THP Viral Video Campaign and Learnings
Given that The Hayley Project is nearing the end, we wanted to make one last push to get our name out there. In hindsight, one of the difficulties our series faced early on is that because THP is a murder mystery, we could not divulge spoilers in the trailer. Now that we’re 31 episodes in, fans who have watched the show were able to enjoy all the twists and turns that we had in mind but could not promote earlier (SPOILERS –> e.g., the drugs, the escort service ring, the eventual video blog abduction of Hayley….). We knew that our series would pick up steam narratively in the second half if fans stuck with us, but it was challenging”selling” the good parts early on. Now that a lot of the twists are revealed, we saw an opportunity to sell THP in the form of a viral video.
One of the challenges of indie producing is the lack of marketing resources and budget to promote discovery of a series. This is going to be true for a LOT of filmmakers out there. Those who are fortunate to have partnerships with production companies like Vuguru, etc, typically have distribution avenues and built-in press to capture viewers quickly. Those who don’t have these relationships will need to figure out how to build their viewers up organically and cost efficiently.
The great thing about viral videos (and why businesses are so interested in them) is that they don’t need to be expensive, and they rely on the network effects to drive results. (Check out my post on NewTeeVee meetup on viral videos last year)
I had also previously run a viral campaign for an older project that eventually got picked up by Esquire and resulted in close to 100,000 views. A key reason why this past campaign was successful was because it seemed “real” and creepy. Fast forward to last week, and we came up with a new promotional ad, which also plays with what is “real” and admittedly, a little disturbing.
The video “Missing: Hayley Winters” is a video uploaded by Hayley’s roommate Lexi, in which she asks viewers to spread the video so that we can find our missing hero Hayley. There is a specific call to action (please send to 15 or more people…) and there is a link at the end to Hayley’s channel so that once an unfamiliar viewer clicks through, they will immediately see that this is a web series drama. That said, there were certainly some people who thought this was some sort of “sick joke” and was put off by this promotional tactic.
Our key objectives of this video were:
- Create buzz around the exciting developments of THP that we couldn’t promote before (we’re not worried about spoilers anymore)
- Re-engage our viewers who may have subscribed but haven’t been following as much lately (e.g., “hey, have you heard what crazy stuff is happening in THP?”)
- Spread awareness of our series and encourage people to click on the hayleywinters channel to “sample” our big twist episode (friends tell friends about this cool series they weren’t aware of before)
- Increase subscriptions (capture new viewers)
So how is this promotion doing? Well, we’re less than a week in, but this campaign has already been an incredible success. We’ve probably added close to 100 subscribers in a matter of days, and our views have skyrocketed as illustrated by the chart below. Feb 26th is the day we released our Offline episode and March 1st is when we released the viral video “Missing”.
A couple of interesting findings (note: blue line represents aggregate numbers for our channel. Orange line represents views for Missing):
- Given that our demos skew younger (over 50% is 13-24), it’s more likely that younger people would actually heed the call-to-action and send the video out to their friends
- The first two days that “Missing” was out we had over 1,300 views (which is a lot to us)
- Then the next few days, the numbers started to drop off slightly. But for some reason, Thursday and Friday, the numbers skyrocket with yesterday being an all-time high of over 7,000 total views. Why this sudden uptick in views? I’m not so sure. I can hypothesize that the viral nature of the video “hit” some segment or pocket that started to spread the video like wildfire starting Thursday. It’s also possible that it was picked up on some website that I don’t know about
- Even though the bulk of views is coming from the viral video itself, if you look at Friday’s numbers (the last data point), you’ll see that the viral video comprises about 64% of the total views, meaning that 36% of the total is coming from people watching our other episodes. This is key, as the whole point of the campaign is drive people to sample our other episodes and convert them to regular viewers
I wish there was an opportunity to do something like this earlier in the series, but we were limited with the more impactful plot points happening in later episodes. One key takeaway is that when creating a series, you may want to consider what the key plot elements are that you plan to promote on, and when they occur in your series. With web video, you really need to make an impact as fast as possible, and that may effect how you want to structure your story.