To hear Rick Lax tell it, he’s just a regular guy in Las Vegas: a practicing magician, a non-practicing lawyer, and a creator who likes to sit at his laptop at the local Starbucks and make low-budget videos to post on his Facebook page.
He also happens to run Facebook’s #1 global entertainment channel by an influencer. With more than 846M monthly Facebook views, Rick Lax’s Favorite Videos has attracted 3.9M followers with its clickable videos and reshares.
Unlike many of the influencers who routinely occupy the top of Tubular’s Facebook rankings, Rick is not an organization or content company. He’s just one entertainer, and he’s only recently begun expanding his media empire (and to family and friends at that).
Rick may be a regular guy, but his traffic is anything but. We sat down with this unique Facebook creator to ask about his insights on generating organic Facebook views on a budget, plus what he’s doing that companies with 10x his advertising budget should be doing, too.
Rick’s Most Valuable Metric Is Watch Time
Like every other Facebook influencer, Rick can only guess at which metrics (or more likely, the combination of) cause some videos to go viral and others to plummet. However, he doesn’t waste his time thinking too much about likes, comments, shares, or even unique Facebook views.
Rick estimates that his videos with an average watch time of 40 seconds get 20x as many views (and 20x as much money) as videos with a 20-second average watch time.
“It’s clear to me that watch time is the most important [metric],” he told us. “The channels that have high watch time are the ones that have the most engagement, too. It’s amazing to me that there are companies out there seriously trying to produce digital video but not looking at this.”
So how can companies target watch time? Cut right to the chase, Rick advises. Facebook Business told content creators that they have approximately three seconds in which to hook a viewer.
Rick suggests going even more quickly — starting the video right in the middle of the action beginning with its first second. After people have stuck around for a bit, then you can identify yourself and your key business details.
Avoid Creating YouTube Content for Facebook Viewers
Every social network is different. Just because Rick’s videos can get billions of hits on Facebook doesn’t mean they’ll find the same success on Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube. And Rick says that catering to Facebook specifically is one of the keys to his success.
For example, Rick’s videos always begin in the middle of the action. His magic tricks and comedy sketches attempt to hook viewers from the very first second.
But sometimes it can be difficult to get others on board. As Rick’s influence and reach has expanded, he said he’s had trouble finding video editors who feel the same way.
“There is resistance from people who have more education of what I’d say is traditional editing, where they would just ignore the data and go with film school principles like starting with a six-second establishment shot,” he explained. “They want there to be more mystery. But what I’ve found [on Facebook] is the direct approach is better.”
Rick isn’t creating TV-like shows or YouTube series or even Twitter clips. Since his audience is on Facebook, he creates content for Facebook specifically. He urged media companies to adapt their content to the platform rather than expecting the same formula to work everywhere.
“If you tune in to see the Tonight Show, they have a long intro that goes on for a minute, and that works for them. But with Facebook, because there are so many enticing features for people one click away, it helps to grab the attention in the very first second of the video,” Rick said. “So if we were making a video of this interview, we wouldn’t start with introductions. We’d start with me saying, ‘Here’s the most important thing about creating digital content for Facebook.’”
For More Targeted Facebook Views, Go Niche
Even for somebody who knows how to net Facebook views as well as Rick, there’s still plenty of room to experiment. As Facebook continues to tweak its algorithm, Rick is innovating with new techniques. The latest successful experiment: making his content increasingly niche.
“I have some pages with 10,000,000 fans and some with 1,000,000 fans. Often times the smaller pages perform better, with more views and money made on videos,” he said.
What’s going on? Facebook altered the way it evaluates video earlier this year, telling creators that it especially puts a premium on repeat viewers. As such, when niche pages share the same kind of content repeatedly, people are more likely to watch multiple, similar videos.
So instead of having one page that shares videos about pets, babies, and extreme weather, Rick would advise media companies to have different Facebook pages dedicated to each topic.
“To grow a page to 10 million followers, it helps to have lots of different types of content. But when you do that, you get fewer repeat viewers because your videos are so different from each other,” he said. “But it’s not the same person who wants to watch all of these types of videos. Now, I’m focusing on smaller pages that provide a more consistent viewing experience.”
Going niche doesn’t mean working harder, either. It takes just a few clicks to set up a new page, and in Rick’s experience, it’s all about a willingness to experiment.
“If you’re worried about starting out, take it one step at a time. Put up one piece of content each day. And then look at your own data,” he advised.
“If you do a video on day one and it gets 10 views, and a video on day two that gets five views, maybe you feel like a failure. But I’d say no, you’re in a good position. One of your videos performed twice as well as the other video. So go back, look at that video you did on the first day, try to figure out the things that made your audience respond better to that, and try to do that on day three.”