FriendlyJordies case study: How Jordan Shanks uses YouTube to build a following
No matter which way you vote, you’ve probably seen a video from Jordan Shanks – better known as FriendlyJordies. There’s three things people say you should never talk about:
That doesn’t apply to comedians or debaters. As a fan of FriendlyJordies personally, I think Jordan Shanks is great at both. If his style of comedy doesn’t tickle your funny bone, there is a lot to learn from his YouTube content strategy.
Let’s take a look at what makes the FriendlyJordies YouTube channel so successful.
Before we start…
The aspects of this case study are only a small portion of what makes the person/company successful. The intention of the case study is to pull apart various aspects of the strategy and show how they work to achieve the goal. There’s talent, timing and budget that plays a significant role in the success of a person/company – but these case studies only focus on parts of the strategy that are free. So there’s really no excuse not to learn or implement these aspects for your own strategies!
Content that doesn’t serve one purpose
No one is going to listen to someone who shoves your opinion down your throat. Some people will listen to your opinion if you don’t make it obvious.
FriendlyJordies’ political position is well known now. But the first video uploaded to the FriendlyJordies YouTube channel was about fashion tips.
Not very on-brand for the political-themed comedian. 41 videos were uploaded to FriendlyJordies’ YouTube channel before his first video with straightforward political-themes was released.
These 41 videos joked about haircutting techniques, university and Sony Playstation – but most importantly, the videos were not talking politics. Whether Jordan Shanks knew what his content strategy would be in his channel’s early days or not is unknown. What is certain is that these initial 42 videos covering everyday topics and not the now-clear core passion or desired message built an audience that has seemingly stuck around to be exposed to the main event.
But not every video is political. FriendlyJordies seems to be self aware that to maximise influence, the primary content (politics in this instance) needs to be spread amongst other pop-culture content on an ongoing basis. Taking a quick look at a random snapshot of what he posted fairly recently, I’ve numbered the videos that are clearly political, ignoring those that are pop-culture-centric or only loosely reference Australian politics:
That’s 33% of the total content posted relating to politics, and 66% relating to pop-culture. This balance of content keeps viewers interested instead of fatigued from being served core content that might not appeal to them in the first instance. Slow burns are key to maximising exposure to messaging and increasing the ability to influence over time.
Consistency in uploads
FriendlyJordies uploads four videos every week. They’re so consistent that they even promote the consistency on the banner.
But do they really? Yep, they really upload videos consistently. Check this graph out.
Sure, no one is marking the calendars for a new content drop. But consistency builds trust in the audience and conditions them to check in for new episodes when they are on YouTube next, because the probability of new episodes is high and the chances of the user switching on notifications for every published video is low.
Uses all aspects of YouTube
Social media platforms love it when you use all of their features. The more features you use, the larger you initial reach.
FriendlyJordies YouTube thumbnails
When the FriendlyJordies channel first launched on YouTube, the format was similar to the format now, but there weren’t any colourful thumbnails. YouTube didn’t offer it when the earlier videos were uploaded, but I still want to show the difference a great set of thumbnails can make to a channel.
Here’s what the FriendlyJordies YouTube channel looked like:
Here’s what the latest video thumbnails look like:
More colour, triggering words, quotes… it’s all there and it’s all getting your attention.
Good videos need tags to help them get seen. FriendlyJordies uses tags that are relevant to the video over trying to exploit the tag system to maximise reach.
Great video, and even better tag selection:
The numbers in green are where the Kevin Rudd interview video ranks on YouTube for those search terms. That means searching “Kevin Rudd” will show the ‘Friendly with Kevin Rudd!’ video higher than Kevin Rudd’s interviews on 7News, Bloomberg, The Telegraph and more.
Jordan Shanks and company could have stuffed pointless keywords in the tags to maximise views, but they have opted for strong, relevant tags to increase their video retention. Your videos are better placed in meaningful search results that have positive search intent (why someone is using a search query) over search terms that are not organically used by anyone (except you, scraper bot).
Avoids demonetisation risks
All the music used in Friendlyjordies’ videos is royalty-free content. There’s no songs that belong to anyone else, no matter if they are big or small artists. It’s a smart move given even risking the use of small artists’ music can pose problems later on. Labels can take ownership of music later on, and it doesn’t matter what deal you’ve done with the band directly, their copyright scans don’t discriminate.
Copyright strikes don’t pose any real legal threat to the everyday person (ultimately, it would be up to the content owner), but YouTube automatically does an initial scan on uploaded content for any copyright matches. If any content matches, the ad revenue is redirected from the video uploader to the copyright owner.
From experience with YouTube’s content matching in the past with television content, the content must exist digitally for YouTube to match it. For that reason, I have a theory that Google doesn’t care too much about its Google Play Music offering for the purposes of subscriptions (although I’m sure they’ll take whatever they get), but rather they use the content to undertake content matching on uploaded content. This gives YouTube a huge advantage over other video streaming sites that might enter the market by having this content matching technology already in place.
For Friendlyjodies, playing it safe with royalty-free music protects ad revenue long term. If there are content matches that divert that revenue, there’s no ability to reupload amended content, so doing it right the first time is a super smart move.
Encourages engagement by agreement
Everyone knows a YouTuber wants you to “hit like and subscribe”. It’s almost become a meme now.
Ok, it has become a meme. YouTubers ask for this because it’s important. Liking a video and subscribing to a channel is really important because it improves the visibility of it on the tags that we looked at earlier. It also improves the prominence of videos from that account on the YouTube homepage when you are signed in.
FriendlyJordies leverages this engagement by avoiding simply asking for it. Instead, half-smirking, Jordan asks the viewer to like the video if you agree with what he is saying. Generally, he asks the viewer to like the video at a time when he knows the viewer would agree.
Accident or not, it doesn’t matter
Given Jordan Shanks and crew are a smart bunch, I wouldn’t be surprised if the above digital strategies were intentional. If they weren’t intentional, the benefits still stand. People come for the entertainment, but underneath word-of-mouth is a super strong digital strategy that works to improve discovery and extend the life and profitability of video blogging.