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How to Grow an OTT Startup by Building Community

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Learn more about the growing OTT channels at Streaming Media West 2021.

Read the complete transcript of this video:

DeShuna Spencer: For us, starting from scratch, as a new company, we really just use social media as our first mechanism to reach customers. And so it's basically a two-pronged approach. Initially, we used social media as a way or people to know we existed. We have a system, a very niche market. We're highly targeted in the people we reach out to on social media. So people look for independent black films, people who like certain films or certain actors or actresses, or certain directors, certain festivals that we know that our audience are more likely to be interested in. And so using those initially was a really great way for at least our niche market to know we existed. And then from there, as we started to grow our audience, then we started to tailor that. On social media, as anyone who does social media advertising knows, you can even do a deeper dive to say, "Okay, who are the ones who are more likely to actually purchase this, are more likely to subscribe?"

And so since we're still fairly new and some people still don't know we exist, we literally have two different ads on social media. One is really about awareness and other one is really about conversion. And that's one of the ways we have outreach.

Or other way is really blowing up our email distribution lists. I don't think social media is going away, but I'm one of those people who are kind of freaked out to think that's the only way we can reach the audience, like through Instagram. And so, for us, really building up our email distribution lists, letting people know the content that we have, having links, saying to people. "Hey, share our newsletter with others" has really, really helped us grow. And whenever we send out a newsletter we always see new subscribers, even though you would think that people, sometimes want to see something, it takes a while to see a bunch of emails over and over again, to make the decision to actually make the purchase. And so we definitely see email distribution as another amazing way to grow our audience.

You mentioned community. For us, creativity is really more than just a transactional type of approach, where you watch a film, you leave, and that's it. We really want to build a community around kweliTV. And so we've had events. Before. COVID, like a lot of people, we had events in different cities. We had a six-city tour in 2019. We had short films, and we had filmmakers in different parts of different cities who were local and would come in, meet our content creators, meet our customers over drinks in films and discussion. And it was another great way to build community. We've done some of those things virtually since we've been in COVID, but we've learned that people share that information, like, "Oh, wow, this is amazing, this is an exclusive event, only for kweliTV subscribers. So I want to definitely be a part of this." That's another way of community building, having mechanisms in person and virtually to connect customers.

And, finally, Eugene mentioned word of mouth. We've gotten a tremendous amount of customers that way. We did a survey last year asking customers how they're more likely to find us. And 20% of them said through word of mouth. And so we dug deeper and we learned that, especially for international audience, they were using Whatsapp and other mechanisms to share kweliTV to their friends, to their family members. And that's how we were growing our subscriber base. And so word mouth, to me, is really tremendous.

And one of the things we've been looking to do is expand that with our ambassadors program and giving our ambassadors referral links so we know exactly how people are finding us. So it's not just asking, not just having a survey, but really looking at data to see how we're able to make those conversions, whether it's through our ambassadors program or even through our events.

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