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marzo 01, 2013

HOW TO GET $800,000 TO FUND YOUR WEBSERIES: SOCIAL MEDIA LESSONS FROM VGHS


Do you know what VGHS stands for?

You should.

Video Game High School is the most successful webseries of all times (as of March 2013): 36+ Million First Season views. 2nd season, with its +$800,000 fully funded budget, on the making.

 VGHS’ astonishing success got its producers a sweet deal contract with NETFLIX to make the webisodes available for their 33 Million paying subscribers. I don’t know about the figures of the deal, but considering the more than 36 million views of VGHS first season, it is safe to say both parties profit from it.

VGHS is the brainchild of C-List internet Celeb (as he describes himself) Freddie Wong, a 27 years old Asian American from Seattle, whom greatest achievement 5 years ago was being Guitar Hero Champion at the 2007's World Series of Video Games. I know what you’re thinking: another story of the geek who got lucky going viral online… There is a component of truth in that thought, but just a very tiny one.
   

LESSONS

Freddie Wong’s success has many lessons to learn from, and not just if we are interested in starting our own webseries.
  • SHARE FIRST: Freddie’s success comes from putting hundreds of hours of his time available for everyone online. He is very passionate about VFX, Video Games and Video Production, and he found a way to combine the three in a very didactically entertaining way. He did not knock on big studios' doors asking for help.  To use the outrageously european artists way of demanding public funds to prove his talent, never crossed his mind. He just exposed his skills to the world.
  • ADD VALUE: Freddie is probably not the best VFX artist in the business, he is a regular guy with a passion and he shares it. He not only does cool stuff, he shows you how he did it! The foundation of the success of his content lies on two pillars of value: Cool Entertainment, even cooler Education!
  • BUILD A COMMUNITY: His YouTube channel is the 5th most subscribed channel in YouTube today because he cares. He listened, commented, and answered (many times in video mode) his audience questions and suggestions. He uploaded content regularly. He kept the audience expecting more, and he delivered.
  • INVOLVE YOUR COMMUNITY INTO YOUR PROJECT: VGHS has been fully funded by “backers”: people “donating" money in exchange for cool exclusive goodies that go from mentions of their names in the official credits of the series; to merchandise like signed Headsets, coffee mugs, gaming chairs; ego boosters such as be a character that screams "Brian! Look out!" for a single shot in the official VGHS trailer; or just invitations to the production set. He called for involvement, his loyal,thankful, community answered.
  • USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO FUND AND PROMOTE YOUR PROJECT: Wong did NOT spend a dime on Traditional Media Advertising. He posted a video explaining the project, used kickstarter.com, a funding platform for creative projects; posted on free content curator pages like reddit.com; used his twitter account to raise awareness and his fanbase did the rest. And they really showed up: Freddie was aiming for $75,000, they raised
$273,725 in one month!
    No budget was assigned for promotion. They used only free Social Media Channels. All the money raised went into content production. He did not spend a single dime on traditional promotion channels.
I particularly like one way Freddie monetize his Social Media Capital:  the $9,001 pledge available for backers in exchange for one tweet.  An option available for just one pledger: Freddie will tweet whatever you want him to tweet on the @fwong Twitter account (more than 300,000 followers) at a time of your choosing. Sweet!
  • MAKE YOUR CONTENT WIDELY AVAILABLE: Freddie did not cage the VGHS into his company's webpage. The content was open to everyone in YoutTube.  Each episode was open for everyone to embed it into their own blogs, share it easily through Social Media Channels, forums, Facebook pages, you name it. It certainly brought collateral traffic towards RocketJump.com . Wong's Production Company shows first on Google Search for VGHS. The content generated interest, the Community wanted additional goodies. Conversations lead to RocketJump's web, where the Company posted other content like podcasts, behind the scenes material, blogposts that kept the traffic flowing.
  • ENCOURAGE PRODUCT PLACEMENT: VGHS was an excellent medium for gaming community sponsors to place their products. Headsets, PC peripherals, airsoft guns, energy drinks... fit like a glove within the content.

EXTRA BONUS RESULTS

I've already mention some of the accomplishments of VGHS webseries. 36 million viewers, Fully Funded Production, the Netflix Deal are amazing results, but I like to point out one more: Social Media Capital's Growth: Freddie's twitter account increased 50% (from 200,000 to +300,000) YouTube Subscribers more than double from 2 million to almost 5 million.

CONCLUSION

Before VGHS's success, Freddie Wong declared:
We strongly believe the foundations for the future of digitally distributed content will be laid by webseries. We don't see a webseries as a stepping stone to get a feature film project, or a TV deal - a good webseries is an end unto itself. The webseries format is uncharted territory, and we want to explore it.
Everything about Social Media Marketing these days seems to float around content. Audiences are not just people looking for entertainment, they are communities avid for content to share, interact with, and comment about. Marketing is not about selling stuff, is about building relationships (that would evolve into selling stuff...eventually). Could webseries be a content format to enable and encourage those relationships? You bet it can.

Webseries is a wonderful content format to generate conversations, wake up interest and build community. It has all the traditional media series advantages: periodicity, cliffhanger possibilities, plus the flexibility to generate interaction through enriched media features that are native online. VGHS is somehow atypical because a large base of its community was built before the project was even conceived, but the lessons it teach us are there to learn from.  Webseries are here to stay. What do you think?

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