Are you being social?
If not, you are one of the few. Social media sites are a part of everyday life. The importance of what you can get from these sites ranges from locating a good tapas bar to hearing about world events as they unfold, like the earthquake in Japan, the revolutions in the Middle East and the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Post studios have embraced social as a way to build their brand and grow their business, promote their work, staff their rooms and help create a community.
Minneapolis-based Pixel Farm (www.pixelfarm.com), a creative studio providing animation, visual effects, finishing, sound design, color correction and more, takes its involvement in social media seriously... so seriously they employ a full-time social media coordinator.
Sarah Edwards uses social media in a variety of ways, including news gathering and lead prospecting, but more than that, it allows her to see trends as they are developing. “I follow Post Magazine so I can see what’s going on in that world. I also follow the different ad agencies in town to see who is winning the client, what work they are getting, and then research the client.”
Minneapolis is a big ad agency town, and commercials are the bread and butter of Pixel Farm’s work. “I need to keep up on what’s going on and figure out who is going to bring us post work or what kind of things they are looking to do with their new clients. Instead of going to 30 different sites, it’s all in my Twitter feed. I use it as a news source and for gaining valuable information.
Edwards says it’s vital to “become a part of the conversation” on these sites, and being part of that conversation means keeping your Twitter and or Facebook page active. “It’s important to show your work and also engage in conversation, or else it’s just like, ‘Look what we did!’ Ask questions, share, be curious, and give your brand a personality. That’s what social can do. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the people that are part of the company and not just the company as a whole.”
Edward’s goal in terms of social media is making people aware of how passionate Pixel Farm’s staff is about the work they do. “I share tidbits about them and their passion, and that reflects on our company.”
Each Monday, Edwards makes a list of what she wants to accomplish for that week in regard to social media. She looks at what kind of work they’ve had in-house, what kind of trends are developing, and then her research begins.
Even though she does this full time, the learning process is unending. One event that helped: “The Social Media Titans of Minneapolis,” which features the people behind the best blogs and Tweets in the city. “They share what makes them the best, how I can get there, and how I can bring Pixel Farm there.”
Many people link their Facebook and Twitter feeds, but Edwards doesn’t see the benefit since often, the people who follow you on one follow you on the other. “You don’t want to be monotonous.”
She employs Twitter as a news source as well as for sharing information. “You can use hash tags if you want to be featured in a certain feed, and if people search the topic or name you used they can find you.”
Facebook, from Pixel Farm’s standpoint, is a little more social, but it also includes sharing. For example, the studio uses the site to publicize events they are hosting, like its St. Patrick’s Day happy hour for agencies and clients, back in March. They had a little fun while accomplishing their goal — getting people to their studio. “We made a video and tagged everyone that works here on the video so it appeared on their personal Facebook pages.” Because Pixel Farm staffers are friends with many of the agency folks, that message appeared on their feeds, they read about the party, and Pixel Farm had a great turnout.
Pixel Farm uses other sites, such as LinkedIn — where they present a more serious tone, keeping it more about facts and services — and Vimeo, as well as its own studio blog. The blog is where the studio boasts a bit about interesting jobs, like a recent Target spot promoting its new Americana brand via PMH agency. “We did so much R&D and post work on that,” says Edwards. “I saw it as an opportunity to show people what exactly we do here. There’s even a behind the scenes video!”
FourSquare is the latest social tool to appear on Edwards’ radar. “We are looking into how we can utilize that — we don’t want to just jump on it without having a strategy behind it. If it’s well executed, you can do anything you want.”
NEW DEAL STUDIOS
A self-proclaimed tech geek, Shannon Gans, co-founder/CEO of LA’s New Deal Studios (www.newdealstudios.com), has embraced the world of social media. “If we can all talk and collaborate, there are different things that can happen, like potentially strengthening the industry, helping it evolve more quickly, having a voice and being part of the change.”
The studio, which designs, shoots, posts, provides VFX, animation and more, also uses Twitter and Facebook as vehicles to promote its artists, as well as artistry, communication and education. New Deal also discovered it’s a great way to find talent while remaining aware of world trends. “I connect with artists globally, and I have a better handle on what is going on by being involved,” explains Gans. “It’s a great way to recruit, because they get to know you and your company based on the information you put out.”
People are also more likely to share over the Web, on sites such as Facebook, rather than face to face, according to Gans. “I communicate really well on the computer as a shy person, and I find other artists are that way. You find really interesting people while you communicate in a different way. And when you get to meet them in person, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, how are you?’” Gans has hosted many international artists traveling through LA. They do do lunch and have a studio tour. “You create even more of a connection,” she says.
Gans finds what people respond to on Twitter fascinating. “After I post something, I see what gets retweeted or what I get responses from.”
In the past, when artists were working long hours on big projects they disappeared for a bit only to resurface when the job is complete. Facebook has changed that, she says. “With Facebook you never lose contact because they are taking pictures on set and sharing information.”
In order to remain current, New Deal is in the middle of updating its Website and Vimeo channel, and it is becoming more active on LinkedIn.
Like Pixel Farm’s Sarah Edwards, Gans uses FourSquare. When attending local events, she makes it a point to “check in” to see who is also there. “You see their picture and there are people who you follow, it’s kind of like a community, and you see the same people on Facebook and Twitter.”
As an amateur photographer, Gans uses Instagram in her spare time; it’s a photosharing site that boasts three million users, many of whom are visual effects artists. “They often have a camera in hand and post what they see to the site.” Because it’s another link to artists and artistry, Gans has set up a business account for New Deal, but that doesn’t mean she’ll stop using it for personal reasons. “For me it’s a hobby, so I put up photos and cool things that I see. Part of it is building my brand, as Shannon, and then there is building New Deal and its brand. I have a different perspective, and my opinions are my own, and it’s hard because I own a company.”
Gans sums up by quoting Facebook’s founder: “As Mark Zuckerberg has said — It’s the re-architecting of society in every sector — and we are seeing that in media, and the more we all talk and be part of building that, it’s a good thing.”
JumpLA’s executive producer Damon Webster might be a relatively new hire, but he is not new to commercial work or to using social media to create a community or promote a brand.
After nine years at Saatchi & Saatchi, LA, where he was director of advertising production, Webster started www.photoinduced.com, a broadband channel Website that evolved into a social networking site for professional photographers and enthusiasts that includes news, reviews and shared information. For the past four months he has been executive producer at the LA branch of the bi-coastal editing house Jump (www.jumpla.tv).
“After many years in professional broadcast, I have been steeped in new media for the past six years,” he explains. “In addition to my Website, I have two Twitter feeds and two Facebook pages; I built a business using every bit of social media that I could.” Feedback from those accounts taught him how to better use social media, he says.
Webster will put these skills to work at JumpLA. He acknowledges that while the studio had a Facebook presence since before he arrived, “we are building that to get where we should be.” The studio is currently looking at all the different ways to expand its presence in the social media world.
“Social media gets down to a very old model,” he says. “It’s still, ‘Can you deliver the eyeballs or ears, and can you convert them?’ Sometimes you just want to know that the brand has been heard.”
But Webster wants to make sure those hearing the message care enough to come back. “If you can set your company up as having a particular or unique insight into the business, then it becomes a destination, not just white noise — you can’t just talk about our guy just did this or that project… so unless it’s something relevant to the community, don’t bother.”
Webster often shares cool event happenings and restaurant suggestions on his personal Twitter feed. His intention is to do the same with JumpLA. “It’s a great way to share the personality of the company with the community. Maybe I’ll be telling you about an event that’s relevant and that helps you get a sense of what we like. Maybe it’s a screening party.
“As I now go out and try to put a slightly different face on what JumpLA is, the goal is to let people know we don’t just cut :30 spots; we edit content in a variety of formats.”
One way they might do that, says Webster, is with a screening party or Tweeting out a question about the studio, and the first 10 people who respond correctly win a prize. “It’s a great means of promotion and engaging people. I think there is a certain skill set in using those 140 characters.”
Webster recognizes that in order to be successful in social media, you have to be a regular user of social networks. “Everyone communicates this way these days, through a mobile app or online or on Vimeo or YouTube or whatever, and if a post house has an understanding of all those screens and actually uses them,” they can be successful in this realm. He stresses his point, “I’m not a gamer, but I make sure I know how to use every gaming platform available.”
Being up to date on what is out there is key. Webster spoke at SXSW last year about interactive. “Three years ago the big word was Twitter, last year it was FourSquare, and this year it was a concept: play. This ties into apps like FourSquare,” he says. “People check in and then you get points between you and your friends. You don’t win anything but you are playing.”