As a web creator that’s been around awhile, an instructor for Raindance and someone who is also the Chair of International Academy of Web TV (a Division of The Caucus) I am often asked, “I have this web series I created now how do I get people to watch?” Every time I hear this question I want to respond with, “Go back in time and ask yourself that question before you started writing.” But since time travel only works as a plot for a series, you now need to find a way forward from here. And there is a way forward, and it can start with how you could have avoided asking this question in the first place. Knowing this one simple thing before you start writing can really make or break you in regards to the success of your series.
Here is the number one thing you need to ask yourself before creating your series.
1. Who is the audience for my series? This is the biggest question you must ask yourself before you put pen to paper. This single question will help you to determine two very key things: 1. The platform you would like to see your series streamed on. 2. Where to find your audience. It can also help determine episode length, social media you use to get the word out (another big topic to tackle) and the amount of episodes to produce in a single season.
Knowing your audience goes beyond demographics when it comes to creating a series for the web. The web series sprung to life by serving niche audiences. And they continue to thrive today because of those audiences. So when you ask yourself, who is my audience? Can you answer that question without starting with, it’s a show for 18 – 34 year olds?
The best thing about being a web series creator is that there is no separation between you and your audience. You don’t need to sell your series to distribution in order for it to get to an audience. You can produce your series and get it out to the masses as quickly as you can get it finished. That’s the good news. The more complicated news is that this means you have to learn how to be a distributor. This is not always an easy task for a creator because this means you have to take your creator hat off and forget that ambitious idea that if you make a great series people will see it. People will see your series only if they know it’s out there. I’ve seen some really wonderful series sit on YouTube for months barely reaching 1,000 views. And why is this? Because they never asked the question, who is my audience and where do I find them?
Now I know that when you heard that question some of you may have been staring blankly at those words (I know the expression well), it’s a question often many of us don’t ask when we think of an idea for a series. We can easily be blinded by that excitement to create and tell a story you know should be out in the world. But fear not, there is an answer to the audience question for all of us. And knowing your audience isn’t just a question you ask with your new distributor hat on, it’s a question you should always be asking as a writer and producer.
One tool in figuring out your audience is going online and looking at series that are successful and asking, who is the audience for their series? Is it gamers, as is the case for one of the earliest and biggest hits on the web “The Guild” or is it the 420 crowd as it was for “High Maintenance” when it started online before moving to HBO? Now, these audiences aren’t the only audiences for these series, but it’s the core audience and it’s where you want to start. We all have a core audience, and that core audience is what is going to help spread the word about your series and get it into the mainstream. But, make no mistake, the niche audience is your bread and butter online and identifying that audience is the first step (of many) to getting the view count you dreamed about before you had to start wearing all those hats and answering the tough questions.
Once you can identify your audience, you will then be closer to finding where that audience watches content and this will lead you to your platform. It will also help you understand viewing habits (which goes back to episode length and platform), the sites your audience visits to find new shows (which you need to get on) and social media engagement.
Who is your audience? It’s a simple question that if answered early on will turn what could be a hard and heartbreaking road of low view counts into the joy of creating something you believe in and seeing the world react to it and realizing that this web series thing is actually pretty damn amazing.
Create and Market Your Web Series! Join Tina Cesa Ward at her Web Series Foundation Certificate Course for Raindance LA (In person | Live Online | VOD).