Advertising & Promotion. What do you use?

edited May 2012 in The Toolbox
I think this is an underrated aspect of being a creator.

Advertising and promotion can range from plastering telephone poles to store signings or micro ads on blogs, from appearing at conventions to writing a solicitation, from writing comments on forums (sequentialworkshop, facebook or Twitter, et.) to podcasts and Youtube.

Let's talk about it.  What are you doing?  Or... why are you *not* doing something.

Do you have a blog?  Facebook page?  A website?  Do you sell your own product?  How do you advertise?  Do you place it all at the feet of your publisher?  What technology are you using and what responses are you getting?  Share your insights and what you might feel are new directions to reach the audiences that we create for.
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  • I got thinking about this because I was doing some cleaning up on my computer and ran across my Project Wonderful account.  Does anyone still use Project Wonderful?

    Then when I replied to Brandon about his new iPad it also made me think.... how am I staying relevant with my audience?  How am I communicating with them?  At this point, I have a *concept* of what my work looks like on a tablet, but I don't *really* know what it's like or how it looks and feels.  That's kinda important.

    On the other side... I have a store signing coming up which means I should be printing up flyers ahead of time to use as bag stuffers for the store's customers.  That's also important.
  • I am the publisher! And I serialize on the web first. I'll come back with more details tomorrow, but for now I'm just going to throw these out there: I use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, InkOutbreak, TopWebComics, The Webcomic List, about 5 conventions per year (mostly local ATL). Take a look at http://www.loveisintheblood.com, including clicking on the Project Wonderful bid info to see the stats, and feel free to ask questions about anything you see.

    I'm rebuilding my store for when the Perfect Agent and Love is in the Blood graphic novels are ready. 

    What don't I do? Press releases and Podcasts. Forum comments other than here and social media mentioned above. 

    What works to build traffic to the comics sites? Project Wonderful Ads. And scrutinizing the results in Google Analytics to make sure a site is getting quality clicks, not just quantity. 

  • I'll hit you with a tidbit of digital marketing - everyone knows Google is the number one search. (And how important it is to show up there.) Guess what the second most used search box on the entire internet is? YouTube.

    Got video? I don't and I really need to have at a trailer or promo of some sort just so I'll show up in a relevant search. Every little bit helps. 
  • I did one Youtube trailer for Bomb Queen years ago.  However, I didn't promote or link it around to get more people to view it.  It was more like a *test* than anything real.

    Greg, since we're talking about webcomics and promotion, what's your take on the *theory* that when it comes to webcomics that promotion is good, but often the key to success is simple longevity.  Some of the bigger names in web comics got where they are by just being around long enough to get word-of-mouth, or a lucky mention on Boing-Boing.  The idea that if they just stick around long enough you can hit a certain chord with the public, or news event or hit movie.

    Personally, I'm sure it's a bit of both. As with *any* industry everyone works hard and long and often people believe something is an overnight success, but in reality it has taken them years and tons of dedication and a gadzillion experimental efforts to get their creation off the ground.
  • My theory is "simple longevity" actually consists of "years and tons of dedication". The concept that's even more important than longevity is consistency. I have longevity, but I haven't had consistency. 

    You can't compare starting a webcomic today to those long-time comics any more than TV producers can compare to starting a show today to when there were only three networks. Ten years is a helluva long time on the internet. Many have been around even longer. Of course, all that back catalog brings it's own problems for attracting new people.

    As far as a lucky mention on Boing-Boing, meme-jumping, or being the flavor-of-the-moment...  ANY comic can be popular for 15 minutes. Quality doesn't even come into play. That's just traffic, and it is fleeting. Converting that traffic into readers is the real trick. That's where quality, dedication, and consistency come into play. Getting people to a site is the easy part.  

    There is one path to success: consistent, satisfying, quality updates. Promotion speeds up the process by getting people to the site more quickly than relying on just word-of-mouth, but the content has to deliver or they will float away. 
  • @GregCarter - yeah, these are some of the obvious points.  Let's spin this around to advertising & promotion to support that consistency and longevity.

    I mentioned Project Wonderful.  I've used it sparingly and that was years ago.  Personally, I found it like scratching at the surface.  The websites and blogs that my ad appeared on didn't seem to get much *click-through* traffic.  Granted, Bomb Queen travels among some rather unique audiences.  But the fact that I was doing a print book but advertising on web - comic sites seemed to miss the audience.

    I recall Derek McCulloch used the Facebook ads for a while to promote himself.
  • I recall Derek McCulloch used the Facebook ads for a while to promote himself.
    I still do the Facebook ads thing periodically for my FB fan page, but
    I'm unconvinced of its usefulness.  I get a bunch of new people on board
    every time, but I can't tell if they have any idea who I am or what I do, let alone whether it has any impact on sales.  It's promotional wankery, really.

    Still, that page is about all I use to announce/promote things, mainly because I just can't seem to get my shit together to update anything else.  For a long time, I also used my regular FB page to announce/promote, but I've been getting more and more uncomfortable about the weird crossover between different aspects of my life on that page, and just went on a huge defriending binge there, dumping most of my comics industry contacts and suggesting they got over to the other page instead...apologies to those of you who were among the ditched, but as I went along I started getting more and more drastic in my cuts and in the end left pretty much only family, co-workers, and over-to-the-house-on-a-regular-basis friends on my regular FB page.  I have a feeling that this act may have had a greater marketing impact for me than anything else I've done in a while, and not a positive one.
  • @DerekMcCulloch - I remember Collen Doran did kind of the same thing.  She also steered people to her Fan page on Facebook in her attempt to separate personal info from her production info.

    I have a fan page, but only for Bomb Queen.  I should do like you and Colleen and make a catch-all page for *me*, which would included all the projects that I work on.

  • There's a saying: 'mastery is not as important as marketing', which I know to be true... but in my day job I was raised to believe that Marketing (Them) is the enemy of Development (Us) and it's been a real adjustment.

    I'm the sort of person who is happiest when he's buried in work. I'm terrible at marketing and promotion, but I'm trying to rectify that. It is work and you do need to be creative with it. None of the publishers I have worked with have given me much help in terms of marketing--I don't think many publishers do, these days.

    I do lots of facebook and I seem to be picking up twitter followers despite the fact I barely make the effort to log on there. I have separate FB pages for my different projects--my best known projects (Sixsmiths and McBlack) are very different and have different audiences and I'm pretty sure that the strangers who have liked the Sixsmiths FB page would not have found me if the page was under my name. 

    I am still on livejournal, although I feel like I'm only reaching 2 or 3 people that way nowadays and there has been a bit of a mass exodus. 

    I maintain a website for each of my projects, for my production studio/publishing company, and for myself. 




  • @JimmieRobinson @DerekMcCulloch Facebook profiles vs. pages is tricky. I created a public page about a year or so back in order to a) connect directly with "fans" who I didn't want to add as "friends" to my private FB profile, and b) reduce what I felt was self-promotional spam on my personal profile. But then I found I wasn't engaging enough on my personal profile, and I capped out on my page at about 15 percent of the number of people with whom I'm friends, so ...

    Yeah, it all sometimes feels a bit useless. Like, if you put out good product, you should let others decide if it's worth talking about in social media. But, as Greg mentioned earlier, sometimes you have to push it out to let the world know that good product is there.

    I still can't figure out the right formula, and I work in social media/electronic marketing PROFESSIONALLY when I'm not doing comics, illustration or journalism. This all takes a lot of time and effort and analyzing and ... well, we'd all be better off putting that effort into creating more/better product.
  • I have great success with Project Wonderful. But it was pretty much invented for webcomics. If you use PW you really need to use Google Analytics to see if it's quality traffic. A lot of people will click on an ad just because they think it makes money for the site it's on. I look at the Pages/Visit and Bounce Rate to see if people are sticking around. I don't do campaigns, I go through and cherry-pick sites that look compatible. Not just webcomics, but serial fiction, gaming, wherever I think vampire fans might be hiding out. And the best part is if you put in the research effort you can get a lot of traffic from a very few bucks. It's not as unfocused as a FB or Google ad.

  • I got way better results (based on what I could figure out from Google Analytics) from the Fetus Christ ad I put on the Sinfest archived page thru PW than from the demographics/interests-targetted Facebook ad I spent the same amount of money on.  Of course "way better" is very relative, and with that being a very limited page-per-week story, the modest audience I rented that way quickly vanished.
  • @GregCarter - good points, PW is geared more toward web comics than traditional print.  That concerns me.

    Currently, the traffic is with social networking.  Much like @pjperez I'm also gaining Twitter followers without using Twitter (though I will note, many of the followers have little, if nothing at all, to do with comics.

    I know promotion sucks ass and there is no magic bullet.
  • edited May 2012
    I would use Google Analytics, but I'd have to make an account to *sign in* just to use it and currently I have no Google accounts.  Plus, I wouldn't want to see the sad number of traffic on my forgotten website(s).

    *SIDE NOTE*
    Speaking of... It seems I will lose my website and all my hosted data off Apple's iDisk at the end of June.  They are dropping MobileMe for their iCloud and I don't have a computer or an iPhone new enough to update and switch over.

    Time to buy a new computer / iPhone / iPad, et.
  • If you have an active site with whatever kind of content, then that's where you do your call to action to get people to pre-order or go in and buy. I really think the key is having a website as the hub of promotion. Even if it's on a Facebook page or art blog. Supply a coupon/order form or whatever.  Get the people there however you can. Do some experimenting with ads, social media, QR codes on postcards, anything. Literally, do anything. Waiting on word of mouth to work sucks bigger ass.

     
  • I get some decent referrals from Deviantart and Pixiv (the Japanese version), as well as TV Tropes, all of which are free. I've tried various advertising alternatives, but PW seems to be the best in terms of quality traffic. As Greg says you really need to have Google Analytics to see what works. 

    BTW I don't advise advertising on Deviantart. They have a very unfocused scatter-shot approach that doesn't allow you to use keywords. The minimum was $20 for 500 clicks, which I literally blew through in a half hour. 
  • @Jay_Latimer - Hmmm, I didn't even know DeviantArt had advertising.

    I'm an old school guy, so I still like having an actual *web site*, as Greg noted.
    I'm going to build new one since my Apple iDisk account is being phased out (I'm running my current site off iDisk).

    Since I'm not using Google products is there an alternative to Google Analytics?  If not, I can simply sign up for Google Analytics, but I'd like the option before I do.
  • @Jimmy_Robinson - I also use Statcounter, but Google Analytics is much better. It's pretty amazing in terms of what data you can extract. Statcounter will only show the last few hours of visitors, but in great detail. Of course you need a web site for all this stuff to link into. 
  • @Jay_Latimer - I have a website now... but as I said, it'll disappear at the end of June.  Which is okay because I haven't used it in years.

    If I build a new one I'd include PW ads and other promotions on it.

    On a general note:  I find it interesting that folks aren't trying to break the mold with advertising and promotion.  It's good to hear about the standard avenues that the majority of people are using... but as creative people is that all we can do?  What *creative* ways could we reach our audiences?  It seems to me that getting attention from the crowd means doing something different than everyone else.  Any ideas?

    What about advertising in the program books of the conventions that people attend?  Every attendee gets a program book at the convention; that sounds like targeting a captive audience.
  • “Creative” ideas? I recently bought a big order of women’s thong panties emblazoned with my web site and logo, and handed them out to all the prostitutes in town. It’s a win-win situation; the guys get a nice souvenir, the girls get a free supply of clean underwear, and I get a pre-screened market of customers who are willing to pay for entertainment. 

    It’s like PW, except instead of pay per click, it's pay for trick.  
  • Haha!  Dude, how can you "emblazon" anything on a thong?  There's just no room.  But yeah, I get it... a joke.
  • @Jimmie_Robinson I ran a contest once, wherein the entrants were required to have a photo of themselves taken with their retailer while holding the order code of the book. Part of the prize was having themselves drawn as a character in the book. The retailer got a piece of original art to hang in their store and we gave away a free book and a t-shirt and a hat. Thought it was an ingenious promo... Until we only got one entry.
  • I meant to create a Facebook event around the launch of my new book, but I didn't get it done in time. (It would only make sense if tied in with the info pages on my site, and I only finished those yesterday or so. A Facebook event should include at least two weeks of pre-launch buzz.) So I'll be stuck with lots of status updates at Conny Van Ehlsing's FB page and my own profile (since most readers don't bother subscribing to both, I'm stuck promoting everything twice.) Thinking about a FB ad.

    For my webcomic, PW has created some nice traffic once I got the hang of where to advertise. (I found that prose sites seem to work better for my long-form comics than gag comoic sites, with the strange exception of Sinfest. My theory is that gag readers are just stopping by for a quick fix of laughs, whereas prose readers are already sparing time for reading, so they won't mind reading some more.) But I can't really say how much of it was quality traffic, e.g. people who stick around.

    InkOutbreak and Just The First Frame have brought in nice new numbers recently, too.

    In Germany, there's the Webcomic-Verzeichnis and about three comics-related forums to post in - one advantage of having a rather small scene. English language traffic seems a bit more difficult to generate. I've been meaning to hook up with some Buffy fan forums and stuff because a lot of my readers are Buffy fans, for some reason.
  • Question:  Is it worth it to have a Tumblr account?
  • We're (in the next week or so) launching STrange Talent as a tumblr thing. Five pages or so a week. So we'll see.
  • I'd be interested in hearing how that goes.
    I'm all for casting a wide net, but I was wondering about Tumblr, because it just seemed like... I dunno... a private club kinda thing.

    But thinking more on it now... perhaps all these individual social media sites aren't supposed to work on their own, but instead as part of one cohesive Internet presence.  When someone searches you in Google what they find may depend on how wide a net has been cast.  From the more effective and noticed sites to the personal locations.

    Perhaps I should change my thinking from putting my eggs in the most effective basket and instead just making a bigger basket.
  • The thing that appeals to me about Tumblr is the viral aspect - things can get a LOT of views and reblogs.

    I mean, take my buddy Yale's thing, JL8: http://jl8comic.tumblr.com/

    Those notes? That's 600 plus comments, reblogs, likes, etc.

    That's a lot of reach. Which I would like to try and mimic.
  • edited November 2012
    Jimmie  - I thought the same thing, but here are some numbers to put in perspective:
    • It's the 12th
      most popular website in the U.S., with 17 billion monthly page views
    • Tumblr hosts 54.8 million
      blogs
    But your theory is correct - the "cohesive Internet presence" means you are reaching everyone no matter where they are or how they search. It's exhausting (and as someone who also does social media marketing for money, I know), but kinda necessary these days. Even I have trouble keeping up.
  • Just looking at Tumblr makes me feel old. Note: I am old.
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