How I Grew My YouTube Following

When I’m in Turkey there’s a barber I like to pop into in the coastal town of Kusadasi. He gives me what, in Turkey, I call “the standard”: haircut, shave, arm, hand, neck, ear, temple massage and wraps it all up my setting fire to stray clippings on my face and neck with an open flame.

This time, however, my wife videotaped the affair – I use the word advisedly – and as you can see he couldn’t resist giving me a little extra business. Anyway, I posted it to YouTube and it began spreading quite quickly – several thousand views right off the bat – and as of this writing is at around 40,000 views.

This is not the only humorous clip on my YouTube channel – I am a comedian after all – but the speed with which this clip spread was an order of magnitude faster than any of my others. I checked out Youtube’s handy analytics and quickly discovered the source of its popularity: someone had posted it to a fetish website catering to – I’m going out on a limb here – men who enjoy other men being tickled.

So my advice for success on YouTube is, unlike my Turkish barber, is to forget “playing to the balcony” and seek out a niche audience – kids obsessed with Star Wars, housewives aching for cute cat videos, men who crave to see other men being tickled with varying degrees of permission – and let them spread the good word for you.

Mass Marketing Is Suicide

Do you know anyone who can’t name a single song by one of the most-successful show-business acts of all time, The Rolling Stones? What about a song Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber?

If these performers don’t appeal to everybody – or even a majority – it’s not because they don’t market to everybody, it’s because no one appeals to everybody. Your Frank Sinatra fan is generally not your Elvis fan who is not generally your Led Zeppelin fan. Take a moment and imagine any of the above performers marketing themselves to the masses instead of a niche (young English blues fans from the ’60’s, gay male Manhattanites or pre- and early-teen girls, respectively). To the extent that these entities appeal to the masses is not because they were marketed to the masses but because they marketed themselves to a very small group of people who were pre-disposed and who couldn’t help themselves from spreading news of the object of their fanaticism.

Service providers like to tell you about their successes, giving the (deliberate) impression that that’s all they know: success. I hope this doesn’t shock you, but service providers are just like everyone else – they experience failure on average as much as everybody else (even more often, if they’re working hard). Once I received an email from one of my agents informing me that an upcoming two-week contract was being cancelled because of my performance for the same “international” demographic was not particularly well received. You and I know that “international audiences” really means two things: non-English speaking and lowest-common denominator appeal. Was I upset? You bet – if only because I was counting on the income. Did I (and, by extension, my agent) panic? Of course not: we learned something more valuable than the lost income: that my audience is Anglo. If you learned that your audiences was freckled, might you use this information and focus more marketing in Ireland?

Concluding from this experience that I’m probably not the best choice for international audiences is only half the lesson. In fact, it’s less than half the lesson. The main point is who DO I appeal to : the English-speaking world. Call me crazy, but somehow I think this is a sufficient fraction of the world’s population off whom one can earn a living. Indeed, more successful entrepreneurs have done very well marketing to a tiny fraction of that world. The next time a “mostly-Latin” or “international audience” or an “America’s Got Talent!” demographic (pre-teen girls) is in play I – and others – know that I’m not your guy. But that’s like knowing the earth is “mostly flat” – when the earth is, in fact, mostly round. When opportunities arise for an “entirely-English speaking” audience arises (one can whittle it down much, much narrower), who do you think they’ll go with: me or a unicyclist?

This is no put-down of “international performers” or anyone else who resonates with markets other than my own. That there are two sides of the coin is precisely the point. All things being equal, I would prefer to appeal more to the English-speaking world than the non-English speaking world, just as I would rather appeal to internet users than non-internet users; to loudmouths rather than to wallflowers; to early-adopters rather than the mass of wait-and-sees.

It’s tempting and perfectly understandable to market to the masses, but it is a waste of time and money. You’ll get a far better return on your investment going after those who are already receptive to what you have to offer.


When You Run Over A Deer In Germany You’re Supposed To Call A Hunter

A while ago, in Germany, I was driving home late at night as my wife slept in the passenger seat. Quick as lightning, the head of a deer pierced the beam of the driver’s side headlight followed by a weirdly satisfying “thump”. I’m not sure what woke my wife – the thump or my involuntary gasp – but I immediately told her what was obvious to me: that I had just hit a deer. My wife, characteristically, didn’t believe me. “But I saw it” I protested. “I hit it right in the head.” It was after midnight, we were tired, our young son was sleeping in the backseat and we were on the autobahn. These factors, along with my wife’s skepticism about what had occurred, contributed to our decision to continue driving through the night. Also, I didn’t know any better.

When we pulled into our driveway, I turned off the engine instead of making the white-knuckle, thread-the-needle maneuver that is parking your car in a middle-class German garage. I stepped out of the car, approached the driver’s-side headlight and there, sure enough, was a dent about the size of a basketball. It was hard to tell what amazed my wife more: that I had hit a deer or that I was correct in stating that I had hit a deer. Anyway, I pulled into the garage, we carried the kid and our things upstairs and decided we would deal with the details tomorrow.

My wife called her insurance company who sent out an agent. Having inspected our car he decided, to our surprise, that there was no evidence that we had hit a deer: no blood, no fur, etc. My wife took this personally, suggesting that it meant that the insurance company viewed her claim exactly as she had initially viewed mine: as “less than factual”.

Another contributing factor, she explained, was our failure to telephone, immediately after impact, either the correct government agency or an area hunter. With no confirmation that I had killed the deer outright, an injured deer can go a little nuts and pose a danger to others. This  fascinated me no end. How does that work, exactly, at two in the morning?

“Hi,  my name is David Deeble. I’m sorry to wake you but I just hit a deer out here on the A2. Anyway, it all happened so fast that I can’t be sure if I killed it outright and I thought maybe you could come out here and make sure the job gets finished. Can you help me out?”