I first learned about Matt Gielen (Director of Programming and Audience Development for Frederator) and his brilliance two years ago at VidCon, in what I believe is the best format they have ever used in the history of the conference – the round table discussions (VidCon, bring these back please). At that time Matt’s main message was about consistency, whether that be format, thumbnails, or the time/date of your postings. I caught up with Matt to learn about Frederator’s current strategy for winning on YouTube, and despite the fact he is a Michigan Wolverines fan, he knows how to win.

ReelSEO: What is your #1 top tip for video creators and marketers for winning on YouTube?

matt gielen frederator channelMatt: First and foremost, establish clear, realistic and achievable goals and then put a plan together to achieve those goals. A lot of times I am speaking with content creators or video marketers and they don’t focus on that aspect or set achievable goals early in the process and are still operating on the early days of YouTube where great content could rise on its own.

When you’re talking about YouTube now, that’s just not part of the game anymore. The organic viewership from YouTube is not something you can completely depend on. Use an inorganic message to achieve an organic audience.

Secondly, utilize TrueView and Display ads to drive traffic to videos and drive them to watch more videos. We have successfully done that within our network for our own brands for the creators we support.

ReelSEO: What sorts of things does Frederator do differently from other MCNs to provide value for smaller YouTube channels?

Matt: We spend a tremendous amount of time communicating with the creators in our network. That comes in the form of what is essentially a forum optimized for conversation, where about 75% of our members participate. That has been hugely beneficial in terms of fostering collaborations.

We also do a monthly newsletter. As part of that we feature a program called the creator intensive program where on a rolling basis we have YouTube strategists working with creators in our network for 4-6 weeks at a time. They focus on best practices from a basic level to an extremely advanced level to get channels performing as well as they can. We’ve seen unbelievable growth in this with channels getting 50 to 150% growth in subscribers in a month by working with our strategists. So at any given time we are working with 15-20 individual creators in this program, all with less than 100k subscribers.

“The average channel, with less than 100k subscribers, grows by 20% month over month with Frederator”.

Two of our most unique things have are the shows “Saturday Morning Cartoon” and “Tooned Up”. “Saturday Morning Cartoon”, which we put on channel Frederator, features 6 different creators from our network each Saturday, with big calls to action to go check out their channels. It has driven hundreds of thousands of subscribers and millions of views. It has just done really well for our creators.

‘Tooned Up’ is another show on channel Frederator, kinda like BuzzFeed for cartoons. We pay them to make that content and then give them a revenue share. It’s a great way not just to earn revenue but to also get their brand out there and drive viewers back to their channel. I’m really excited about the metrics of “Tooned Up”, we launched in January as a series and this month with all 18 episodes it did about 2 million views. So “Tooned Up” is really growing and I think it’s going to be a boon for some of the smaller channels in our network.

We also have about 8 hangouts a month with our YouTube strategists where we just review best practices with new creators.

ReelSEO: Are there any other easy “tricks” you use today to help boost viewership?

Matt: With TrueView we try to make our ads have a great thumbnail. The thumbnail is your movie billboard or your late night talk show appearances or your trailer for a big movie premier. It pretty much all comes down to that great custom thumbnail. The thumbnail and title combination is the equivalent to those more traditional methods of video promotion. Thumbnails optimized for YouTube should be very clickable.

We try to make titles that are very interesting to whatever search term we are going for or whatever video we are trying to play the ad on, but also still relevant to our video. So we’ll do Bee-and-puppycat
some advertising for one of our properties “Bee and PuppyCat” and one of the top titles is “Is he a Puppy or a Cat?”. That works well because it creates an information gap and they click to fill that gap. From there Natasha Allegri and the team has created a tremendous series that really resonates with audiences, especially female audiences and that has been extremely helpful to the success of the TrueView campaigns and to the audience development we do for Cartoon Hangover.

It’s very hard to market something that’s not great and that series definitely has a luxury of getting to market pretty awesome content and film from amazing creators.

ReelSEO: Would you say that good marketing beats good content if one doesn’t have the other?

Matt: You are asking someone who is clearly biased but I’d still say no. Great content can still do great without great marketing, but great marketing can’t make bad content good.

ReelSEO: How do you measure the value of a view or are you chasing another metric?

Matt: The primary metric we look at is actually the duration of viewership. YouTube doesn’t show any sort of analytic to session watch-time just yet, for example how long does a unique user stay on one of your videos or within your ecosystem of videos. So what we’re looking at is, if we release a 10 minute video are people watching at least 6 to 7 minutes of the video. If people are watching 60-70% of a 10 minute video, we know that video will do pretty well within the algorithm. Then we look at another metric that YouTube doesn’t show by default with is views per unique. It’s a little bit muddy of a metric where you actually have to extract out mobile viewers because they don’t count uniques from mobile views to come up with your views per unique number. That views per unique number will help give you a better estimation of overall session time.

So once you get your individual video’s watch time high and then you can also get your overall session time high, the algorithm will pretty much take care of the rest. People are always chasing views and trying to expand their brand for the most part, the way to go about that is focusing on watch time and session time.

ReelSEO: Is there a sweet spot of views per unique that is an indicator that something is doing well?

Matt: Typically we try and look for channels that are doing more than 2 or 3 views per unique, but the best place to be is in the 4 views per unique area. Anything above that is just fantastic.

ReelSEO: Are there any other platforms you think come close to YouTube or any platforms you think creators must be on?

Matt: A report just came out that Facebook is doing 4 million “views” per day. That’s a lot of views that would put them pretty close to what YouTube does on an individual day but YouTube hasn’t publicly released their daily view numbers, I believe, since 2012 publicly.

“So if you’re not uploading to Facebook natively at the moment, it’s still a platform you want to pay pretty close attention to”.

ReelSEO: If you were somebody with little to no budget, what would you focus on first after thumbnail and title?

Matt: Make sure what you are posting is YouTube friendly content, content that is already doing well on YouTube, with the exception of video game commentary. I feel like that market is just way overly saturated. That would be one of the first places I would look. Then I would also spend a lot of time just figuring out my programming strategy. I don’t mean just what content, but how are you going to promote that content, where are you going to promote it and what is the packaging around that content and how are you going to encourage people to come back without having to get prompted by YouTube or social networks.

That’s things like programming schedule, call to action and communicating directly with the audience. I’d make sure you’ve optimized your metadata, and I know that’s a catch all term, but there are a lot of sources that can tell you how to properly format a title, put together a description, tags and upload a caption file. Just the good, general video SEO basics. Beyond that, make sure you’re sharing on your own personal social networks and ask other people to share. I know there is a bit of a backlash in video marketing where for a time you just had to ask people to subscribe. Then there was backlash where that was no longer the cool thing to do. But your audience wants to help you, they want to be told how they can help you. They watch, they care about you, they want you to succeed. So telling them how they can do that helps your audience. So asking people to share content on their own social networks, commenting on the video, those are all ways to help your audience grow without having a budget.

Finally, make sure you are putting out press releases when you release new videos and sending those out to relevant blogs and forums that would be interested in covering those stories. There are also a lot of resources out there that can show you how to properly format a press release and establish a relationship with writers and bloggers that have an audience and are looking for content that that might draw.

That or you could just film yourself opening up a bunch of toys for 20 minutes.…………

ReelSEO: Now let’s flip it. Say you have a never-ending pool of money, what would be the first thing you do to promote a video?

Matt: I would do two things with it. First and foremost I would use it to fund production with other YouTubers. So basically collaborations. Not only is that great as an audience driver but it expands your network of friends and fellow creators. You can help them on their projects, you can help them on theirs and as you both grow together you can tap into each other’s’ resources to help you continue growing.

The other one would be driving traffic through TrueView video advertising.

ReelSEO: How many social media networks are you on and how critical is it to be active on multiple networks?

Matt: We’re actually on 7 platforms with over 50 accounts for our various properties. We pretty much experiment with any platforms of note. So when Meerkat kinda blew up the other week we experimented with that and Periscope and Snapchat. We’re big believers in trying new things out and being early adopters to all the new social media platforms in large part because it allows us to communicate with our audience where ever they are. One of the number one things we try and do across all our properties, and be the best at, is communicating with our audience.

One of the things we did that was unique on ‘Cartoon Hangover‘ is that we set up the channel, and from the start, we always tried to make it a place where it was a channel with a lot of different shows. One of the main things we try and do is remind people that we are a channel, with a lot of different things coming out, and not just a show page, which a lot of YouTube channels are. Most YouTube channels have a single show and they just do that single show. But we’ve set Cartoon Hangover up to be a place where we can distribute many different types of shows and that really provides a tremendous amount of opportunity for independent animators to have a place where they can not just produce their content through Frederator studios, but also distribute that content and it’s going to get well received by a wider audience.

cartoon hangover frederator channel

ReelSEO: Did you have to train the audience to accept more than one thing? Subscribers often leave if there is more than one show on a channel.

Matt: We still run into that quite a bit where we see a comment where somebody says something like, “We only subscribed for Bee and PuppyCat, what is this?” but for us it’s just about trying to communicate, communicate, communicate.

There are a number of shows that are just straight communication. We have a show called “CH News” which is just straight Cartoon Hangover news where we come on air and give an update for what is coming, who is behind it and promote the newest episodes that are coming up. Beyond that our e-mail list is really strong, we’ve really tried to spend a lot of time building that up through our social networks. So just making sure we’re communicating to make sure our audience knows what’s coming and they are prepared for it. The worst thing you could do is give your audience something they don’t want so we always try and lay the groundwork that they know what to expect from us.

ReelSEO: What is your most memorable fan interaction?

Matt: I was on a community panel with a bunch of popular YouTubers and after the panel these two teenagers came up to me and asked for my autograph and it completely made my day. It was the best thing ever, I can understand why creators do this, and it’s the best feeling ever. They probably didn’t know who I was or just thought I was a creator of some of our shows, but either way I would totally get addicted to this if I were a creator, it was such an amazing feeling. You made someone’s day, you provided them joy and entertainment, it’s such an amazing feeling. That’s why it’s so great to work with creators all the time because you get to help them make more people happy. If that’s not the coolest job in the world I don’t know what is.

We’d like to thank Matt for his time and for this absolutely awesome interview. Be sure to subscribe to the Frederator channel on YouTube if you are a fan of cartoons – or of great video marketing.