The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This is actually a really good idea.

A Candi Street Team poster, from Candi.

This is the sort of idea that really makes you want to smack your head and say "Why didn't I think of that?"

I mean, we all know that the only really way to promote your webcomic is through viral marketing. There's no way you can afford to take out a bunch of ads on TV, or even on really popular websites, for that matter. You've probably got like 100 dollars to blow on your entire advertising budget if you're lucky. You could spend it to run a banner for a few days over at PvP. And maybe that wouldn't be a bad idea. But really, wouldn't it be better to get Scott Kurtz to notice you by himself and link you from his blog?

Pretty much everybody in webcomics already relies on viral marketing techniques: telling all your friends, bumming around forums with a link to your comic in your signature, asking those of us that run webcomics review blogs to read your work and throw up a review. And it's rare to see a webcomic site that doesn't have a page with some link banners on it, encouraging people to put up a link back to you on their sites. You pretty much rely on word of mouth to spread your comic and hope that you can find your audience.

So if viral marketing is already your chosen method for advertising, why not make use of some of the more powerful viral marketing techniques? Now, I'm not talking about the more subversive techniques where you go around creating fake accounts on forums, fake websites, and fake blogs all preaching your glory. That may get you some initial curiosity popularity, but eventually it's going to catch up with you and you'll end up with more critics than fans. But I am talking about honest-to-goodness, tried and true, old-fashioned viral marketing techniques where you leverage your fanbase to do the promotion for you. And the best way to do that is with a street team.

The concept of a street team finds its roots in punk rock. Webcomics could actually stand to learn a few lessons from the rise of punk rock music, which was another relatively unknown, niche-appeal type of media until the bands started to come up with really clever ways of marketing and merchandising themselves and the whole scene exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry. Basically the idea behind a street team was that you have all your fans sign up to be on the team, and then whenever you have a show, you look up all the fans in that city, send them all a bunch of flyers to hang up, and after they hang them all up you give them free front row tickets to the concert, or maybe some swag like a poster or something. Another variant was that if people on the team invite their friends to come to a concert, they all get in for free. It's an absolutely brilliant idea, because the fans get what they want (more awesome stuff from the band they love), it costs the band practically nothing, and it introduces a lot of new people to the band that might not have heard about it otherwise. And best of all, because of the grassroots nature of the campaign, it's perfectly natural and fun.

Well, this sort of thing translates PERFECTLY to webcomics. And I'm really surprised I haven't seen more people doing this. In fact, Starline Hodge is the first person I've seen who's really tried to organize a street team in any sort of meaningful way. Here's how it works: Print out one of the flyers off her website, post it up somewhere (after getting permission first, of course) and then email her a picture of the flyer, happily advertising Candi comics, and she'll send you a free button or sticker and a sketch! Super fun!

But I say, why stop there? There's already tons of webcomics out there that give readers little bonuses for donating a buck or two via Paypal, such as exclusive wallpapers (see Dominic Deegan and Girl Genius). Derrick Fish came up with the great idea of having a raffle for someone to be drawn into Dandy and Company: donate and your name's in the hat. Kris Straub, ever the innovator, has a system in place over at Starslip Crisis that gives you stuff just for reading. And let's not forget the infamous animations by Tim Buckley for Ctrl+Alt+Del. I say, why not make these little extras a part of the street team?

You could set up a street team area of the website, where people have to log in with their username and password. Then they can post up stuff they've done, like posters they've hung around town, flyers they've handed out, maybe fun displays they've set up or events they've organized. They could even put up links to where they've mentioned the comic or written about it. And then either you the creator or a small group of hardcore fans could assign people points for things they've done. As they get more points, they get more free stuff, like exclusive strips, wallpapers, sketches, animations, making-of videos, and maybe even eventually physical media like stickers, buttons, signed sketches, prints and posters. I think this would be an absolutely awesome way to market your strip, and I think more webcomickers should give it a try!

If you do try it, be sure to let me know, and I'll for sure spread the word about it. After all, that's all the fun of it!


At 9:43 PM, Blogger grant said...

one disadvantage of reading strips via the RSS feeds, is you miss things like this. I read Candi pretty regularly and I never saw her street team stuff. Then again I don't look around too teribly much on the extra stuff on webcomic sites once I've checked them out and become a regular reader.

At 12:22 AM, Blogger Starline said...

Maybe one day I'll hardcore enough fans to be able to achieve all those things you mentioned in that last paragraph. :D Those are all really good ideas.

At 6:38 AM, Blogger Krishna Sadasivam said...


This may be along the lines of your article and I wanted to share it with you. I offer a guest-star service, where people can pay to have themselves or their friends / family make an appearance in my webcomic, "The PC Weenies". So far, it's been pretty successful. At the $25 level, people get to keep the original sketch. At the $50 level, they get the sketch and a signed, colored print. And at the $65 level they get the whole shebang in a snazzy frame.


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