It’s been 12 days since we released our debut feature film Munnariv on my YouTube channel. Let’s see what releasing a film with zero subscribers looks like.￼
Premiering on Facebook
We had premiered the film on Facebook as five 15 minute sections. Facebook being a social media platform emphasise the sharing and commenting aspects more than YouTube. My hope was that this will encourage more people to share it with others.￼￼
We can never know for certain if that was a success or not because we did not have anything to compare with. But the film did get shared by around 70 people of people.
Maybe Facebook is not as much used as it was once because most of the shares had just a couple of likes and almost no comments. Whereas few months back whenever I shared a post it always garnered 90+ likes and at least 10 or 15 comments.￼￼￼
We did not have connections with any media agencies, or film review channels and critics, or celebrities, or anybody with influence.￼￼￼ What I could do was message all my friends and family members on WhatsApp. A lot of them were very supportive and messaged their friends.
12 Days After Releasing Film With Zero Subscribers on YouTube
Once we released the film over five days as five sections, there were requests to have the whole film on YouTube. Even we felt it is better to be present on the world’s second largest search engine.
So we released the film on YouTube on my channel, which at that time had just 20 subscribers, my friends and family. What reach can one achieve by releasing a film on a channel with almost zero subscribers? Here are some numbers from YouTube’s dashboard.
Maybe this is normal. 1,200 unique viewers is not our final target. Long way to go.
To find a way to reach more people, first we need to know what is working. It is always 20% of your efforts that is doing 80% of the work.￼
I was a little surprised that word of mouth publicity (External and YouTube search) is our key.￼ From my researches I’ve found that YouTube recommendations (YouTube features, Browse features) is what makes viral videos.￼ But that doesn’t seem to be happening here so far.
The only thing that we can do to make YouTube recommend is to have a thumbnail that makes people click. If you have any ideas on improving that, let me know. Meanwhile we need to dig deep into what is currently working.
More than half still comes from people recommending on WhatsApp
WhatsApp is used a lot by Indians.￼ Most of the messages I sent to my friends and family were on WhatsApp. Even if we could advertise on WhatApp, the reason why most of the traffic is coming from WhatsApp is not because they are seeing it on WhatsApp, but because it is their friends or family that is recommending it. We need to find ways to make more people watch and recommend Munnariv.￼￼
Why Not Release The Film on a Channel With Subscribers?
Some of the team members also wanted to release the film on channels with millions of followers. But most such channels require exclusive rights, that is we cannot show the film anywhere else.
The advantage of the modern times we live in is that we can share something as many times as we want, with as many people as we want. ￼On top of that, even if we did get a lot of viewers through a channel with a large subscriber base, we will never know for certain what percentage of the film someone watched, where the film fell short and so on. These are all important information that will help make a better film.
Moreover I want to learn the intricacies of releasing a film on YouTube. I wish to make my own mistakes so that we can figure out which type of marketing is working and so on. These will inform our choices the next time we do this and so reach an even larger audience.￼ Hence giving away exclusive rights to a channel to get more viewers today but loose out on everything else did not like a good idea to me.
Why Share the Not-So-Inspiring Numbers of Releasing With Zero Subscribers
If you are somebody who is thinking of releasing your film on YouTube then I hope these give you an idea on what to expect when you release the film with zero subscribers and zero connection with the industry.￼ Also some years later when someone asks me the question what they need to do if they do not have any subscribers, along with everything we’ve penned here, I can show them that that where we too started.
PS: If you have any ideas to make more people recommend Munnariv to more people, let me know. One idea that came up was to give ₹1 to COVID fund for every unique viewer.