Think of the internet like a void. I know this imagery is controversial, since everyone knows the internet is a series of tubes, but bear with me because this is my column and you don’t have a choice. So, the internet is a void. There are billions upon quadrillions of things already online, and on YouTube alone, 300 hours of video content are uploaded every minute. 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube a day. So how are you, with your brand new unknown web series, going to get seen?
Lucky you, the Stareable blog already has a few posts relating to social media, so I would definitely recommend them as resources. This one talks specifically about Twitter, while this one is a do/don’t list for all the major platforms.
If you’re not already familiar or comfortable with social media, I’d suggest only getting two accounts at first: Facebook and Twitter. Try to get the same username for both (and for all future show accounts) because branding is important and the easier it is to find you online, the more likely it is that you’ll get noticed in the void. I suggest getting a Facebook page (not a personal page — a “fan page” specifically for your show) because that’s where you’ll get the most engagement from people you already know. Most people are already on Facebook, so it’s easier to reach them there. I suggest Twitter because it’s where you’ll engage the most people who DON’T already know you. There’s a vibrant independent film and web series community on Twitter, and tapping into that will help you market your series immensely. Also, refer back to that Twitter blog I mentioned earlier because it highlights even more specifically why Twitter is a vital place to be a web series creator. So, what should you be posting to these new social media pages?
Remember when I recommended you have someone in charge of taking on-set photos? This is when you’ll start using them — to promote and create hype for your show’s impending release! Social media is useless unless you have information and content to populate it, and people love seeing behind-the-scenes photos. At first, you can just post photos with a little bit of context (“actor Jimbob Thoresore learning a new stunt!”), but once you have a release date, you can also add a bit of text to the photos so when they’re shared, they’re also inherently spreading information about your release date and where they can find you online.
Do you have enough material to make a trailer, or at least a teaser, for your series? Get on it, then! Nothing hypes people up for a new movie or show more than actually seeing it in action. If possible, make a few small teasers, all leading up to a full series trailer. People get excited by countdowns, so invent as many of them as you can.
When big shots make movies and TV, they do press junkets, where the principal cast and crew are interviewed by a rotating barrage of journalists. When no one knows who you are, you have to do this yourself. Plus, a web series is an incredibly intimate viewing experience- — you and your cast and crew are part of the product you’re selling, and the more they know about you, the more inclined they are to be interested in what you have to say. For my show, I liked to personally interview my principal cast and crew, releasing them on a weekly basis leading up to the season premiere. That way, the growing audience got used to us releasing content for a few weeks before the actual show began. Plus, it allowed the audience to get to know us as people before watching us in the show, making the connection a little bit stronger.
IMDb is laughably easy to submit your project to, but it’s also one of the clearest indications of legitimacy that you’re likely to get, especially before you even release the show. This Stareable blog, which also offers other legitimacy-boosting ideas, walks you through how to make an IMDb page for your show.
This may come as a surprise to you, but Stareable also has a blog about creating and using a press release! Read it here. In the most basic terms, though, a press release is a one-page description of your project so that news outlets and blogs can write about you. Most sites won’t even consider interviewing you or writing about you unless you have a press release available. Then, send it to as many sites and news outlets as you can think about, focusing first on ones with a history of covering web series and then on ones you think your show would be relevant to (think about communities and themes you address).
Final thoughts on marketing your web series: it never ends. You thought a crowdfunding campaign was a full-time job? Once your series is online, it’s always online, and you never know what tweet or piece of press will rocket you towards fame and fortune. My web series premiered in 2015 and finished “airing” its second season in November 2016, and I’m still reaching out to podcasts and news outlets. It’s worth it, though, and the more of a splash you make, the more likely it is for a second season or a whole new show in the future.
Next week, all your hard work comes to a head as we talk RELEASE. I’ll cover everything from video thumbnails to crafting a consistent uploading schedule.