook can be a thing that you either love or you hate.  Either way, it’s an indispensable tool for any sort of creative type — even filmmakers! — to promote their work.  It’s a great idea to use it for any creative venture.

Posted by John Onorato in Portfolio, Technology, 0 comments
The Secret of Making Money in the Mobile Industry

The Secret of Making Money in the Mobile Industry

by John Onorato

These days, you’re hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have at least one mobile device in their pocket. Odds are that they have at least one game on that phone, music player, or whatever it might be. True, that game might have been preinstalled – remember the iThings that had Maze, where you would tilt the device around, causing the accelerometer to move the ball through the game?

More often than not, though, games that people have on their devices far transcend the paltry OEM offerings like Maze, Vortex and Klondike, which are Apple’s current out-of-the-box offerings. We use the iTunes Store and the Android Play Store to download better and more popular games. And as phones get more and more powerful, we now have games on those phones that rival offerings on dedicated devices such as the Playstation Vita or the Nintendo WiiU.

The living room landscape is quickly changing …

Turns out that so many people are playing mobile games these days, it’s beginning to look like the landscape of the living room will soon be changing forever, at least in terms of game consoles changing. Let’s face it: Smartphones and tablets are still changing rapidly, whereas the Xbox One is pretty much just an incremental upgrade from the 360. Same for the PlayStation 4.

And let’s not forget the mobility factor. You take your phone with you wherever you go; your tablet gets tucked in your bag when you dash. At the same time, though, your console is more or less permanently tethered to your television set. That mobility counts for a lot, especially in urban areas, say, on a long commute, where there’s ostensibly nothing to do.

Just don’t get me started on how the rise of mobile technology is contributing to the separation and fracturing of humans who would rather have their noses in a phone, and not making friends with their neighbors. End rant.

Interested in where the money is going?  There’s an awful lot of it in mobile gaming.  According to Gartner, a leading information technology research firm, mobile gaming alone is expected to take up at least 20 percent of the market by 2015. Purchases made for mobile platforms are expected to amount to roughly $112 billion by 2015.  And as reported by Flurry Analytics, a leading mobile analysis provider, upwards of 80 percent of all proceeds generated last year by mobile applications were – you guessed it – games. And very recently, of the top 100 money-making iOS apps, more than three out of every four were games.

$112 billion? Really. Better start working on your app now, huh?

Where is all the money going?

And for the largest slice of that pie, get cracking on the next version of Flappy Bird. Because mobile gaming is huge. Huger than huge. You think Texas is big? Texas ain’t got nothin’ on gaming, which overshadows pretty much every other activity. That eclipses activities that might seem to be universal among smartphone owners, like checking email, texting, reading news, or even actually calling people. Gaming is capturing the eyeballs of about 60 percent of tablet owners, as well.

You might think users would be more engaged with friends on Facebook or other social networks, but interestingly, they’re spending more time playing games on their tablets and phones. Perhaps more dramatically said, add up the time that users spend reading books and magazines, listening to music, and watching videos. That time doesn’t even approach, much less equal the total time spent playing games.

Like it or not, we’ve got miniature computers in our pockets and backpacks. Small wonder that they’ve become gaming platforms, as well as being taking on the tasks that they were originally designed for. They just happen to be able to do a lot of other things as well. Sure, we can read news, watch videos, talk to friends, whatever. We’re human, after all, and we just love our games.

Just get working on that Flappy Angry Maze Klondike Bird game if you want your slice of that mobile pie.

Posted by John Onorato in Mobile, Portfolio, 0 comments