Ryan Gowland, creator of the STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES parody, Red Shirts, shares his plans for marketing his series which has been featured on several prominent genre fan sites. And, in case you haven’t seen it, is really damn good.
by Ryan Gowland
Just a warning: this article scares the crap out of me.
You see, I’ve been working on this article for months, while also prepping for the new season of our webseries and the whole time I’ve been thinking: “what if this advice sucks and Season 2 gets no views?” But, like with any marketing I have done so far, everything is trial and error. Promotion is a fluid process. It’s not easy getting eyeballs on your series and this article is just a way for me to share what’s worked and hasn’t worked for us so far. With that in mind, I’ve put together a few tips that will hopefully help you with your own marketing and, hopefully, will make the rest of us ask: “how the hell are they doing so well?”
1. PERSISTENCE IS KEY
We never thought we had to worry about marketing. When we first started Red Shirts, my co-creator Ben and I thought this series would be a slam dunk considering the Star Trek inspiration behind our show. We figured we were a shoo-in to grab the sci-fi community and go viral.
Still waiting on that last one.
The truth is that the Internet is a wonderful and vibrant place where cat videos reign supreme. Promoting your web series is a job. It’s the job I never really thought about when we were initially writing the series, or when we were producing or when I was directing it, but it’s one I’ve probably worked on the most. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been chosen for this task because absolutely everybody else ran from it like a ticking time bomb and you have no money to hire someone to run a marketing campaign.
So, here’s the thing: it takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and it’s constant. Just know that going in. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job. And even if you’re working on it with every spare moment you have, it’s still probably not enough.
2. BUILD AN AUDIENCE RIGHT AWAY
Yes, I mean have something to show before you have anything to show. Yes, I know how this sounds.
This is the chicken and the egg debate for webseries creators: how can I build an audience for a show that doesn’t exist yet? It’s a good question and the answer lies not just in creating a Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr page but in thinking about original content for your show that isn’t the show itself.
For our show, we self-financed our first season and knew we needed to crowdfund to raise money to do Season 2. So, during the shoot for our crowdfunding video, we shot Q&As with our lead actors in character and turned those into short clips that we posted on our Facebook page, prior to ever airing a trailer or an episode. We also promoted those clips through Facebook which is a bit pricy for what you get but it did raise our profile and started to spread the word despite the fact that we had no actual content or, at that point, even a YouTube page.
Here’s what we did wrong: once those clips were gone, we were still working on our episodes so we couldn’t turn all this sudden attention into instant views. The clips helped promote our Indiegogo page, which was nice, but at the same time we were running our crowdfunding campaign we were also shooting our 3 episode season (CROWDFUNDING TIP: this is a terrible idea because we did not have time to promote our campaign during production), so when the clips ran out, so did our momentum.
For our upcoming, 2nd season, we are running a series of promos leading up to the release, which we had to budget for and schedule half a day for shooting, but it will hopefully pay dividends when the new episodes debut. There are a variety of other things you can do to build your brand, such as podcasts (which I wish we had time to do) or — as fellow webseries Super Knocked Up has done so well — a Google Chat series.
We’ve also released stills from the shoots (while in production), trailers, anything to keep the conversation going and to advance the online presence of your series. The point is to become a destination for your fans. You have to keep a presence going or everyone will move on from you to something else.
3. SOCIAL MEDIA IS YOUR FRIEND