Don't Pitch Me, Bro! (i.e. Web Series Marketing 101)

Casey and Michael

Above: Me and my buddy Michael Sinterniklaas - Photo courtesy of Jonathan Reilly

It's tough being indie. You work so hard writing, producing, acting, directing, editing, VFXing, scoring, encoding, and uploading... and just when you think your job is done, you realize it's just the beginning. No one's going to find your videos if you don't get the word out.

Obviously the first people you think to tell about your videos are your family and friends. You use your personal social networks to get the word out and are probably very pleased at all the attention. Great! But what's next?

Sadly, this is where a lot of web series creators get lost... I see a lot of people printing flyers and going to web series meetups trying to market their shows to other web series creators. I also see a lot of people forging fake friendships on Facebook to further market their shows to unsuspecting peers. The problem with this approach is that these people are most probably not your target audience (unless you're making a resource web series for fellow creators), and ends up bothering peers instead of interesting them.

So how should you be marketing your web series? It's pretty easy, actually... here are some tips:

  1. Identify your target audience: Think about who will love your show. This could be as general as identifying "RPG gamers" (e.g. Gold the Series), or as specific as "fans of Battlestar Galactica" (e.g. BSGcast).
  2. Once you know who they are, find out where they are: Do they have online forums (e.g. SyFy)? If so, start posting and building relationships while using an attractive signature that promotes your web series! Do they hold their own conventions (e.g. DragonCon)? Get a booth and host panels! Do they have news sites or fan sites devoted to them (e.g. io9)? Send them a news-worthy tip!
  3. Personalize your story: Whether you're pitching a story to a major news site or a fan site, write them a personalized message. For the most part, no one's going to write about just another web series, so give them a little background on what makes it different/special. The best way to get your story picked up is to inspire the writers. When A Comicbook Orange was nominated for a Streamy Award last year, I sent out a press release to Canadian media outlets with a personal message suggesting a story on all the great Canadian web series that had been nominated for this prestigious international award.
  4. Give your new-found audience a reason to stay: Give them ways to stay engaged; multiple subscribe options, feeds on all their favorite social networks, a behind the scenes series (blog or video), a way to participate in the show itself, etc.

The most important thing to remember is to do everything you can to find and consistently engage with your target audience. In time you might be lucky enough to build the kind of audience that propagates itself... but until then "never give up, never surrender!"

WritingCasey McKinnon