Still from The Social Network

Using Facebook for film societies

What’s the best time to post to Facebook? and how can community cinemas use it to best advantage?

Rather than ponder whether to use Facebook for your film society, as more and more people use Facebook, community cinemas almost have to ask why they don’t. A Facebook profile is increasingly an essential online presence alongside your website. You can use it to promote your film events, but also to post other film-related items that your followers may find interesting, and it gives you a perfect means of personally engaging with your audience at times other than when you show a film.

The first thing to consider is whether to set up as a Facebook Page or a Group. Film societies use both, so it depends what you want to get out of it. A Facebook Page is an organisation’s equivalent to a person’s Profile page, and by default is freely available to everyone on the web. People can ‘Like’ your page and then receive every post you make in their own Facebook stream. Groups, on the other hand, are better for discussion and can be closed, though both can create Events. At Forest Row we have a Page, whereas our Sussex neighbours, Lewes Film Club, have a Group.[1] Incidentally, there is also a UK Film Societies Facebook Group, which is very active and has some very useful and interesting discussions on it, so it is worth signing up, whether you are starting up a community cinema or have been doing so for some years.

Anyway, as with Twitter, you need to post reasonably frequently otherwise you won’t appear on your followers’ streams often enough.[2] Promoting films is the obvious thing to do, and you can create multiple posts for each film directly in the Page (such as this one, promoting our matinee of Greyfriars Bobby), which can include why you like the film, some pictures, a trailer, review quotes about the film and more. It’s a good idea to make several such posts during the course of the preceding week, each one different and sent at different times of the day. You can create them all in one go and time their release during the course of the week, ensuring that they are targetted at different times of the day. The icon to schedule your posts is a bit subtle, but is worth discovering:

Picture of the comment box on Facebook

It is also worth creating specific Events for each film too (such as this one for our screening of The Fairy). This may feel like one step too far if you already have pages for each on your website, but even creating one of these will mean that the information automatically gets posted to all of your followers’ Facebook streams. Then, if you periodically add a link to a review or other post on the event page, your followers (and anyone else you’ve invited) will also get a post which will remind them. Once you have created an event, your friends and followers can also Share it and distribute it to all their Facebook Friends, which means you can go “viral“. However, from time to time it is worth suggesting to your followers that they Share events, partly to remind them to do so, but also because not everyone completely embraces the social networking aspect of Facebook so may need a little subtle training and encouragement…

What else can you post? You don’t want to spam your followers with lots of uninteresting posts, but it’s good to post often enough to remind them of your existence, and try and elicit some sort of dialogue. These are some of the sorts of items we’ve recently posted:

We also try and update the cover picture for the Facebook Page so that it matches the next film. This is worth doing since cover changes also get posted to all your followers, and if you choose an engaging picture, some followers may have a look to see what it is.

When to post? Though there are many articles about this, it is perhaps debatable whether there is good, clear evidence, as yet. One post I have read noted that weekends and evenings are good, which makes sense since that is when people will be home and not at work (as a rule)[3], though another article I read on the same site seemed to suggest that early afternoon during the week was best.[4] The neat graphic on the unofficial Facebook blog summarised its understanding that the best time to post is on Saturday and at noon.[5]

Is any of this correct? I’m still experimenting with when works best, and the results are inconclusive. First, for a sample of 55 recent posts, I plotted the time of post against the views; rather than just plot the actual number of views, I converted it to the percentage of the number of total Likes for our Facebook page on the day of the post. This is the result:

Chart showing views by time of day

It averages out at 27 per cent of total Likes, and there may be some sense in posting at lunchtime or early evening, but I’m not convinced that the data supports that. What about which day you post? Well, this graph plots the same data, from Monday through Sunday:

Chart showing views by day

The bars are one standard deviation. Again, there may be some benefit in posting on Sundays, but I don’t have enough data yet. Do you have any evidence, anecdotal or otherwise? See what works for you, and share your results in the comments below.

Finally, and most importantly, how do you increase the number of people who Like your Page?: The obvious stuff is to encourage your own personal followers in your local area to follow, and ask them to do the same; make sure you include a FB link in every single film society email you send out, and from time to time remind everyone that they can follow you in the body of the mail within the first few paragraphs.[6] Beyond that, there are loads of other good ideas, including posting to other groups and Pages (as long as they are relevant and the administrators don’t mind). As with all publicity and promotion, you just need to do it all the time; it isn’t something you do once at the beginning of the season and then forget it. Promoting local awareness of your community cinema can be a full-time job!

There are lots of Facebook guides and tips on the web. Check out the articles below, and let us know if you have ay other good ideas, or have read other useful sources.

1. Nick Pineda. “What’s the Difference between a Facebook Page and Group?” The Facebook Blog. 24 February 2010.
2. Brad Scott. “Using Twitter for Community Cinemas and Film Societies.” Films in Forest Row. 5 October 2012.
3. Todd Wasserman. “Sorry, Marketers, You’re Doing Facebook Wrong.” Mashable. 28 September 2012.
4. Samantha Murphy. “The Best and Worst Times to Share on Facebook, Twitter.” Mashable. 9 May 2012.
5. Jackie Cohen. “When To Post On Facebook.” AllFacebook. 23 June 2011.
6. Garin Kilpatrick. “HOW TO: Get More Facebook Fan Page Likes.” fbpower.

Note: This is the third article on the use of social and digital media in community cinemas. You may also want to read the articles on Twitter and email.