"SocialFlixx Draws Emotional, Visual Aesthetics of Storytelling."
by Brian D’Ambrosio
The one feature that unites entrepreneurs, whether in Brooklyn, New York, or Helena, Montana, is depth of character. Building a company is difficult. It’s solitary. It will make you doubt yourself. When things don’t go your way, you swallow your frustration for the greater good. Success takes moxie and no small sum of faith. At Social Flixx, founder Brad Ouldhouse gets it.
Brad’s startup company taps into the nuance of storytelling, employing the style of a fan or a patron as opposed to the standard traditional client-business relationship.
“I consider SocialFlixx to have a storytelling approach rather than a straight up advertising approach,” said Brad. “SocialFlixx tells stories about business and creates stories that I would want to see as a fan of that business. For example, with Crooked Furrow Brewery, we will shoot a video about them brewing a new flavor and it’ll be a three-week documentary process, and that approach resonates with fans of the brewery.”
SocialFlixx operates as a video forte for social media. It doesn’t film or produce movies or television commercials, but it circulates in the same laboratory, using video production as a method of forming and developing its clients’ relationships with their customers. In today’s voyeuristic, visually-intense world, a video presence for most businesses could be defined as a do or die prospect.
Companies such as Venice, California’s Dollar Shave Club, are the gold standard of video success, boasting two million subscribers who pay as little as $1 a month (plus shipping) for a monthly delivery of razors. It got its first grand boost from a 2012 YouTube video, a production that cost $4,500 and took a single day to shoot. It went magically viral in 72 hours; the next day the business had 12,000 new subscribers, and within just a few days, three million people had watched the video. SocialFlixx uses YouTube as a platform to spread the word. While YouTube is no longer the only place to go if you want any hope of going viral – it’s still the most dominant.
“YouTube video is so powerful because we are all carrying smartphones, and the ability to put the right type of content with the right tribe has never been easier. In the 1980s and 90s you would have had to have been on television, where today you can distribute content into devices that people carry on a daily basis. You could tell a great story on a mobile device.”
Born in Anaconda and raised in Bozeman, Brad was a self-professed “sheltered” kid who took to drawing and building as creative rewards to pass and fulfill the time.
“It was LEGOs and colored pencils and I’d create my own world and pretend to live in it. I was always drawing on paper as some sort of iteration, and I could share with other people what was in my head. We couldn’t afford a video camera and I did not have that at my disposal.”
Brad’s parents divorced when he was 12 and playing ice hockey, he said, turned into “my white knight escapism as a kid.” Eventually, he earned a tryout with a Single A Chicago Blackhawks affiliate, but after that didn’t pan out, he pursued a professional coaching career, working with youth and adult squads in different places across the U.S. But after he lost his coaching job in May 2013, he was forced to re-appraise his career path and the crossroads fork in the highway manifested in a marketing director position with the Helena Bighorns.
“The break with the Bighorns came a few months after I lost my coaching job and the creative aspect of that job was unleashed, and I was allowed to get my creativity out into the world.”
There are no sure things in business. But you can still draw strength from probabilities. Brad surmised that the small, rabid core of Helena Bighorns diehards, the ones actively interacting on Facebook, just might share whatever video content he could provide them with. He grabbed his iPhone 5 and began following the players around, interviewing them, and sharing their stories, and little by little the team’s fan base grew.
“We almost sold out our last game of the 2013-14 season. I figured that if this type of video storytelling could work for a hockey team, it would work for any business. So, I worked my way through the Adobe editorial software and reinvested in equipment.”
Brad left the Bighorns team in 2016 and soon started making documentary blogs for his first client – a local realtor – all while taking the necessary steps to further hone his targeted business strategy. Sometimes the best market research, he concluded, comes from getting into the market yourself. With ample product knowledge and a business model in place, he felt comfortable enough in the nuts and bolts of his vision to launch SocialFlixx in March 2018.
“I have never been interested in chasing likes or consumed by follower counts, but the goal from the start has been to talk with customers on the clients’ behalf. I’m alert to the quality of the comments and the conversation that’s happening around the piece and the post; I’m looking at the attitude in general and the attitude of fans specific to the video we are generating. We want to get content out that makes people feel as if they are part of the process and which allows them to get excited about the business.”
Brad is banking on becoming part of a new vanguard of entrepreneurs who release and sustain the startup vibe in Helena.
“You have to think about what the Helena of 2035 or 2045 will look like and ask does it survive though the next few generations by not adapting, and that answer is a flat out no. Rural areas in Montana often can’t retain their youth, or their creative thoughts and entrepreneurial efforts, and there is the stigma to overcome in Helena that it’s a bigger Butte, with people who are set in their ways, and there is nothing to do. Being in the trenches and networking here, I see people succeeding, and I’m definitely seeing some success here, as well as the undercurrent of entrepreneurialism.”
Not one to be easily swayed or distracted by metrics and numbers, Brad focuses on following the often overlooked or under appreciated accounts of the product or of the people he represents. After all, the small stuff may be the stuff that, in the end, lets us tell our real, best story.
“I love our clients but I care more about the clients of our customers and resonating with the people who are giving them business.”