How Social Media Landed Me on an International Television Series (in 2007)

Disclaimer: This is a retrospective blog post. I don't advise that you employ today what I used in 2006 because, well, it violates today's best practices, most user agreements, and ADA requirements. Be sure to read the entire post.

In 2007, I appeared on FOX's reality television show called “On the Lot” (OTL). This show, produced by Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett, was to be the “American Idol” for Reality Filmmakers. OTL was on the air internationally, and the show hoped to find the next big filmmaker. With over 12,000 applications submitted from around the globe, the likelihood of landing a spot in the top 200 was slim, but that was the first step. Before I could earn a spot on the show, which started at the top 50, I had to get the attention of the casting team.

Late in 2006, the first step was to upload a short film including a 45-second bio intro video to the OTL website. The site would score videos based on views and other secret metrics. The trick to getting noticed was to get a lot of views in a short amount of time, so I began thinking “how can I leverage social media to do that?”

Profile Images As Free Display Advertising:

In 2006, digital marketing wasn't what it is today, so we had to be creative to leverage it for marketing purposes. Brand pages didn't exist, and most people just used their profile pictures for the intended purpose. Some of us early social media adopters found ways to use Facebook’s design for our marketing purposes.

I simply created display ads in photoshop and uploaded them as my profile picture. Today, this is a terrible idea. It violates Facebook's user agreement, posts like this are penalized in Facebook's algorithms, and this type of post isn't ADA compliant. Don't do it. But, in 2006, it worked. 

Note Tagging:

In 2006 there was a Facebook feature called "notes," and it was the only way to mention someone at that time. Mentions using an "@" symbol were first found on Twitter and later commandeered by Facebook.

Today, we are mentioned regularly so the novelty has worn off, but in 2006 if you were mentioned in a note, your heart rate increased, and you were suddenly curious, "what is someone saying about me or what are they trying to tell me?" I unabashedly exploited this reaction and tagged all of my friends, asking for their support. There were no lists, so this required me to make multiple posts (to avoid exceeding Facebook's maximum tags) and laboriously tag everyone one-by-one. Looking back, I suppose I am somewhat embarrassed to have engaged in primitive social media SPAM. But again... it worked. 

After uploading my submission video and finishing my social spamming, I went to sleep and dreamed of having a few hundred views in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to 1,400 views which was enough to get me listed as a trending video on the show's website, earning me even more views. This got me attention from the selection committee, and things progressed from there.

This is an excellent time to say THANK YOU to all of my Facebook friends, especially those who were connected to me in early 2007. The support that you have all shown over the years is truly meaningful, no matter if it’s a comment on a recent life event or support for a passion project like “On the Lot.”

Disclaimer: Generally, I like to write about strategy and tools that will help you in today’s complex digital marketing landscape. The information in this blog post will be of little value in today’s world. I have discussed tactics I used in 2006 and 2007 which, in internet marketing years, was about 400 years ago. These tactics now violate best practices and ADA regulation. Again - don't do it.

I used this method it to promote other things as well. Below, please find ads for film screenings and a competition that a friend was entering.

David May