Cross-posted from the Snowball Factory blog
Last week, our friend (and first client) Joel Moss Levinson, aka Happyjoel, appeared in a CBS Evening News with Katie Couric segment called Cashing In on YouTube (watch it below). For Joel, this follows an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, a profile in the New York Times, and (our personal favorite) being named an AccessHollywood.com Rising Star. As you can see in the clip below, the majority of this coverage has been driven by the novelty of Joel’s success. He’s a guy who subsists entirely by making amusing music videos for products for which he has no personal affinity — what news producer wouldn’t love this story?!
For us though, the real story isn’t the wackiness of Joel’s success but rather how he has achieved it. Of course, having the ability to come up with witty lyrics about how awesome watermelons are and the time and energy to scour the interwebs for brands looking to crowd-source their marketing are necessary, but they’re not sufficient. Michael Buckley, the other online video personality covered in the CBS News segment, told the NY Times “I was spending 40 hours a week on YouTube for over a year before I made a dime.” Like Michael, Joel does a lot more than just what you see on screen. Arguably, making the videos is the easy part (at least for someone like Joel) — the real challenge has been building and cultivating the loyal fan-base (or as Joel calls it, his “contest voting army”) that has made him such a newsworthy phenomenon.
As of this writing, Joel has:
- 257 fans on Facebook
- 1,128 members of his “Yes, Joel, I’ll vote for your newest stupid contest” Facebook Group
- 339 subscribers on YouTube
- 138 followers on Twitter
- 153 members of his Google Group/mailing list
- 344 friends on MySpace
- 35 contacts on Flickr
- and thousands of views per month on his blog
Each of these relationship channels has different strengths and weaknesses, and we have achieved a good measure of success using them in concert through best practices and a substantial time commitment. But, the system is far from perfect. In addition to the redundant work required to build and maintain relationships through all these various channels, it is very difficult to identify and de-duplicate the individuals across them, and it is basically impossible to have a cohesive view of what is going on in your fan universe.
While 800 lbs brands like Britney Spears or 50 Cent have enough clout to ask their fans to sign up for new services, the rest of us need to find effective ways to reach our potential fans where they already live online. YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, and other popular social media services provide access to their huge existing audiences, but the relationships you build through them have to be on their terms. We’ve learned from experience in the trenches with clients like Joel and Handsome Donkey, and we’re hard at work on a solution that gives independent online media brands the best of both worlds: access to existing social media audiences with greater control over the fan relationships it generates. So, stay tuned!