There’s been a lot of talk about censorship on social media lately. Lots of it is legit. A lot of it is just ignoring.
To ignore is to say, “Say what you want, I have the right to make sure nobody hears it.” To censor is to say, “Say what you want and I’ll get you shamed, fired, arrested, or killed.”
Most of us probably experience more ignoring.
Social media ignores content that is irrelevant. Your followers won’t see your content because the filter eliminates irrelevant crap to make everyone happy and consuming ads. It’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.
Most social media have a relevance-based distribution structure. The “relevance” is based on two things:
- broad social relevance
- your brand
I’m not a very topical guy, so the goal has always been to build a specific brand and capitalize off that, regardless of the latest TikTok dance move or whose hair the president is sniffing. Below is a quick analysis of all the major social media platforms and how branding seems to work on them.
Branding on YouTube was a struggle for years. The brand was something like “cool, creative fight scenes”. With this brand, I peaked out at 1000 subscribers on my channel between 2005 and 2012.
Then I released Vader Strikes, it went viral, and my subscribers jumped to 10,000 overnight.
I then uploaded some short films to capitalize off my tenfold increase in viewership. Unfortunately most of the comments were, “Dude, where’s Vader?” We released some similar GoPro-filmed fps-style movies filmed the way we did Vader, but these weren’t received as well. So we released two more (superior) Vader films, which received a fraction of the original’s attention.
Two things happened here:
- I missed my chance to capitalize off Darth Vader. Had we followed up immediately with more, regular Vader content, we might have become the official “Star Wars fight brand“. This new audience didn’t care so much about the GoPro/FPS fight fight scenes, they just wanted Vader. When we released the 2 later Vader films, the enthusiasm was gone. Whether this was YouTube’s doing or the audience realized they had been conned into subscribing to some stunt guy’s channel, we lost most of our steam after the first release.
- I wasn’t conscious of our brand. The huge amount of traffic driven to the YouTube channel expected a “Star Wars brand“, but it was supposed to be a “cool, creative fight scene” brand. If I had wanted to brand us as the Star Wars fight scene channel, then this was the way to start it.
The YouTube channel slowly grew to around 20,000 subscribers over the next few years. Films like Rope A Dope helped boost the quality of subscribers. The brand changed and became “cool, creative action storytelling“.
We had a healthy stream of subscribers who then wanted “cool, creative action storytelling”. Seems most of the Vader fans had either walked away or turned away from the dark side to this better brand.
Then I released my first Tekken In Real Life video where I did Hwaorang’s movelist.
The video went viral, so made 30 more Tekken In Real Life (IRL) videos over the course of the next year, and my channel rocketed to about 120,000 subscribers. The good news was this landed me a job as Kratos, which more than made up for the year of labor that went into these videos.
The bad news was that I was now the Tekken IRL guy.
What’s the brand? I asked myself. Is it “Eric does video game stuff in real life“? Is it “creative action that transcends the film medium”? Or is it just “Tekken In Real Life”?
The Hotline Miami and Doom releases afterward didn’t mean much to this new subscriber base. Anything else we released got the comment, “Dude, where’s Tekken?” The brand had shifted to “Tekken IRL guy”.
This wasn’t entirely bad. I’ve made a living off doing motion capture ever since. But was I ready to shift brands? Or could I go back to the “cool, creative action storytelling” brand?
Blindsided: The Game did garner a heap of attention, so the better brand seemed to have stuck.
After doing God of War, I co-founded SuperAlloy and started making a bunch of 3D action films. This has had some positive results, but there’s been no huge uptick in subscribers or viewers:
Bottom line: YouTube is a solid distribution platform with a high preference for brand-relevance. Censorship issues aside, it continues to be the best video platform out there. Attempting to make money via ad revenue is a 60-hour-a-week job and not advised for people specializing in action movies. Making money via sponsorship is obviously doable but you’ll find yourself becoming a full-time editor. For action brand purposes the best use of YouTube is sending out YouTube links to secure contracts. Just be careful how you brand yourself, as your new subscribers might be expecting more of the thing that brought them there, and they won’t care about the stuff you made before that.
My Facebook page sat at a thousand followers for years. In 2015, after Tekken IRL, it jumped to 50k. With a friend’s help I ran some ads and more than doubled that to 120k by end of 2016. Every one of the page’s followers wants Tekken. There’s almost zero traction on anything else. Brand is officially “Tekken IRL guy”.
Even Kung Fu vs. Zombies got almost nothing.
The last thing that received any traction was a video where I blew up a heavy bag.
News that I was Kratos got a bit of traction
Interestingly, this post requesting a Reddit AMA got a good chunk of traction:
But, only 0.5% of those likes (if any) translated into upvotes on Reddit:
Bottom line: I still have no idea what good a FB page is if you’re not selling vitamins or fitness classes. Translating a page like into a contract is almost impossible. Off-brand posts are almost totally invisible to your followers.
(As of writing this post I’m planning to shut down both my personal profile and public page. I know I said that a month ago. The only thing stopping me is some contact-gathering from my friends list.)
My Twitter follower base has experienced a more steady increase over the course of 12 years. In 2020 I started posting action breakdown threads and I saw a slightly accelerated increase in followers. These breakdown posts averaged around 60 likes, many of which are very high quality eyes that could translate into contracts (stunt coordinator positions, consulting, etc.).
Then a political thing happened, and instead of posting about the political thing, I posted another action breakdown. It received 0 likes. It seems Twitter wanted me to be socially relevant first and brand-relevant second.
The last hot thread was the Red vs. Blue Zero breakdown.
Historical or anthropological threads like this one on the history of boxing get almost nothing. Maybe Twitter sees these as totally non-socially relevant.
Bottom line: Twitter followers are very high quality and personal and can translate easily to contracts. However, Twitter seems more geared toward social-relevance than brand-relevance. So conveying important info to one’s audience on Twitter can be tricky. Still, it’s better than Facebook for converting views into contracts.
There’s a lot of temptation to advertise fitness products and get free junk on Instagram. I’ve done it a few times, but it was a huge time suck.
I capped out at around 14k subscribers on Instagram. Most of them wanted Tekken stuff. It was just too much effort. The 1-minute limit wasn’t enough to tell “cool, creative action stories” the way I do on YouTube.
Instagram is a good talent sourcing platform, but the top talent are at the tip top of the food chain. Good luck climbing that mountain.
I shut my Instagram account down. That sh*t is addictive.
LI is great for tech, bad for stunts. You can post the best stunt reel or action choreography in the world on LinkedIn and it won’t go anywhere. But if you film yourself modeling a cube in 3D you’ll 50 contact requests from India.
(BTW: Here’s a quick, free way to get hired full-time at a game or movie studio next month. Go learn Unreal for a few weeks, make a 3D previz like this, and post it on LinkedIn. You’ll get hired. Filmmaking skills a plus.)
I don’t try to boost my LI followers with articles. My profile is for networking and getting contracts.
Bottom line: LinkedIn is a great way to generate contracts, but when it comes to entertainment, only techies need apply.
Blogging every 6 months does nothing. Blogging regularly helps generate a steady audience. Posting something extremely important can launch you into the stratosphere. I posted once about how to author a Blu-Ray disc for an indie film and discovered I was the only blog on the planet to crack this issue. This single post translated into 5 contracts who all asked me to make their Blu-Ray BDCMFs, which came out to something like $3,000.
BTW thanks for reading this blog. I hope you’re subscribed!
Telegram has a hierarchical channel feature. If you subscribe to my channel, you get my content unfiltered.
Try it out (you can even just view it in a browser): http://t.me/ericjacobus
Usually, by subscribing to a person’s channel you can look forward to a stream of unwanted rants and cat videos, but I promise I’ll keep things brand-relevant.
Branding is critical. If you build a brand that’s high in demand, you can expect to grow your audience.
If you just want to be culturally-relevant or topical, you’ll get tossed around like a rag doll, with the upside being a chance of being a viral sensation with a ton of ad revenue, or snagging a writing job for Vice.
How do you monetize your personal brand? There’s always ad revenue, sponsorships, or paid advertising. You could also direct ad traffic to a store to sell stuff. I had very little success doing this with Death Grip, Contour, and the other films we did and eventually shut our store down.
Or you turn your highest quality viewers into contracts – coordinating jobs, consulting, misc. production jobs, etc. Then you’re not worried about views and subs. Your #1 priority then is quality.
For this guy, I’m focusing on the blog and working on building my Telegram channel. So please subscribe to both!