These were the last words of a fan known as RedHeadedDrummer on the day he left the Metalocalypse fandom. For a time, I was a huge part of this community, and loved every minute. We were weird, we were obnoxious, and we definitely weren't for everyone, as RedHeadedDrummer came to find out. I'd say one of our best traits was the ability to troll ourselves, whenever an actual troll came along to try and harass us. He'd show up, ply us with pornographic images of one character or another, and we of course, would respond by saturating our own forum with actual porn and other vulgar things. Ah, the good ol' days.
What made our fandom so special was the dedicated number of fans who stuck around it, despite the fact that, as I said, we weren't a crowd for just anyone. Word to the wise: If your efforts to appeal to a certain audience with your writing have paid off enough to give you even a handful of fans, so long as they are dedicated, each is worth his or her weight in gold and you should take care of them.
Since I covered taking care of your tribe in an earlier post that was written not too long ago, I'd like to touch on ways in which you can grow your tribe with this one.
If you're just an artist or writer making comics or stories on the internet and you're not a salesperson by profession, the idea of selling your online work can probably seem a bit intimidating and/or silly. The reality is this: we all can be salespeople and if we believe in our work, then we all should be salespeople. One of my favorite coaches used to ask, "Ever go on a date? Then congratulations, you're a salesperson." The idea there of course, is that you pitched a proposal to someone (a date) and they accepted your terms. I truly believe that anyone can sell.
So how do you go about doing it? I'll cover three of the biggest areas I choose to utilize when promoting my webcomics:
These three are powerful tools which can get you a huge boost of support for your project. Note that they go in order of most expensive to least but that their effect is quite the opposite. While paid ads cost the most and tend to generate a ton of initial hits to your website, the people who stick around will fall off quickly, thereafter. Meanwhile, word of mouth costs nothing and relies solely on another person's good word, and though it may only get you a few followers, they oftentimes end up as loyal customers.
Most of my paid advertisements are run through sites like ProjectWonderful, which allows me to make banner ads that float about on other websites (most of them with online comics of their own) and I pay a few pennies each time someone clicks on one of those. It's an easy set-up and I find I can run a campaign, that is, an ad or series of ads displayed during a set amount of time, in one weekend for less than $10 which may garner me a few hundred new followers. Facebook is another great place to advertise, though it is a little more expensive. Google, too, though I find it to be a little too pricey for me, most days.
Forum signatures are just that -- signatures or banners you place on each post that you make on a particular forum. If you're on a forum where people are discussing a topic which is similar to the things you write about, then there's no question you should have a signature with a link to your project. This also goes for artwork you may post on sites like DeviantArt, where the subject matter is related to your work in some way. Be creative with it -- use pictures if you can. Let people know that if they like what they're currently seeing, they're going to love what you have to offer!
Word of mouth is probably the most elusive advertising to maintain, but one of the most effective. You may ask how one can get word of mouth out there when it is other people who are in charge of spreading word about your work. The most obvious, of course, is to ask people to spread the word! Another may be to do an art or writing trade with someone who enjoys what you do -- in turn, they might convert some of their followers into your followers. You may even consider hiring a prominent artist with lots of fans to do a pin-up piece of one of your characters and have them post it in one of their more popular galleries if you can.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure your tribe is always in the back of your mind. People will come to you and some will eventually leave you, but the fans you have had from the beginning should hold a special place within your community. Do your research and advertise where you know there are people who will get along with your current tribe, engage them and make them happy to be one of your fans. You just might have a new flock of long-time readers waiting on the other side of a banner ad!