One Cent Friends: Another Attempt To Quantify Social Media's Value

from the disconnect-with-fans-plus-reason-to-not-buy dept

We've talked before about services that attempt to measure someone's social media "influence" and the inherent silliness of the concept. Although the numerical values assigned by services like Klout are, at best, weak indicators of a person's actual influence, it's not surprising that people are trying to make it work. The advertising industry has run on flimsy numbers for a long time: newspaper readerships and television ratings are all extrapolated, not directly measured, and advertisers pay rates based on numbers that may or may not be indicative of how much exposure they are really getting. This was an advantageous situation for the media industry, but the digital world has largely nullified that advantage. Today's advertisers are clamouring for social campaigns and viral ads, but ad agencies and publications aren't quite sure how to actually measure those things—or how to charge for them.

So it's interesting, but pretty bizarre, to see some short film creators attempt a promotion that places an arbitrary dollar- penny-value on their fans' Facebook friends:

A 40-minute film called Andy X (about the life of Andy Warhol), which was available for streaming starting Feb. 22, is offering interested viewers an opportunity to get a discount on the $6.99 price tag. As the promotion explains, "We're trying something a little different here. We're letting you pay to watch the movie by using your friends as currency."

In other words, one Facebook friend equals one cent. If you have 300 friends, you'll pay $3.99 for the rental. Don't get too excited if you have more than 400 friends since there is a cap ($2.99 is the least you'll be able to pay to stream the film).

It's a novel idea, but one that I doubt will work for a variety of reasons. For one thing, number of friends is an even worse influence metric than something like Klout, which at least looks at multiple factors. People use Facebook in all kinds of different ways: someone with 100 friends might be a quiet user who uses the site for little more than private messages and birthday wishes, or they might be a powerful voice who keeps a small social circle of others like them. Similarly, someone with 1000 friends might be a trendsetting socialite, or they might be an indiscriminate social media butterfly whose posts are lost in the noisy news feeds of other people who also have 1000 friends each, and who don't really remember who they are.

Moreover, the promotion doesn't actually encourage fans to do anything. Nobody is going to go out and add an extra hundred friends to save a dollar, and those getting the full discount have no added incentive to actually use their supposed influence on behalf of the movie. I bet this promotion will alienate a lot of people, since it's basically a direct insult to anyone with fewer than 400 friends. Telling your fans that they have to pay more because they don't use Facebook the way you want them to (or don't use it at all) is not going to endear you to them. "You have been weighed in the balance of customers, and found wanting."

I'm all for creators trying to leverage the evangelistic powers of their fans, but the creators of Andy X have really missed the mark. Their promotion comes across less as a reward for fans who have big social circles and more as a punishment for those who don't—and it doesn't encourage either group to do anything useful.



Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 8:30pm

    and they are making the assumption you would actually want to watch the film.. andy warhol?.. seriously??

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 9:07pm

    Dunbar's number

    It's an interesting idea, but there's a fair bit of evidence suggesting an upper limit on the number of stable social relationships a person can have. The limit is called Dunbar's number, and seems to be between 100 and 200 -- somewhere in there, the human brain hits its maximum capacity for keeping track of relationships.

    What's funny in this context is that the users the promotion rewards the most (ie, the ones with >= 400 friends) are the users least likely to be influential. If a user's friend count is significantly higher than Dunbar's number, it's a pretty good sign that the user is friending a lot of people who s/he doesn't have close or stable relationships with. Conversely, a user with only a few Facebook friends is likely to be friending other users based on having a meaningful relationship...so a user with 50 friends is far more likely to influence those friends than a user with 500 friends.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 9:20pm

      Re: Dunbar's number

      "but there's a fair bit of evidence suggesting an upper limit on the number of stable social relationships a person can have."

      I think part of the issue is that establishing and maintaining relationships takes time and we can only do so much with our time. People have work, school, families to take care of and deal with, etc... and here just isn't enough time to establish and maintain good relationships with everyone.

      One could argue that the Internet and social media has made the relationship process slightly more time efficient, but still ...

       

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 6:50am

      Re: Dunbar's number

      On that note, one of the best ever descriptions of Dunbar's Number comes from Cracked, where they dubbed it "The Monkeysphere" :)

      http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html

       

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 9:41pm

    Could this have been a failed attempt to make people feel special? They were getting a bonus for being who they are, which is actually how many of the "top tier" people of the world are treated.

    The downside is they placed a value of 1 cent directly on your "status", and this will hurt because it devalues your "community" that you were so proud of a second ago because you were so popular you had X00 friends.

    There is also the idea that they are so stupid they think that giving someone a "cookie" for having so many friend will make them tell all of their friends. Except people are less likely to talk about the deal, so that they remain one of the privileged few who are treated special. The first rule of being upper crust is don't talk about being upper crust.

    A much better way to do it would have been to say, your not like other Facebook people friending everything, we would like to give you a chance to see our new film. In return for the lower entry point we ask that you honestly give us feedback and mention our film to your friends. We would of course love a huge audience, but what good would be hitting up someone with 6000 "friends" who even if they comment about us the comment is lost in a sea of updates and farmville messages?

    Treating the metric of number of "friends" as actual influence is backwards. Anyone who spends anytime living online knows the kind of person with 6000 friends, they email you every cute freaking thing they ever see... until you friend them on facebook and just don't look at their updates anymore.
    The people with tighter communities are more likely to talk about the things they encounter that are cool, and much more likely to be taken seriously by that circle of people.

    Quality not quantity is what you want in the end.

     

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      Suja (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 11:40pm

      Re:

      Well what it looks like to me is a "rolling snowball" effect.

      "Rolling" because it only benefits snowballs which are already rolling.

      So, feed the fat, let the skinny starve.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 9:52pm

    "Moreover, the promotion doesn't actually encourage fans to do anything."

    Clearly you haven't bothered to actually read the copy of the promotion. It clearly states its intention and motive behind this campaign:

    " We're doing this because, as independent filmmakers, we rely on word of mouth to help get the message out. This way we can continue making films independent of the big guys.

    If you like the movie, and what we're doing, please talk about it online and help us spread the word. "

    That last paragraph which was omitted from your article looks like a clear encouragement and call to action to me. Maybe they could have worded it better, but it's fantastic to see independent content creators up the bar in engaging with their audiences directly this way. Previously, you'd only see this sort of thing done by a studio.

     

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      Suja (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 11:37pm

      Re:

      You know that anyone can sit and "spread the word" about something, right?

      I could go onto some forum right now and tell everybody how great XYZ movie is, I don't need friends to do that.

      This is just a cheapshot at hermits & people who aren't interested in "friendship", you know, those sad pathetic weirdos, like me, who "failed" at the social game.

      ...I don't even know why I feel so worked about this, this sort of thing has been going on for years...

       

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        grumpy (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 1:31am

        Re: Re:

        I will personally be happy to pay USD 7 to *not* be forced to use Facebook. Some services do not give that choice. Spotify, I'm looking at you.

         

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 5:03am

      Re:

      Clearly you haven't bothered to actually read the copy of the promotion.

      No, I saw it. Every website on the internet says "please share with your friends" - that doesn't really count.

      it's fantastic to see independent content creators up the bar in engaging with their audiences directly this way

      Up the bar? I don't think so...

      But yes, I love to see people experimenting and trying new things - I just think that this particular idea is pretty silly, and likely to annoy a lot of customers.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 9:52pm

    "Moreover, the promotion doesn't actually encourage fans to do anything."

    Clearly you haven't bothered to actually read the copy of the promotion. It clearly states its intention and motive behind this campaign:

    " We're doing this because, as independent filmmakers, we rely on word of mouth to help get the message out. This way we can continue making films independent of the big guys.

    If you like the movie, and what we're doing, please talk about it online and help us spread the word. "

    That last paragraph which was omitted from your article looks like a clear encouragement and call to action to me. Maybe they could have worded it better, but it's fantastic to see independent content creators up the bar in engaging with their audiences directly this way. Previously, you'd only see this sort of thing done by a studio.

     

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    Suja (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 11:29pm

    Hey way to screw over people who don't use Facefuck nor need a bunch of flaky backstabbing ADD-ridden "friends" in our lives to feel good about life/ourselves.

    This is probably the first time I'm gonna go out of my way to bitch about a movie since the crapfest that was Micheal Bay's Transformers.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 12:26am

    It's an interesting idea, but it is somewhat lacking for the reasons described above. I personally have around 200 friends on Facebook. These are split in numerous different ways - family, old school friends and ex colleagues, current "actual" friends and people I meet up with on a regular basis at various film festivals. Of these, only the latter group would be genuinely interested in something like this, with a smattering of similar film buffs in other groups.

    I suspect that most peoples' friends list are split in a similar way if they use Facebook to keep track of actual friends and family, rather than as a numbers game or just accepting any stranger who asks. It's an interesting way of leveraging social media for advertising, but I don't see anything other than a gimmick than may or may not work for this film. Especially as people with less "friends" have to pay more, so people with more relevant friends might be left out because they don't have arbitrary numbers to back that up. Having said that, it's nice to see a short film getting some attention, and I hope it does work for them in this instance.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 2:04am

    Anyone else reminded of Mega Man Star Force's Link Power while reading this?
    Someone should tell these guys that Capcom Science doesn't work in real life.

     

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    abc gum, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 4:49am

    And this will not be gamed at all ... film at eleven.

    Just where might this scheme eventually go? What is the hidden agenda? Looks like astroturf, smells like astroturf ...

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward's Friend, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 7:41am

    Speaking as one who works on the dark side, the real value of social media to marketing people is the fact that it isn't as subject to the 80/20 rule as other online sites are, meaning that unlike most sites, 80% of the page views aren't generated by the top 20% of users. The long tail on search is nowhere near as long as it is on other mass reach sites, and so an ad there has a better chance of reaching a new user than it does being the 500th ad against the same users.

    The relationship stuff is kinda over-rated other than it makes it somewhat more likely that an ad associated with a name you know has a better chance of being recalled.

    If you ask people whether ads work on them, everyone says no. I get it. So let's just say that simple exposure to ads tends to work on *other* people.

     

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      Chargone (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 10:35am

      Re:

      the way i see ads, is that they may convince me to buy something i already want from You... but they won't convince me to buy something i didn't already want. (they might move me from 'vague desire for something of that nature at some point' to 'less vague desire for that specific variety in the near future', but that is within the bounds of what i said, i think.)

      ... that said, my friends telling me about stuff has about as much chance of achieving the same results.

      mind you, Someone has to spend the money to justify all those infomercials for junk products on TV (or the very existence of some things that get advertised), so clearly there are people this doesn't apply to.

       

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        Leigh Beadon (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 11:15am

        Re: Re:

        We also all just have to accept that ads work on us more than we think, or will ever believe. Everyone basically thinks they are immune to being swayed by advertising (myself included) but the reality is that we are all wrong: advertising works.

         

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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 8:29am

    On the face of it

    this appears to be just another scraping attempt to get validated user info - much like offering a dollar to complete a survey. Where is this info going? Who is collecting it?

     

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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 1:11pm

    Meh. It's an experiment. Experiments fail all the time. Maybe this one isn't very good, but that's what happens in a wide world of varied people. And smart people learn a lot from failed experiments.

    ...Of course there's always the possibility that somebody is trying an experiment that they know will fail, not to see if it works, but merely to find out things. In that case the experiment succeeds as an experiment because the whole point is collection of knowledge. :)

     

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    Bryan (profile), Mar 8th, 2012 @ 11:45am

    No One Called This. . .

    "You have been weighed in the balance of customers, and found wanting."

    Channelling "A Knight's Tale" are we?

    Bryan

     

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