How Can I Get My Stuff To Go Viral?

by Anne Flournoy

1.23.13  Though I've been making a comedy series The Louise Log for the past five years, I've only recently realized that 'the cream does not rise' through the 78 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.  So for the past 90 days, all of my energy has gone into trying to understand how to find and connect to my audience.

Talking to people close to the huge web series successes Anyone But Me and Awkward Black Girl, it seems that both found online magazines which cater to the target demographic for their series. I've heard that if AfterEllen embeds a trailer/episode, you're pretty much guaranteed 50,000 views ... and that's an audience which includes members of the LGBT blogosphere which is a force in itself.  Anyone But Me was on AfterEllen early on in its release.  Similarly, Awkward Black Girl may have started its meteoric rise soon after it was on clutch.   

Groups never occur to me as a first move.  I always figure I'll just do it myself.  But as someone pointed out recently (I think it was Gail Z. Martin in her excellent book '30 Days To Social Media Success')  (warning: I'm still reading and taking notes from the book a month later... but I'm a slow reader) "It's a lot easier to tap into an assembled group than to gather your own."  

A resource you're probably aware of to help you do this work is  the alexa toolbar.  If you've never heard of this, try it now.  You can install it on Firefox and probably on other browsers.  An astonishing richness of information for almost any website online is suddenly on your screen: Google ranks, US and worldwide, will be the blue numbers.  Click on either of those and in the drop-down you'll see tabs for Audience (with complete demographics... education, kids/no kids, where they use the internet, age and gender)  Related Links and more.  For finding online or traditional press, blogs, whatever your target audience is engaged with, the Alexa toolbar is your BFF.  For real.

Once upon a time I poo-pooed looking for celebrities or even Influencers to help with promotion.  So confident was I that "the cream would rise" (and that I had the cream) and hey, who likes to be rejected or worse, ignored?  HA.

Laura Hanna, a colleague (and a subversive filmmaker, editor and sound editor) recommended studying the strategies of Kony 2012, strategies based on enlisting the help of Influencers on twitter.  (Google the question 'How did Kony 2012 go viral' for more details.)  Taking tips from this method, Laura and her collaborators got over 80,000 views in the first days after uploading their Rolling Jubilee video.  

What is the Rolling Jubilee?

What is the Rolling Jubilee?

My last suggestion is Emily Best's brand new, really well thought through and super-cool, alternative distribution/crowdsourcing site Seed&Spark. Whereas some crowdsourcing sites welcome everyone from inventors to musicians to backpackers-needing-a-plane-ticket, Seed&Spark is only for people making film and video.  

An overly simplified explanation of what Seed&Spark offers is: it's a platform to ask for what you need to make the work and it's a pay-per-view distribution system.  

But instead of asking for cash on Seed&Spark, here filmmakers make up something like a wedding registry-  sandwiches for ten people for all the weekends in March, a minivan with driver for Feb 28th, a rural cabin for one week.  And BONUS: when you give to a project, you get Sparks in return with which you can watch films on the site without having to pay cash.  

The very simple but maybe critical fact here is that when people are giving at this level (as opposed to with a credit card) they'll be more connected to you and to your project in 3D, that their friends and family will be more connected, that the virality of facebook postings etc. will be organic. 

This post started out as a comment responding to a discussion on this very subject on Kyna Morgan's Her Film Project LinkedIn group and things got out of hand with all the points to cover.  Plus, I'd promised I was going to blog. You might want to join that group for more suggestions from thoughtful filmmakers who are figuring out how to break through the clutter.   

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