Laura Clery lives the Hollywood dream.
She moved to Los Angeles at 17 to be an actress. She slept on friends’ couches and ate their food as she worked to get an agent and learn the ins and out of the industry. She ended up landing the first commercial she auditioned for.
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is easy,'” Clery said with a laugh.
Thirteen years later, she’s still laughing. Her career has never been better, but that’s not because she’s been in movies or in a recurring role on television.
She’s a Facebook star.
For almost the last decade, if you wanted to start as an online video creator and perhaps one day make it on stage or on TV, you went to YouTube. The video platform became a bustling marketplace for a wide range of people looking creating everything from makeup tutorials to comedy skits.
YouTube’s community grew so big that it eventually inspired VidCon, an annual conference for online video, held in Anaheim, California this week. There’s a lot going on at VidCon, but it all centers around one thingYouTube. It’s one of the few places where Facebook feels like a sideshow.
This year, Facebook is looking to change that. The social network is in the midst of making a push to be the new go-to network for creators. And they have a pretty good pitch. Facebook has a wealth of tools, like Facebook Live, Messenger, and Instagram. There’s also a growing pool of money for creators to tap via sponsorships and mid-roll ads.
But Facebook’s big advantage comes down to one big thing: Its captive audience of almost 2 billion people.
“My mission is to make millions of people laugh around the world on a consistent basis. Every day thats the intention I set. Facebook has allowed me to do that in a way that no other platform has because the reach is just so incredible to me,” Clery said.
YouTube was built to be a video platform; Facebook has grown into the role.
Up until a few years ago, Facebook hardly had any video, while YouTube had already emerged as the internet’s main video destination. That has changed, slowly but diligently. Facebook now has all the features necessary to cater to video sharingincluding the money necessary to make it worthwhile for individuals.
The digital creative class took notice. Whispers began spreading among the creator community about Facebook’s offerings.
Clery didn’t start out on Facebook. She tried Vine, but didn’t feel like she fit in. Instagram’s 15-second limit didn’t seem to work for her either. YouTube was barely an optionthe platform was already home to thousands of creators jockeying for attention.
So, she began to try Facebook. Clery began posting comedy videos on her personal page, but soon enough realized she could make a branded Pageand much more.
“A bit after that Facebook started doing video, and people were like, ‘Thats the new thing! You can put a whole minute on there,'” she said. “I would be doing collabs with other comedians, Instagram comedians, and they were all talking about you have to get your shit on Facebook.”
Ironically enough, making fun of “Instagram models” became her first viral video on Facebook, where she played a character called Ivy, modeling after people she actually saw trying to make it big on Instagram.
That 16-second video spread, and within the next year, Clery had gained about 1 million “likes” on her Facebook Page. Now, she’s up to more than 3 million.
As to the virality of videos, it depends. Some videos in her series “Me Trying to Flirts” have more than 10 million video views, where a view on Facebook is only three seconds.
While a view may only be three seconds, when you peel back those vanity metrics, creators on Facebook are seeing their viewers consume significantly more content than brands and even other publishers. Take Drew Binsky, a foreign-language teacher turned world traveler who gained fame as a travel blogger and first got big on Snapchat.
Many of Binsky’s videos are watched for much longer than that. His most successful Facebook video to date has more than 6.5 million unique viewers, with an average watch time of 55 seconds for a total of 14 million minutes consumed, without paid promotion, according to viewership data provided by Delmondo.
“It’s really hard to get a viral video on YouTube, if you dont have a following already. If I make good content [on Facebook] people are going to want to share it,” Binsky said. “I’ve only made 25 videos since January, and I have over 14 million minutes.”
Success on Facebook comes with a catch. While Clery and Binksy might have millions of “likes” on their pages, reaching them isn’t that simplethey’re still at the mercy of the algorithm that controls what users see on Facebook’s News Feed.
That means creators face ups and downs that they can’t do much to control.
“I notice some weeks are fire, just one viral video after another and youre unstoppable and its like every day,” Clery said. “And then two weeks later its like flop, another flop or just lower engagement.”
Clery said she looks at her data, via Facebook Page insights, but she doesn’t “antagonize or become obsessed with it.”
But Facebook does, in part. The more money these creators make, the more money goes into Facebook’s bank, as well. The tech giant is trying to grow its platform to compete more with YouTube and other video-heavy competitors by inking deals with media outlets and older networks to create exclusive shows for Facebook. High-quality video is where the ad dollars are, $70 billion of which is trapped in traditional television.
Facebook declined to say how many creators are in their paid program or in conversation with their partnerships team.
Making fans… and money
Unlike many in Hollywood, Clery isn’t complaining about making money, at least not now.
Her first year on Facebook she was living off of her savings, and it took awhile before her first brand deal on Instagram and later Facebook.
Now, she’s part of Facebook’s exclusive monetization program, where a handful of creators and publishers are able to add mid-roll ads onto live videos.
“I’m making more money than I ever made as an actress,” Clery said.
Clery is in the inner circle of Facebook creators, a nascent community, whereby the Facebook partnerships team invited her to Menlo Park this week, prior to VidCon, to meet with engineers and product managers to discuss potential updates.
Creators are the masters of building and growing a global community from scratch,” said Daniel Danker, Facebook’s director of product. “Weare continuing to build products to help creators express themselves, build an audience and support their businesses, and were excited about the future.”
It’s one thing for a Facebook executive to say that. It’s quite another for creators to believe it.
Facebook is now gaining a reputation in Hollywood that they care about the creators, something YouTube is best known for due to their Creator Space and big partnerships team. It’s the polar opposite of Vine, whose demise may be partially blamed to how they refused to let creators through their office doors until it was far too late.
“[Facebook is] all about the artist at this point and they want us to have a successful business on the platform. They definitely listen, and I feel comfortable,” Clery said.
That doesn’t mean she, or any other creator, has a direct line to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Clery was disappointed when she learned she wasn’t able to knock on Zuckerberg’s door. He wasn’t in town.
An advantage of Facebook, she said, is that creators can more easily connect with their fans. For example, Clery knows that 70 percent of her viewers are women and mostly ages 18 to 35. London is her most popular city.
Binksy’s strategy is to join different Facebook Groups that focus on travel, for example, and share his videos there. He also responds to almost every comment. What he’s noticed is that the comments are much friendlier on Facebook. While about 90 percent of the comments he sees on his videos on YouTube are negative, he said about 70 percent are positive on Facebook.
“On YouTube there are so many trolls,” Binksy said.
Journey to VidCon
VidCon used to be all about YouTube. That’s changing.
“I think its starting to matter less what platform youre on but your reach. The platform is less important. Whats more important is what are these people influential about. How do they engage in their audience,” said Matt Britton, CEO of Crowdtap, a marketing technology company.
Audience is, for sure, what ad agencies are looking for, many of whom will be present at VidCon this week. Clery said she’s taking a few meeting with agencies, between her scheduled panels with Facebook.
While her Facebook audience is her largest, Clery, like any creator, is on other platforms like YouTube and Twitter. She’s also a big fan of Snapchat, and unlike many other creators has had a meeting with them.
“I cant say that they have done nothing for me,” Clery said. “I asked them to have access to a filter and they were kind enough to let me have it.”
She hasn’t made a dime directly off of Snapchat, but Clery downloads her own Snapchat Stories and edits and repackages them for Facebook and YouTube, where she is able to making ad revenue.
Clery also isn’t done with traditional TV networks. She recently wrapped up shooting a series for Comedy Central and is pitching another show to several other networks. While once upon a time, Clery wasn’t the first pick, now she’s ushered through the door as network execs ask her for help on creating social-first content.
Still, she’s primarily building her own content for her own fans, but it’s a long road ahead.
“Even in the world of an influencer, the Facebook star is so new,” Clery said. “I tried to explain what I do to my aunt and my parents so many times, and theyre like, ‘Yeah, but are you on TV or not?’ But I’m like, ‘Yeah, go to Facebook.'”