Are we viral yet?

by Nathaniel James, Engagement Strategist

Money & Life has been widely available for 20 days. The great news is that 20,342 people have streamed the film as of this writing. That's an average of 1,017 per day.  At this rate, when you add in all the planned community screenings, DVD sales and downloads, it's possible that somewhere as many as 300,000 people will have seen the film by the end of the year. This is a wonderful indication that our grassroots distribution model is working and that the film is fulfilling a need. But, at the same time, our daily viewership rates began to slow a little bit over the weekend.

I can't help from asking a few questions. Are we headed to a plateau or a serious slow down? In this age when a (let's face it) frivolous music video can garner one billion viewers, what's it going to take for meaningful media like our film to reach one million?
In other words, are we viral yet? And if we aren't, what can we - the Money & Life supporter community - do to move us to that tipping point? I'm including some short notes on virality and asking you - our friends and supporters - what you think we can do together, given our limited budget and team capacity, to reach for that one million viewers mark. Before I dig in, I want to reiterate that the quality of M&L dialogue and action is the most important thing, but driving quantity audience size makes better quality possible.

A thousand little nudges

Media "goes viral" through a number of channels. An important feature of viral media is its shareability. When thousands of people are compelled to hit that share button, email a few friends, or otherwise nudge a piece of media outward to their networks, and each new wave of sharing generates a larger wave of sharing, then virility is possible. So, how shareable is Money & Life?

Between Facebook, Twitter and our mailing list, we can reach about 3,000 fans. And, of course, upwards of 24,000 people have seen the film! And we know many of you have been sharing the film and we thank you for it. But the strategic question is, now that M&L has touched so many people, how can more of us rally together to amplify the film to that next level of hundreds of thousands?

Would you participate in a coordinated social media and face-to-face outreach campaign? What kind of support would you need, knowing that our resources are largely tapped out at this point?

I've been looking at two platforms that can support coordinated amplification campaigns: Louder (previously, LoudSauce) and Thunderclap.

Last week, I met with Colin Mutchler, Louder's founder and sketched some ideas about using their tools to amplify our signal. Louder is a platform to fund advertising for purposeful messages. Think of it as Kickstarter, but with a specific focus on pooling funds specifically to reach audiences. They are about to launch features that begin with expanding shareability, but ultimate lead to a funding appeal that is directed to advertising of the campaigner's choice.

Many of you crowdfunded to make production possible. Many crowdfunded to make our premiere tour possible. Would you join us in raising some pool of funding to buy advertising space? Obviously, "advertising" has a bad reputation for those of us who want to change the world for the better. But as Colin said, "If we're going to be stuck with an advertising-based media for the foreseeable future, why shouldn't more advertising space carry our messages," rather than those that support the status quo of consumer culture? I, for one, think that's a terrific question.

And we have already experimented with advertising, specifically spending $40 over our first two weeks on Facebook ads. We have reason to believe that those ads are a main driver for our consistent audience growth. As much as I'd rather not line the pockets of Facebook's owners, I think it's worth asking what could happen if, one time, we spent $1,000 or $5,000 or more advertising on this kind of advertising. What do you think? Would you add a little money to the pool to make that happen?

I'm still learning about it, but Thunderclap "is the first crowd-speaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together." In other words, supporters connect their social media account, and when the time is right, Tweet and Facebook all together. Do you think we should give this a try?

Pulling the big levers

A second pathway to virality is exposure to large audiences via traditional media: press, radio and television. During the premiere tour, we engaged a very capable PR pro to help us do this. However, for a variety of reasons, Money & Life has so far proven difficult to "sell" to journalists.

And yet, on an almost weekly basis, I am seeing discussions in the mainstream media about the ongoing collapse of the status quo economy and I think, "Why aren't they calling Katie?"

Media pitching is an arduous, time-consuming tactic. And we've exhausted our current budget for that work. But I believe our network can help us connect to some highly visible journalist. One way to do that is to successfully "go viral" without the big media and then that is the story. Or, somewhere in our 20,000 strong audience is a relationship with a media outlet that would resonate with the film.

Are you someone who can introduce the film to a big media producer?

To close up, it's important to repeat that we are absolutely thrilled with how the film has done so far in its early release period. And we are endlessly grateful to its supporters for making that happen.

We're simply turning some questions we've been asking behind the scenes over to you. Do you want to see Money & Life reach larger audiences? If so, what can we do together to make that happen?


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