Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Using YouTube Tools To Build Your Audience

I was going to just briefly mention this in a post with a bunch of links, but the more I started reading about it and thinking about it, the more I thought that it may be worth dedicating a whole post to. However, before I get into what these YouTube tools are all about, let me tell you why this is important.

Hollywood is a business, plain and simple. They have executives, boards of directors, investors and CEO's to answer to and all of them never went to film school, care about the process of making a film or watch many films oustide of their private jets. They're just too busy counting their money, while they're up in the Hamptons. Anyhow, those are the guys that give a 'green light' to a film, meaning the studio can go into production on it, and when they do, it wasn't just done on a whim. They've spent so much money on test audiences, analysis and market research that they could've funded every low-budget, indie horror that I've watched in 2008, so far... and that's before a single frame has even been shot. The main reason they're doing this is because they're hedging against a loser and they do this by studying YOU. They want to know who you are, what you like, how you like it, why you like it and when you watch it. That way, they take ALL that data, then try to put together a formula that pumps out films that are both marketable and have, what they call, playability. Meaning, not only does it get a big box office opening, but it's still in the theaters a few weeks later. They're not always right, either. Think about "Bangkok Dangerous", which probably tested through the roof on all fronts, yet... flop. Don't worry, though. They'll get their money back internationally, on DVD, licensing and every other place they sell it. Nic Cage has great internationally marketability and playability. Regardless... why am I telling you all this? Well, because, in your own little way, you can now do this too... by using YouTube Tools.

Okay, you're an indie filmmaker, right? If you're not using YouTube, Myspace or one of these other apps for marketing your film and networking, you need to start. Put together clips, trailers, any sort of content you can, and get it out there on YouTube... then, have it direct people to your website, your Myspace page, whatever. Now, before (less than a year ago), you just put it out there and hoped for the best. However, now, you can use YouTube tools to help increase your viewership and study your audience's viewing habits. As, just like Hollywood, the more you learn about your audience, the more you know how to cater to them. For example, if you found out that your audience was made up of males, aged 18 - 24, who lived on the East Coast of the U.S. versus females, aged 30 - 40, who lived in the UK, you may start trying to cater to your audience AND you'll know how to find them. The long and short, the more knowledge you have, the more power you have. Now, do you want to start using YouTube tools and find out how this shit works?

These analytical tools were primarily developed for marketers, as, if you haven't noticed, most brands put their ads out on YouTube. YouTube wants to make money, the marketers have it, so... let's cater to them and let them analyze how people view their content. That's when I thought, shit... if they're doing it, indie horror filmmakers should be doing it, too. Best of all, most of these tools are free. The coolest new tool (which isn't available yet) is called "HotSpots" and it allows "video creators to monitor how viewings rise and fall within a video", basically it tells you what people rewind to, where people tune out, if it's getting more viewings than average, etc. So, it's going to tell you HOW people watch it and what parts they like, which could be pretty damned powerful. It's going to be a new feature under their "Insights" application, which you'll find if you just go to the YouTube homepage and look on the right side. Currently, "Insight" just gives you more demographic based information: who's watching, when they're watching, where they're from, etc. So, there you go. Tools at your disposal. Now, go use them... Plus, do yourself a favor and read a bit more about all this... there's a whole article on Adage about it and they go more into depth, plus talk about actual case studies and examples. Here's the link to that article.

In the end, if you want, you can just go out there and make whatever film you want and hope for the best. However, if you take your time, find out more about your audience and then cater to what they like... you will be more successful, I guarantee it. I can think of thousands of examples and I'll leave you with just one. What if everyone who watches your content on YouTube lives in the Southern States? Would it then make sense to enter film festivals in California and New York only, or should you try to find more festivals down South? What if you never knew that?

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