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.
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!
This is exciting to me on a number of levels. First of all, Joel has been a friend of mine since he moved out to LA about 5 years ago, and we share a mutual best friend (hi, Devra 😀 ). He’s someone who I truly admire for having the unabashed courage (and/or stupidity) to blindly pursue his goal of making a living amusing others. And, he’s the only person I can ever imagine even attempting the full-time occupation of professional contest winner, let alone succeeding at it (for more back-story, check out his blog). So, I want to see him succeed on that level as well, because I have a dream of a future in which “Professional Contest Winner” is a choice in the drop-down menu for the “Occupation” field on forms. I also have a (psuedo-)professional interest in seeing Joel succeed. I’ll post more on this in the near future, but I’ve been working with Joel over the last month or so on how to use the off-the-shelf tools the web has to offer (e.g. WordPress, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, etc) to build and cultivate a fanbase to unleash at times like this. So, having him win something like this means I can actually start charging him for my pearls of wisdom 😉 . And finally, his shit really is pretty damned awesome. But, don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.
Register (or sign-in, if by some miracle you’ve already registered). Yes, registration is a pain in the ass and the ad agency behind this is a bunch of morons for requiring it, but we don’t have any control over that. Plus, you could win $25k from Klondike just for voting and Joel will totally make it worth your while if he wins.
Watch happyjoel’s video, and rate it 5 bars (Klondike Bars, get it?). Also, leaving positive comments for Joel’s video (note that they don’t appear in realtime and must pass an editorial review before being posted, tools!) and/or rating other videos lower than Joel’s can’t hurt.
(Optional) If you happen to know any of the Lonely Island guys, who will be judging the final outcome of the contest, put in a good word for Joel. (I’m looking at you, Hurwitz.)
And, please blog, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, or [insert social media nonsense of your choice] this to help spread the word.
P.S. The photo up top pretty much says everything you need to know about Joel: it was taken on a cruise to the Arctic (the same one on which he filmed the Polar Bear bits of the Klondike video), which he won in a Nature Valley Granola Bar contest, and he purchased and schlepped a giant penguin suit all the way up there just to stage a photo of him as the only penguin in the Arctic. I mean, how can you not love this guy?! (He also just pulled a similarly Ludacris stunt on his recent trip to Australia.)
I’m mostly writing this post just to get back in the act of blogging. If for no other reason than I’m working on some stuff that requires me to remember how to blog. It’s never a good sign when you’re updating your blogging software more than you’re writing posts, which has been the case for me of late.
Since I declared my return to the Interwebs nearly a month ago, I’ve found my todo list may have been a bit ambitious for someone whose mind was still readjusting from a 3.5 month sabbatical. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a bunch of stuff: updated my resume and interviewed with a bunch of companies in both LA and SF; reconnected with many friends and former colleagues in Hollywood and Silicon Valley; web2.0-ized my friend Happy Joel’s online presence (seriously, go check him out — he’s fricken’ hilarious!); helped my buddy Tom with some of his attempts to break into Hollywood; went on an awesome river float near Sacramento and a party at the Playboy Mansion *in the same (really costly/painful) weekend*; started research (i.e. ordered a bunch of books and read 1.5 of them) for one of the screenplays I’ve been wanting to write; and cultivated a mustache that invariably shocks everyone who already knew me and must really creep-out anyone who has recently met me (pictures forthcoming…maybe). What I haven’t done is pretty much all the stuff I ended my last post saying I would do: digging out from a backlog of email/FB messages; uploading what’s now 1 year of travel photos to Flickr (yes, Mom that includes Croatia too 😛 ); and writing those blog posts about what I was up to when I was MIA (I really do have some great tips on Buenos Aires…if I can remember them anymore). I’ve also added new backlogs, like so many open browser tabs that my MacBook is chugging away like a fat kid and its battery life is down to 2 hrs from 4 (it’s getting to the point that I’m seriously considering trying Sam‘s PushPopURL — but, I’d see that as an admission of defeat 😉 ).
But, it’s all good in the ‘hood. Over the last month, I’ve come a long way in figuring out what I’d like to try next careerwise. Going through the whole interview process, even with companies that turned out not to be the best fit, was an exercise I found very helpful in defining my criteria for an exciting and compelling next job. So, the bad news is my todo list has gotten seriously longer. But, the good news is I’m more psyched than ever to tackle it 😀 .