One of the easiest ways to market your web series is, simply, to make more content. I know what you’re thinking- but I already spent my last few dollars making my show! Trust me, I’ve been there. But more content doesn’t have to mean more episodes, it can be content designed to enhance the experience of those episodes and to draw people in from other platforms or groups.
What counts as supplemental content?
For our purposes, I’m defining “supplemental content” as any video, text, social media, or photo content that is “provided in addition to what is already present (aka- your web series) or available to complete or enhance it.” (Thanks, Google Define!)
The following ideas will either give you new reasons to send out press releases or to simply improve your chances of getting discovered, since you’ll have more content out in the universe.
Starting small, bloopers are an easy way to mine content you already have access to for new purposes. Everyone likes bloopers, and often viewers will end up rewatching your series as a result, to spend time with a show they love or to discover the moments that took twelve takes to capture. In any case, hey, new views!
Cast and crew interviews
Whether you release these before or after your project doesn’t really matter, especially when you aren’t household names yet. Interviews are incredibly easy to coordinate and film, because you only need to schedule people one at a time and they’re largely improvised. Just come up with a few fun, interesting questions ahead of time, point a camera and a mic at your cast or crew member, and you’re done! Plus, by highlighting individual members of your project, you’re enticing their social circles to check out the project at large. Their circles don’t care about you or your project (yet), they want to support their friend, so make it easier for them to do so!
In gearing up for the release of their first season, the women behind the series Or Die Trying started a blog. Their show follows four millennial women trying to make it in the entertainment industry and featured a cast and crew that was 85% female, so naturally, their blog was largely a collection of “Women in Film Spotlights,” where they interviewed other women in film about their experiences. This move was brilliant (and not just because I was one of the other women featured!) because it supported the cause they were triumphing (women in film), it lent them credibility within that cause, and the women they featured drove traffic to their website. It also made the women they featured view them favorably around the time that the series officially launched, adding to their outreach. Find and embrace your community.
A supplemental blog doesn’t have to be interviews, though. It could be as simple as a production diary, as educational as a “how we did this” breakdown of complicated stunts, props, and other unique elements from your show, or as calculated as a horror-movie-review blog for a horror series. For the web series creators out there who are more comfortable writing than making schedules and holding a camera, this is the perfect fit.
Before we go anywhere with this topic, I’ll say this: just because you can make transmedia accounts for your series doesn’t mean you should or that you have to. For a great rundown of what goes into building a transmedia world for your web series, check out this interview with Kate Hackett, whose show Classic Alice at one point had 39 active Twitter accounts.
For the uninitiated, transmedia storytelling is storytelling that spans multiple platforms while telling a single narrative, most often on the internet manifesting as in-character social media accounts where the characters tweet or blog along with the story unfolding in the main episodes of the web series. This kind of supplemental content is great if there are characters in your show you wish could have more screen time, if there are organizations prominently featured in your series you’d like to give another dimension to (a newspaper, a school, a fictional town, etc), or if you’re the kind of person who has a lot of spare time to blog from five different Tumblr accounts.
The biggest takeaway from every person who has ever done transmedia is this- plan for it. Transmedia is not something you can do on a whim.
Rogue One is technically supplemental content to the main Star Wars series, same as the hundreds of expanded universe novels, animated series, and comic books. This is brilliant, because the Star Wars universe is HUGE, and just telling stories about a tender farm boy from Tatooine doesn’t embrace all that space.
It can work the same for your web series, and better yet, you might not even need to film anything. Write a short story, a short film, a mini-series, a podcast, a photography blog, or a transmedia account from the perspective of someone not in the original series. They should be connected somehow (like Jyn Urso was never named in the original trilogy but was revealed to be the rebel that got the Death Star plans to Leia), but otherwise, you’re now freed from whatever plot you’d worked out in the main series. You can tell whatever story you want, just without all the pesky “world building.” This is a fun way to make new content that still ultimately serves your “main universe” and can allow you to experiment with new forms, tones, and types of stories.
If you have filmmaking friends in other areas, you can loop them in too! The two extended universe projects I did for my web series were a short film made by my little brother in LA and a mini-series made by my friend in Wales, while I long-distance participated in NY by writing and producing. This gave both projects a unique feel, since they were literally filmed elsewhere, added complexity to the world, added context to how unique the main story was, and allowed me to collaborate with people who couldn’t be involved with my main series due to distance. Win-win-win-win.
Essentially, a prequel season or short. Carmilla and Social Medium both made season zeros, in Carmilla’s case to bridge the gap between regular seasons and in Social Medium’s case as a proof-of-concept to help find funding for the actual first season. Both were much less intense than their full-fledged seasons, serving to fill in a production and audience need rather than a plot gap, and both were much less complex in their production elements and cast numbers.
Essentially, they’re prequel seasons (or short films) designed to give context to the stories and characters we’re already familiar with.
The purpose of supplemental content is to add value to an already valuable property- your web series. It also expands the number of things related to your series online, which expands your ability to be passively discovered with every new item given that your SEO is consistent. Plus, it’s fun! So go out and be creative.
Heads up: this is the last planned I Hate Marketing post! We’ll have a few case studies in the next few months, but if you have a marketing perspective I haven’t covered yet, please let me know!
Read the rest of this column: #Film-School:i-hate-marketing