April was a tricky month for the 72 Project. One of our objectives last August was to have continual growth upon the web visits to our site. For eight months we managed to have continual growth of both visitors and overall engagement (the amount that people look around when they visit the site). April just managed to post growth upon unique visitors but fell short when it came to engagement, which is disappointing and serves as a warning shot.
The stats are important to us for various reasons. Firstly, we use them to drive sponsorship (of which most is in place, thankfully, but there is some outstanding). Secondly we use the stats to check that we’re building an audience for the event itself (there is no point doing it if happens in a vacuum). Thirdly, we use the stats to see what works with the audience. We know for example that users are more likely to interact if there is a high picture to word ratio; reading is so passé. Sorry for this post…
Before we start flogging ourselves for failure, we can be positive about posting marginal growth for visitors, which is important for the audience growth. We also know that March had a freakishly high engagement upon one day, which jumped the stats.
The March day in question is very telling, and echoes an experience that I had last year. When we posted a blog about the student symposium, along with pictures of some of the students, the stats went disproportionately ape-shit. I presume the students were enjoying seeing themselves. It reminded me of a moment when I asked my students if I could have volunteers for the 72 in Derry (before it was aborted). There were very few volunteers, that is, until they saw the ‘I’ve Got This Idea For A Film’ documentary. Afterwards, people asked if they could take part. I never established if it was the process that was appealing, or the idea that we’d be followed and they could watch themselves later.
Therefore, it is quite appealing when looking for an easy fix to stats to simply show pictures of students and let the stats run riot. But everyone knows you can pump stats by ‘buying’ likes and other tricks like this, so the stats become meaningless. The emphasis on doing this organically is so that we can derive meaning from what we are doing… and instead of showing sponsors some hideously glistening stat growth, we are showing them the reality of what we are dealing with here.
We know there is a portion of the audience that likes it if we post pictures and we are taking two (paid) people onto the 72 to disseminate information in the closer run-up to the 72 to specifically engage in doing this. We also know that the Facebook audience isn’t necessarily an indicator of who is showing up in the cinema (the early-bird tickets have gone predominantly to people who don’t ‘follow’ us online). The only indicator that matters from that regard is ticket sales!
However, we won’t be abandoning the web stats as an objective upon this project just because of the above concerns. There is an incredible amount of research to be done into how effective or useful social media is to filmmakers, but we feel that the blog is more than just a promotional tool for our films; it is a dissemination of theory and part of the demystification of the process.
What we know (and have already started acting upon) is that traditional media is where we must now focus our attention in order to reach our audience. Our stats demonstrate that whilst there is growth in visitors, it isn’t SIGNIFICANT growth. In particular, it will not be significant enough to fill the auditorium with the largest screen in the West Midlands. And that IS a warning shot.