John McDougall: Hi, I’m John McDougall with workingdemosite.com/authority, and I’m here today with Jimmy Craig and Justin Parker of Methodloft and FatAwesome. Welcome, guys.
Justin Parker: Hi.
Jimmy Craig: Good to be here. Thanks for having us.
John: How did you guys get started with viral videos?
Jimmy: It started back when we both were still in college. I feel like it was right around the time when viral videos were just becoming a thing. It wasn’t a household term at that point. Sites like eBaumsWorld and CollegeHumor were just starting to blow up. We made this video called “Turtle Boy.”
We were still in college, and it was within a week, the video had blown up on all the major comedy sites. Before we knew it, we were getting phone calls. It was on MTV, VH1, BBC. People actually flew out from Tokyo to interview this kid.
John: To interview turtle boy?
John: He was what? One of your friends? Local guy?
Justin: He was a kid from my school, and he was the right look.
John: You got started. Did you intend to become popular on YouTube, or did you just fall into it?
Jimmy: We started making videos just for ourselves, but then when we saw viral videos were a thing, we were like, “maybe we have a knack for it.” Then we continued to do it. When we had several videos do well online, it solidified what we thought. At that time, it was like, “We’re not going to make a career out of this.” It was still just cool for us.
Eventually, things snowballed to the point where more doors were opened to work with brands, and television networks and stuff like that.
John: How do you stand out as a couple of white guys in their 20s?
Justin: You know, we start with what makes us laugh. We try to have a unique idea about something that is common. That’s the optimal situation. A lot of times we can have an idea that’s this really weird, out there idea, and maybe a lot of people aren’t going to laugh.
John: A certain group will, but that group’s too small to go broad.
Justin: The videos, they take a while to make. You’re trying to balance out how much effort do we want to put into something that not a lot of people are going to watch? It’s definitely this balance that we try to find between selling out a little bit, and try to expand the audience but still being ourselves, and 100 percent doing something that we want to do. We do either. It depends on how we’re feeling that day.
John: Try a little bit of both. Nice. How do people get more subscribers on YouTube? How did you start to get people back to your site from YouTube, things like that?
Justin: As Jimmy was saying, we had a few videos go viral at the beginning, and we were getting featured on a lot of sites. Some things were getting on TV. Nobody was connecting the dots that we were making it, because we didn’t brand ourselves well or at all. We just had the title, “Fatawesome” at the end.
It was frustrating, because we were like, every video that we make has to go viral on its own, without any work we had done previously. Every video has to be the best video ever or no one’s going to see it, and it was very frustrating. We decided to brand ourselves. We made this red, dancing monster.
We started putting that at the end of videos, and people loved it. Now we had a thing. That’s a huge, huge part of YouTube is having a thing. Every day there’s another viral video, 10 viral videos a day, whatever it is. You just move on to the next one. People oftentimes don’t dig any further.
If you start to have this thing that ties it all together, they’re like, “Oh, I remember this monster. I love this monster.”
John: To come back to regularly, you mean? You had hits early on, but in order to get consistency, is that what you’re saying?
Justin: Yeah. Maybe somebody saw one video and they loved it, and they didn’t dig any further.
Then, if we had another video go viral, they’re like, “This red monster, I remember this. Now this is two videos that I’ve seen with this. All right, let me take a look at these guys. Maybe they’re putting out stuff on a consistent basis that I would like.” Now it’s more than this one‑off thing.
We found that that really changed things for us.
John: You had to work on your branding?
Justin: For sure.
John: What else? Did you redesign your website or try to get more people coming from YouTube to click over to your site?
Jimmy: For getting subscribers, it was just like Justin said, helping people connect the dots. This is the same duo that’s producing all this different content, and creating one destination for them, and funneling people toward our YouTube channel.
John: Can that work for any company, getting viral videos, or is that more for brands that have an ability to be funnier?
Jimmy: I think any recognition helps establish yourself as an authority. A viral video, whether it’s serious or funny, brings attention to you. Ideally, positive attention to you. Any of those things will help establish you as an authority.
Justin: Everybody thinks of a viral video as being “I want to do this crazy, zany idea”. That’s not the case, necessarily. Or people are like, “How can I make a viral video for my company? I don’t fit the mold. I’m not Doritos.”
John: Law firms, for example. A medical malpractice law firm may not be the best choice necessarily, for a viral video.
Justin: Right, unless they wanted to do something that was very educational that was in their general world, like the history of…You know what I mean? It’s doesn’t have to be — it’s just something sharable and educational.
John: You can’t think about it as always — viral is not necessarily funny.
Jimmy: It’s just sharable, that’s it.
John: For example, McDougall Interactive, how could I make my YouTube channel more sharable?
Jimmy: Well, consistently put out content.
Justin: Yeah, consistency’s big. Brand everything. And think, again, what is sharable? You’re on the Internet. You work in the Internet.
John: You have to broaden it out, you’re saying? Don’t think just — we’ve had this conversation before, and I would say, “Let’s do the history of SEO.” You might say something more broad than that.
Jimmy: At the same time, it’s still important to have a thing. The SEO guy that’s such‑and‑such.
John: Right, like Rand Fishkin, from Moz. He wears yellow sneakers at conferences. He has a funny handlebar mustache, he has Whiteboard Fridays. I think what you’re saying is create a thing, a little schtick, and you have to do that to brand yourself on YouTube.
Justin: Right, and you can go viral even in your specific practice area. For you, maybe a video gets 30,000 views, everybody involved in SEO watched it. It depends. It doesn’t have to be eight million people.
John: If the density of your small community, the amount of people in that community, 30,000 would be a lot.
Jimmy: Also, it’s like targeted marketing. Depending on what your goal is, if it’s to reach potential clients, if you’re an attorney that has a specific kind of case, you’re not going to try to reach every person in the US. No, you’re targeting a specific person.
John: Yeah, so viral success within niches. How can YouTube popularity lead to media appearances?
Justin: We have some examples of that. We’ve been featured on “The Today Show” for one of the videos that we did. It was “Cat Friend vs. Dog Friend”. We happened to make a video. It started to go viral. We thought it would be a good fit for “The Today Show.” It’s family friendly.
We searched online, found a contact, gave them a call, said we had a great piece of content here for you. With the 24/7 news cycle, most shows, websites, they want content. They’ve got to keep the content flowing.
If you approach them with a good piece of content that fits whatever their audience is, most people are going to embrace it. To do a little bit of that legwork can help not only make your own thing go viral, but also get you on a television show, as well. We’ve had that happen a few times.
John: What was relevant about “Cat Friend/Dog Friend” at that particular time? Were they doing something on that topic?
Jimmy: It just happened to be that Meredith Vieira was being interviewed about some book, and it was pet related. It fit perfectly. It didn’t fit perfectly, necessarily, with the content, but it fit enough.
John: You just called them?
Jimmy: Yeah. Another thing, too, we did around Christmas is we made a parody about Rudolf. It was related to the media’s obsession with calling people out like witch hunts. And Fox News, the “Fox Five at Five” panel discussed the video. Like Justin said, media outlets need content.
If you can produce something that, ideally, is quality, but something that people can discuss and it’s timely and it’s relevant, obviously these things all increase your chances.
John: And if you have no media experience at all, probably better that they see you on YouTube, “Hey, they might make a good guest,” right?
Jimmy: Yeah, for sure.
Justin: They’re going to learn if you’re personable. They get a better reflection on your character and how you present yourself than just in a blog post. You might be a great writer, but you might not be the best guest. So it’s like a proving ground, you could say, to have YouTube videos.
John: What about your competitors, again? In the sketch group comedy world, who are some of the people that you look up to? Or not necessarily look up to, but who are some of the people out there that you have to keep an eye on, because they are making some ground?
Justin: We’ve crushed all of our competition. I’m not sure there’s anything left to reference.
Jimmy: I’d say the only people, one sketch group that we both were big fans of, actually, are on SNL now, “Good Neighbor.” It’s been fun to watch them make the transition to television, and we’d watch their stuff.
John: That’s pretty rare, right?
Jimmy: Yeah. I’d definitely say it’s very rare. But again, it was a good sign to us, because we feel like we have similar sensibilities, similar sense of humor. They have successfully made the transition into television. They weren’t very “YouTube-y”.
John: How is YouTube really different from comedy on TV?
Justin: YouTube is this massive ocean. There are so many different forms of comedy of everything. What we find that’s the most popular on YouTube, as far as comedy goes, it seems like it’s more towards a younger audience.
John: There is a lot of silly stuff. Cat videos and all.
Jimmy: Yeah. Very zany. Everyone’s like, oh, short attention spans, but that really is the case. You’re going into a YouTube video with, I think, a completely different mindset as opposed to watching a movie or a television show. You’re sitting there invested. You want to see something, a story, some unique perspective.
A lot of videos that go on YouTube are just “10 things that I hate that happened at the movies”, and then it’s just clips of “don’t you hate when people chew, don’t you hate when people keep putting their jacket on”. They’re just saying things that happen. Those things are the kind of things that go crazy viral.
John: What it says is that you need to know the medium that you’re going after. If you want to be on comedy on YouTube, you would need to do that. If you want to be on history on YouTube, there would be a way to get popular and look at what’s going on there.
The same if you want to get on MTV and you want to have a show on there. They have a certain style that needs to fit in there. So you need to know the medium.
Jimmy: It sounds cheesy and generic to say it, but stay true to yourself. “Be authentic” is going to be, you’ll find, the easiest avenue to be successful. For our comedy, we’ve always considered dumbing it down or changing it, adjusting it to reach a wider audience.
Sometimes we have adjusted things, but we still need to be doing what we’re good at, and not trying to cash in on something else. That helps.
Justin: It’s definitely that balance. It’s an interesting situation. Let’s say you want to be a painter. You’re like, “I want to make a living from being a painter. I don’t want to just be a painter, I want to make a living.” And you start painting things that just you like. And you’re like, “I love this,” but everybody’s like, “I don’t love it.”
Now you can’t make a living. You’ve got to find people who love it, too. It’s definitely that balance. Jimmy and I have conversations about this all the time. I think there’s definitely a line where if you’re going to be in entertainment, the only way that you become successful and can make a living in, like, what we’re doing, is other people have to like it. If there’s no audience, you can’t make a living. Sometimes you have to adjust a little bit how you’re going to go about — if we want to make a video that maybe we’re like, “This is too random. Nobody’s going to get this,” right? Or we could do the same kind of sensibilities but base it on something everybody can relate to. We can still bring our flavor to it, make the kind of jokes we want to make.
But instead of making it about “wouldn’t it be crazy if dolphins could talk” or something, we make it about “let’s make a video that pokes fun at the concept of engagement rings”. We did that, and it went viral. It’s definitely a balancing act.
For anybody that’s involved in anything creative, you’re always walking that line between “I want to be me, but I also want to make a living, too”. I think a lot of people can relate to it.
John: What I find interesting is a lot of people would just assume that a lot of the things that go popular on YouTube are very spontaneous. It sounds like, in order to make those things happen, you have to be true to yourself, whether it’s comedy stuff or a law firm, even.
Then you do have to produce it a bit. You have to think about how it’s going to reach the audience.
Justin: Yeah, for sure. It’s not even necessarily about being true to yourself. There’s probably people out there who make things like, “I don’t even like this, but it sells, so I keep doing it.” It’s picking a thing and reproducing it.
So if people like your sensibilities, your kind of comedy, and they go and watch your other videos and it’s not that at all, they’re like “oh, I don’t like this.” So, it’s trying to have your thing. Then you can build your audience, regardless if that’s comedy or if you’re a health guru. Whatever it is, having your thing and sticking to it.
John: You have to have a repeatable, almost a show, if you will.
Jimmy: That’s why I feel like the biggest channels on YouTube are people, individuals, not necessarily “this is a channel about dogs”. It’s “this kid makes videos”. It’s people just connect to a person. They connect to a personality. When they go to the channel, even if they’re making one about videos, and the next one’s about clothes or something like that, they know what to expect from that person. Because that’s them, whether or not they have a gimmick.
I think that applies to any business, too, especially if someone wants to establish themselves as an authority. It’s like creating that personal connection.
John: Absolutely. Those are some great tips, guys, and I appreciate you being here today. Good to see you.
Justin: Thanks for having us.
Jimmy: Thank you.
John: Good. Thanks, everyone, for joining us again on workingdemosite.com/authority. You’ve been listening to John McDougall and Jimmy Craig and Justin Parker from Methodloft and FatAwesome.