Out of hundreds, thousands or maybe even millions of friends and followers each one of us has on social platforms, how many do we really know? For most of us, it is probably less than 5 percent, but not Erin Faulk.
The 29-year-old decided to grow her Twitter relationships beyond an avatar and bio and is traveling 8,000 miles across the country in 28 days to meet face-to-face with some of her Twitter friends. Her experience will be chronicled in a documentary titled Follow Friday the Film, and the adventure will begin June 26 when Faulk and the crew depart from Los Angeles.
In between packing and preparing to direct and star in the film, she took time for a few questions:
Q. Why did you decide to take this trek?
A. The idea for the trip really started with an article I read that said 72 percent of Americans trust the recommendations of a stranger online as much as a personal friend. My first thought was, “That can’t be true. That’s crazy.” Then I started thinking about the ways in which I trust strangers online: movie recommendations, recipes, tutorials and how-tos. I make purchases on Amazon based on star ratings, and choose restaurants based on reviews on Yelp. All of this without consciously thinking about the fact that I have no idea who these people are.
Q. Why did you decide to put it on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter?
A. We used Kickstarter because I had seen some other projects successfully funded, and it makes it accessible to a wide audience. The beauty of Kickstarter is that it’s all or nothing – if people like your help you reach your funding goal, you get it all. If you fall short by even a dollar, you get nothing. It’s an effective, sometimes painful, way to gauge interest in your project right from the start. We were lucky to set a $15,000 goal, and end our Kickstarter with $24,091. I guess that means there’s some interest.
Q. How do you think crowdsourcing and social media help people?
A. I think crowdsourcing is an amazing tool that technology has given us – but it’s only a tool. It’s something we’re utilizing for fundraising, and determining some of the stops and events on the trip. A lot of film festivals are starting to see somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 percent of their films being crowdfunded. It’s an amazing tool for the arts. With that said, there’s something to be said about individuals making something that is truly theirs. You can crowdsource aspects of a project, but the idea comes from a single source. You have to have the individual. I think Twitter is a great example of this. Sure, Jack Dorsey created it. He had an awesome idea, and he put it out there – then the rest of us picked it up and ran with it. It’s still developing. Do I think crowdsourcing and social media help people? ABSOLUTELY. I watch people raise money for charities online every day. The power of social media to bring awareness to an issue is massive. And it’s at our fingertips.
Q. You’re picking Twitter followers to visit as you go, correct?
A. We’re setting up some interviews ahead of time, with people I already follow. But I want the film to unfold in the spirit of #ff (follow friday). If I get to Austin and someone I follow says “Hey, you should be following this guy in Atlanta,” I want to go with that. I love getting recommendations for who to follow. It’s led me to journalists and MMA fighters, comedians, politicians, stock brokers, teachers, bloggers…all sorts of people I wouldn’t think to look up on my own.
Q. Why is it important to you to build these relationships further?
A. We like to think of the internet as a “fake world.” I always have people asking me if I know these people “in real life.” What we need to come to terms with is that in an increasingly connected digital world, the internet IS real life. These are people I know. I may not know what they look like, or where they live, but I know what they have to say. And that’s more important. Twitter is like The Voice – you get to choose people based purely on what’s coming out of their mouth. This is important because Twitter has helped me make work connections, and social connections. I even know a few people who found their significant other on Twitter. The internet is real life.
Q. Do you have advice for people who want to grow relationships with social media contacts but can’t go on a nationwide adventure?
A. I think being accessible is key to any online presence. Whether you’re an individual or a business, people want to feel that there’s a person typing the words. A little personality goes a long way. I love Taco Bell on Twitter for this very reason. When people talk to them, they talk back! They’re funny, and informative when they need to be. I like it when people online feel like they can share insights into themselves. It’s not all baby pictures and what’s for lunch. I like to know you feel a little embarrassed because you read Fifty Shades of Grey, and that you spilled coffee all over yourself right before a meeting. These are the things that let people know you’re real.
Q. Most of our readers are PR professionals or communicators of some sort, what tips do you have for them when it comes to using social media?
A. On behalf of all of us who want to follow you but aren’t in PR, please stop the boring tweets. 🙂 Sometimes, people feel like there’s some strict code that a business account must tweet only business. It’s not true. I love to follow accounts that share finance info 90 percent, but occasionally throw in a cat picture to lighten the mood. Anyone who takes them self to seriously on Twitter will be mocked. It’s just how we do.
Q. Anything else you want to add?
A. Just that people can help us out along the way. Visit followfridaythefilm.com for ways to help!