Captivate Your Audience: Create A Branded Web Series

To avoid reinventing the wheel (or just copying existing work), it’s important to keep your tactical arsenal as fresh as your ideas. One great tactic to consider is a branded web series. It involves many elements that your campaigns may already be utilizing – videos, engaging storylines, and online distribution – and packages the output in a new, engaging format.

How Web Series Work

It’s important to define a web series vs. a channel of discontinuous YouTube videos.  A web series is effectively taking the idea of a television show and making it consumable as online entertainment.  It has consistency in the form of a building story arc, repeat characters, or thematic messaging. It does not have to be a sitcom; these suffer if the in-episode story arc is not compelling enough to push viewers to continue to other episodes.

Most web series are not branded. Studios and networks have been using them over the past few years as alternative means of distribution.  Series serve to test concepts, with the idea being that if you cannot captivate an audience in 5 minutes online, you probably don’t warrant $10M to produce a feature or television series.

A branded web series can be a viable marketing tactic.  Content marketing is booming, and online video projections over the next 5 years continue to rise. It seems like an obvious solution, but it has to fit the campaign and must be done correctly.

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If you are considering a web series, consider the following to determine its viability:

  • Do you have a relatable story to tell?
  • How will this accompany other elements in your media mix?
  • Do you have an established audience who will share your content?
  • Who will your content appeal to, and what are their online habits?
  • Can you consistently release new episodes over time?
  • Would a member of your target audience watch your series over his or her favorite television show?
  • How will the content meet your business objectives?

A web series is a long-form type of infotainment (information + entertainment). You are conveying a message, but it’s packaged to make it appealing as content, rather than an ad.

How Web Series are Distributed

Just as you wouldn’t place your whole ad budget with one publication, you should diversify your distribution strategy for a web series.  Mull over these tactical considerations:

  • YouTube presence is critical.  It’s embeddable, shareable, and with recent updates, a serious contender for becoming online “cable.”  Establish a branded channel; here, video titles and descriptions are critical. Interaction with influencers on YouTube is also important; support their work on their channel. Reciprocal action will be taken more often than you think.
  • Social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo, and more.  With any social media strategy, you need to know how to structure an ongoing conversation around your content. Target influencers to support and gain interest.
  • Your website presentation is vital; expand it beyond a YouTube channel and make it worth visiting.
  • If you have an existing database or can create one with your web series, email marketing can be a powerful way of reminding people to come back.  If you created a cooking series, for instance, you could easily tie in an email marketing campaign to distribute recipes from the show.
  • Reach out to influential bloggers with a “media kit.”  One cool way to do this is to actually film actors speaking directly to the individual – this will make them feel special and give them a reason to post the content.
  • Web series networks – Examples include Blip.tv distribution, Koldcast.tv, Web Series Network, Web Series Channel, and Web Series Today.
  • YouTube and Facebook advertising, mixing in teasers in your online ad placement, helps build the critical mass of interest. Before spending dollars, however, you need to be confident that when people click, they’ll find something worth watching.
  • Apply for awards such as Streamys, Webbys, and Addys.  Awards give people reasons to talk about your content again.  It’s worthwhile exposure.  What’s not worthwhile is going for awards that have little to no industry weight and won’t further your reach. Do your due diligence.

You can make the series the cornerstone of a marketing campaign, or it can just be a component.  Either way, make sure that you have determined how the entire mix will work together to create an interactive, long-term relationship with your audience that will help you for years to come – not just in 2012.

How Web Series Succeed

At the end of the day, content matters.  Spend time writing relatable stories. Spend money on production. If people can’t see or hear what’s going on, they’re unlikely to finish the first video, let alone come back.

Never create a web series without knowing where you will distribute it.  Just posting episodes to a Facebook page will severely limit your content calendar.  How will you tell the broader story with images, quotes, to-the-camera character interviews (known as “breaking the fourth wall”), and other supporting content?  If you expect the series to sell itself, you’d better hope that your audience finds your content, loves videos, remembers to return, can recall your message, and shares the content. That’s a lot of hoping.

In creating a web series, you need to ask yourself how you can broaden your appeal.  One way to quickly build critical mass is to leverage the audience of the web series’ stars.  Celebrities have the largest audiences, so if you can find an appropriate one and afford him, it can be a wise investment.  It can also be a nightmare, so choose wisely.

If you are willing to take a risk and it fits your strategy, a branded web series can introduce you to new clientele and strengthen your relationship with your existing audience. Tell a story your audience can relate to, and they’ll find something else to relate to – your brand.

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