Federico Clapis is an Italian artist who managed to attract quite a following in Italy. He did so by publishing hundreds of videos on Facebook and YouTube over the course of a few years.
Truth be told, most of his videos are silly. Going on a date with a rubber vagina, type of silly.  He made people laugh though and his persistence in publishing good, bad, or ugly videos no matter what, led him to attract a following of 800,000 Facebook subscribers, along with over a hundred million views.
His story is interesting because at the height of his success, Federico decided to quit publishing such videos. He announced that he would stop publishing silly clips and instead focus on his art. This was his 5 year strategy all along. People expected him to crush and burn. After all, out of the million or so fans who followed him for his funny videos, how many would be interested in his serious modern art?
Was Federico’s following reduced to a few thousand faithful? Surprisingly for many of his critics, Federico was left unscathed. Not only did his follower count fail to drop, but he actually continued to grow his social media presence, making him one of the most popular canvas artists online. His art, in fairness, is good and may have vast appeal, but it was still quite the departure from his usual videos.
Outside of ethical concerns you might or might not have (some people might feel this is a bait-and-switch), there is no denying that this is a legitimate marketing strategy. Establish an audience through wide-appeal content, and then publish your deeper, more meaningful content (or your sale pitch) to the audience that you have built.
I share this story here because I see some important take home lessons in it:
- Persistence does pay off. He published hundreds of videos to build his following. He experimented a lot. He wasn’t afraid to publish crap and make mistakes. Doing so proved to be highly rewarding for him in the end.
- I think it illustrates the importance of creating a large following. Once you have a huge audience, it doesn’t necessarily matter – that much, at least – what you are trying to sell them (within limits). In Federico’s case, it’s his true artistic self which is much more vulnerable and emotional than his earlier persona. A real departure in form and content, and yet it still didn’t impact his “tribe”. In a parallel universe somewhere there is an unsuccessful Clapis who started an art YouTube channel from day one.
- It’s actually fairly hard to lose large amounts of followers once you have them unless you seriously screw up (like the FineBros did with their React copyrighting fiasco, after which people unsubscribed to them en masse in protest).
- Once you reach a certain level of popularity, it becomes as much about you as it is about your content. People become loyal not just to your output, but to you as a person. You become a trusted public adviser of sorts, and people in turn are eager to hear what you have to say.
I’m not adopting his strategy, but his story has nevertheless inspired me to create more and grow my audience. I hope it does the same for you.
- Though I must say that the ultimate message of that specific video might have some deeper social commentary value. ↩
- This is much more impressive when considering that his videos are in Italian. ↩
- I must give a lot of credit for this post to the outstanding Monty Montemagno. He made an Italian video about Clapis’ strategy in which he shared similar considerations, and in doing so he brought Federico to my attention. I thought I’d share this interesting case study to the wider, English-speaking public and add my two cents’ worth in the process. ↩
- There are exceptions here if you go completely silent on your audience for a lengthy amount of time (cough). But as long as you continue to publish, you’ll be in the clear. ↩