One of my highlights from VidCon this year was a chat I had with the ladies from SketchShe – Shae-Lee, Lana and Madison. The Australian comedy threesome are perhaps most well-known for their lip sync videos in the car including Mime Through Time and Bohemian Carsody. They had a few moments to sit down with me and share some insight into how to handle quick growth, working with brands and turning viral success into long-term success.
SketchShe’s most-watched video to date is ‘Mime Through Time’ which has generated 36.9M views on YouTube, 23M on those occurred in the first 30 days after upload! The trio have 790K subscribers on YouTube, and have generated over 90M views on the platform since December 2014. They have a social media following of over 2.8M.
Finding Long-term Success on YouTube
TubularInsights – How do you take the viral success and make it something long-term?
L – You back it up. And you keep going and you kind of expand on what works. It’s relatability, friendship, fun in those videos that people really loved. That’s why people were tagging their friends in, let’s do this, this reminds me of us, I guess it’s taking those kinds of concepts and applying them to sketches from now on and in a lot of ways sort of in the car, we did one recently about Instagram and how people create fake Instagram photos and the kind of reality behind that. But it’s relatable, it’s something a lot of people are guilty of or you know someone who is guilty of, so it’s just keeping that in mind and making sure your content is authentic to you. We wouldn’t do anything that didn’t fit our brand for the sake of views, it wouldn’t work.
M – I think that’s why a strong brand vision, the sooner you can figure out what your thing is and why people are engaging with you, the better position you are in to replicate it again. Some channels are very specific . . . ours is a bit more of everything.
S – Don’t be afraid to try something. You never know. We had the car thing and that was amazing for ages and we’ve done our musical now, and we’ve done lots of other things. Sketches are what we did initially, but then coming back to doing sketch, that has been the thing we’ve had the most success with as of late. You’ve got to keep evolving too because people want to see you do different things. There will always be that one person that’s like, “I like when you do that stuff in the car and I don’t really like anything else”.
It’s like, guys, we have to be evolving and doing other things outside of what is in the car. So if you keep it varied and you keep pushing the envelope and trying to do new things, and know that sometimes it’s not going to work, but sometimes you’ll hit that golden little combination of things and then it’s a huge success. Remembering though, that when things don’t get massive views, that doesn’t mean the people that did see it didn’t enjoy it and didn’t think it was amazing.
There are certain videos that didn’t get massive views, but then to certain fans it was their favorite video that you’ve ever done. So it’s not like putting success always in the amount of views of a thing, sometimes it’s the impact on the people that do see it. They may absolutely love it, but it may be missing that one thing that makes them go, “Oh, my mum does that so I’ll share it with her”.
M – Watermark your videos because if you didn’t and they go viral, you’re screwed!
L – Be creative about your end card. At the end of Mime Through Time we end up being naked as Miley Cyrus and the three black bars with SketchShe subscribe came up and it all came into the middle and apparently was one of the most effective subscriber .
Do you face any troubles balancing what the fans want to see vs what you want to do as creators?
M – Oh 100%.
S – Even the musical, that was a full on six-month production with so much time, energy and effort that went into that and the amount of people, it’s not heaps, that are like “nah, I like your original videos in the car”. We put so much work into this, so much heart and soul, how can you not see it’s the same kind of thing, but they just have their mind set on I want to see you guys dancing in the car. But then I can still say I much prefer people saying that and then other people being like, “wow this is amazing” as opposed to the few people that when we were doing a bit of the car stuff that were like “you guys are getting old, you have no talent”. I think I’d prefer people to want that every now and again and everyone else have more of a respect for us. That was a hard thing I think initially when we had done sketches for six months before we put anything online, the car videos were kind of what set us off, and most people that didn’t do their research were like “oh this is just what you guys do and you don’t do anything else”. Even on my personal Instagram I put writer, director, performer and I sometimes get people that are like, “oh yea, what you get one viral video and what you call yourself a writer/director”, no actually I’ve been doing this for seven years and people just don’t go further enough to do the research to see that you do other things and have other talents besides lip syncing in the car.
M – Sometimes there are just practical reasons why we can’t do certain things. Some people will say, why don’t you do this? Really? We thought of that but that video would cost us about a hundred grand. If you’d like to donate I’d be happy to create that video for you, but in the meantime we’ll have to try something a little bit more manageable.
Influencer Marketing Tips
What sort of top tips would you give to brands working with influencers?
S – You have got to be able to know that influencers know their audience best. If you try to make them do something that isn’t authentic to them, they’ll smell it a mile off and they will hate it.
L – The fans will disengage.
S – It’s not worth the money. It’s knowing that it’s a bit of a dance and if you’re working with an influencer it’s different to working with somebody you’re just employing to do a straight ad. If you respect that the influencer has a voice and you can feed into that, then the results will be better for everyone. But there is still money involved, there is still a brand that needs to get exposure, so you have to do something that feels organic to both. For influencers, work with brands that are a natural fit.
M – Particularly in Australia, we’re all little bit behind the States in terms of brands recognizing the influencers influence, so that would be another tip. Really highlight your value so that you do get paid accordingly and that you can make a piece of content, like Shae said, that’s authentic to you and that still gets the brand message across.
What would you say to the brands that haven’t turned to working with YouTubers yet?
L – It’s not just an actor, actress or a model that you’re putting in your video, you’re taking your brand and accompanying it with someone who has all of these followers and all of these dedicated people that will want everything that say Lily Singh is wearing that have a dedicated 9 million views and people that want to engage.
M – And you can piggy back off the power of that creator’s brand and also some of the other brands that they may have been associated with. So if you’re a small brand and you’re doing a video with SketchShe and SketchShe have done an ad for CocaCola or something, people are then associating SketchShe with that other huge huge label and it can actually work for you in that way too if you kinda dig a little bit deeper and see what the history of collaborations have been with that influencer as well.
S – I think you also basically get a production house in one. Basically an agency, a production house, the creative art, all these things that you usually have to go to sort of a brand goes to an agency to help them with this stuff. You’re plugging into a whole other creative brain that can produce this stuff for themselves so that value for money is a lot better because we can shoot and create and come up with the ideas and do everything so much cheaper than what they can. You don’t have a middle man. Sometimes I don’t think we’re charging enough (laugh).
L – And it is guaranteed views. It’s crazy that they don’t approach them more but you can see that there is definitely a shift in brands approaching influencers over the traditional actors and models.
Do you tend to reach out more or have brands approach you?
L – It’s a little bit of both. We have a wish list, but we do have brands approaching us. Like Shae was saying they want us to pitch together ideas and it’s so crazy, if a brand comes to us and we pitch ten ideas and then they don’t pick any of them or we see the ad a few months later and they have taken a similar concept, we’re like “oh really!”. You almost don’t want to give that creative out.
S – There is a difficult thing happening as well now. Brands are going to an agency, maybe four or five agencies are pitching for that job. Then those agencies will reach out to us and say, “hey we’re pitching for this job, what ideas do you have” and they haven’t even landed the job yet, so there is a lot of wasted time there. You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity, but you’re also giving your time and your energy to something that isn’t even guaranteed for the person that has reached out to you. So it is a bit tough.
M – That’s where having good management and good relationships with those creative houses and ad agencies can come in handy. If you’ve done work with an agency before, you know they are going to put you in their pitches to big brands. We’re just now starting to see some of the same agencies coming back because they’ve had a positive experience. The more brands deals we do, the more opportunity there is because we can have an actual example of something now that is the kind of video we do.
Who is your favorite brand you have worked with so far?
L – I really liked working with HP. HP was very professional, we got to create content that was authentic to us and we kind of piggy backed it onto a competition for fan fest which is our version of VidCon. Last year we had a competition that HP were involved with because Shae couldn’t attend so we had this, “can’t find that third member of SketchShe” and I think that was very true to us and an incredible opportunity for us to reach out to fans with the help of HP.
M – And it was a really positive video. Our fans really liked the video that we did for them. I think it’s good when you work with a brand and there are a few different branches involved. So that it was part of this bigger event we were going to be at anyway. We did a video for them, a couple of pieces of content, so it became more of a relationship and a partnership with them. We really enjoyed working with their team.
Having been through so much, what advice would you give other creators struggling with the ups and downs of the business?
S – Stay dedicated to what it is you set out to do in the first place. Sometimes it gets tough and you think, “why am I doing this”, but if you reconnect with why you started the channel in the first place you’ll always come back to what it is that you were passionate about. It’s about fun. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, there’s kinda no point. Make sure that no matter what happens, stay positive and focus on the positives, because it is tough when the negative things happen. Sometimes you can get caught up in that and before you know it you’re focusing on all of the bad things than have happened instead of all the amazing things. No matter what has happened for us, there is always something fantastic at that time. That’s the amazing thing about having fans. No matter what happens, you can put up a photo, you can do whatever, and they kind of pump you up and make you feel good again so that’s the beauty of online and having that instant feedback. There are a lot of people that love you and support you no matter what you do.
M – From a practical sense I’d say, for us, with those two videos that went viral, things went from 0 to 100 in a very short space of time. If anyone else is in that situation, from what we’ve learned, just take a moment to step back. Obviously you want to capitalize on the opportunity when you get it, but if you’ve got something a week or two weeks isn’t going to make a difference when it comes to making really big decisions about your representation or where you want to go. So I’d say step back, give yourself a moment and write the pros and cons of what you want to do.
S – Do your research. Instead of rushing into something always check. Everyone always knows something about someone in the industry so just do your due diligence.
M – Get as much professional advice as you a) can afford and b) have access to. Really take that on board. Particularly for the three of us, and we still don’t know how to do all of the things that are involved in the business that is online and YouTube these days, the more advice and professional advice that you can get, the better you are in a position to make a good decision.
Did you ever think of giving up YouTube in the early struggles before your viral success?
S – Honestly, it’s been a roller coaster the entire time. Even once we had our massive success, the stuff that was going on behind the scenes . . . There is a lot of stuff that has happened that most people would never know, especially because of the fact that our channel is about fun and positivity.
M – Obviously people don’t realize and you don’t want the fans to realize, we want them to enjoy the content. We don’t want them to think about SketchShe as the business that it is, but it is a business and there are three of us so there are decisions that need to be made together and there are funds that need to be made if we want to be able to do this as a full time job and it needs to support all of us. We need to be able to pay the rent and sometimes if you’re worried about money or things behind the scenes it might not be as fun as creating content. It’s hard to be creative and give off that real authentic fun happy vibe if maybe you’re not feeling so wonderful.
Being your first VidCon, have you made any awesome memories yet?
L – There has just been so much sensory overload. I‘m struggling to take it all in. I’m trying to take it all in and it’s hard to encapsulate the whole energy of VidCon it’s just buzzing.
M – It’s a really nice, positive energy. It’s like everyone has just had a few drinks, obviously they haven’t because they’re young, but they are really just high on the positive energy, but there has been a real emphasis on positive social media and saying nice things and being inspiring and uplifting to other people rather than just tearing them down and trolling.
S – We did a thing with Lily Singh for #GirlLove, which was really fun.
L – I’ve seen Michael from Vsauce as well and I really like him but I’m too scared because we have nothing in common. At least with Lily it’s comedy, but with Michael I’m like, “I don’t know how to approach you . . .”. He’s actually somebody that I first got in touch with when I started to like YouTube and I asked him for advice on what to do to make a channel and what camera he used and he actually wrote me a full proper reply back so I’d like to kinda tell him thank you.
S – I think that’s the nice thing about when you are a content creator, everybody has made it themselves, so there’s an essence of we’re all there, trying to make something and there is a mutual respect.